in the process of converting the four northernmost school
districts in New Castle County to grade configurations and
attendance patterns similar to what existed before federal court
ordered consolidation to achieve racial desegregation in the
late 1970s will be for the districts to come up with plans to
submit to the state Board of Education by November.
who was prime sponsor of the law and is leader of the Republican
majority in the state House of Representatives, said that
deadline will be neither changed nor waived.
difference, of course, is that there will still be four
districts. No one has proposed going back to the multiplicity of
districts which once existed. There also will no Wilmington
Smith said that the proposal of City Council and recommendation
of the Wilmington Neighborhood Schools Committee to establish a
district consisting entirely of charter schools "could be the
basis for further discussions," no one in Dover is likely to do
anything to further that innovative idea.
not a whole lot of support for it," Smith said.
the fact that Mayor James Baker vetoed the ordinance Council
passed unanimously as the vehicle for forwarding its proposal to
Dover had no significant effect on its fate. Some observers have
felt that sent a signal that leadership in the city was split on
the point, Smith indicated, was the fact the city proposal
arrived as part of a package which also called for the Christina
and Colonial districts to give up their city presence and for
dividing administration of schools in Wilmington between
Brandywine and Red Clay. Although the school boards in neither
district took any action, or even official notice, of the
proposal, Smith said both districts made it clear they were
unalterably opposed to that kind of redistricting.
any strong push for the plan by legislators representing the
city also contributed to sealing its fate, he said.
charter school concepts could have been separated from the
overall plan, Smith said that proposal came to Dover "without
enough details." He stopped short of saying the plan was
unworkable but did say that specifics for implementing and
governing it would have to be presented before it can receive
serious Assembly consideration.
is any desire to pursue [the idea], I would be happy to talk
about it," he said.
that the schools committee and City Council spent the better
part of the year discussing the future of public education in
Wilmington only to have the Assembly apparently poised to ignore
its recommendations is not a valid criticism, Smith maintained.
"They didn't really respond directly to what was asked of them
in [the law]," he said. In setting up the advisory commitee and
providing a process for the city to weigh in on its
implementation, the intent of the law was to address
'governance' of city schools, he said.
essence, the city was asked if it wanted to return to having its
own school district. Since both the committee and City Council
rejected that idea, the Assembly by preserving the present
four-district arrangement is complying with its desire.
Participation by former Mayor James Sills in the bill-signing
ceremony indicated city support for the opportunity to be heard
on that basic issue, Smith maintained. The law would have been
enacted without providing that opportunity.
clear, he added, that requiring districts which had shown no
great interest in doing so after the federal court desegregation
order was lifted to go back to assigning students to schools
closest to their homes has overwhelming public support he said.
said the recent decisive defeat of Brandywine school board
member Robert Blew in his bid for election to a second term
mirrored that support. Smith's premise in that regard is that
Blew and other members of the Brandywine board are out of sync
with their constituents in continuing to object to previsions of
the law. Smith's representative district is in Brandywine
as it may, the lawmaker said, the district must submit a plan to
the state Board of Education and the law provides that, if the
plan is not acceptable, Delaware Department of Education will
craft and impose a plan.
Smith refuted arguments that
districts will incur extensive costs to implement the law. The
$1,250,000 that it appropriates to each district will be
sufficient, he said. "They will end up with the same number of
students to educate in the same number of buildings."