March 11, 2001

The Brandywine Board of Education apparently has offered the district superintendency to Bruce Harter. Pending his acceptance, which is virtually a foregone conclusion, the board will meet in special session on Mar. 14 to officially appoint him.

Board president Nancy Doorey, after a closed-door executive session on Mar. 10, declared,  "We have reached a decision."

She said she would go no further until the seven members meet in public to actually cast their votes. State law permits public agencies to deal privately with personnel matters, but requires that 


they take specific actions regarding them in public.

Harter, currently superintendent of the Lake County School District in Fort Myers, Fla., is expected to be offered a starting salary of approximately $125,000. He would officially take office on July 1, at the start of a new fiscal year.

The board is scheduled to meet on Mar. 12 in a public hearing-style session to obtain reaction to recommendations by taskforces which reviewed its financial affairs and developed a set of proposed goals. Unless plans change, a vote on Harter is not likely to take place then. As courtesy notifications occur, however, it is likely that his appointment would become an 'open secret' well before official action is taken.

It could not be immediately determined what the future status of interim superintendent Victoria Gehrt will be. She is under contract until August. She initially had sought a curriculum directorship, but agreed to take the chief executive position instead. At the time, it was stated that she came to Brandywine under an arrangement by which she could return to her former employer, the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District, when her services ended. She did not have the prior experience that the Brandywine board established as a basic requirement for a 'permanent' superintendent.

Brandywine is allocated two assistant superintendents by the state. Both positions are currently occupied, but Frank Castelli is eligible for full retirement and has been on medical leave. Donald Fantine is the other assistant superintendent.

Since last October when she was appointed interim superintendent, Gehrt has been credited with leading a significant redirection of the district. She has received virtually unanimous approbation from teachers, parents and others. At their last meeting school board members, in a lighthearted but obviously sincere gesture, ceremoniously hoisted a congratulatory banner thanking her and members of the administrative staff for their dedication and the work they have done.

"We all feel she has done an excellent job of bringing educational focus and integrity back to the district.  Many principals and teachers have commented that they now feel the board's 'new majority' made the right decision when we went counter to prevailing sentiment last September and hired her.  She is a tremendously gifted educator and leader, as well as a caring and honorable person," Doorey said.

Gehrt declined to comment until after the board formally acts on Harter's appointment.

His candidacy evidently received the final stamp of approval during a visit to Florida by a board delegation. Prior to that he earned general approval during a public session with district residents and private meetings with district staff, business persons and politicians. A selected search committee unanimously recommended him and another candidate -- who later withdrew from consideration -- from among seven semi-finalists for the job. He and the others initially were screened by a professional personnel consultant specializing in the field of education.

2001. All rights reserved.

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