"Brandywine is back," shouted an obviously elated board
president Nancy Doorey at an impromptu victory celebration in
the hallway of the administration building when results from
about half of the 19 polling places made it clear there would
not only be a favorable outcome but that the margin would be
haven't seen a margin like that for decades anywhere in
Delaware," she said.
The bond issue will
provide money for the district's 40% share of the $96 million it
will cost to totally renovate five schools -- Concord High,
Talley Middle, Harlan Intermediate and Forwood and Lombardy
Elementary -- and perform major work at three others -- Mount
Pleasant High, Claymont Intermediate and Mount Pleasant
Elementary. Authorization to sell
the local bonds makes it certain that the General Assembly will
approve the state's share of the building program in capital
expenditures legislation -- the so-called 'bond bill' -- up for
enactment before the Assembly adjourns at the end of June.
Brandywine bond issue, which will be spread over five years,
will match the state record for school construction approved by
voters in the Colonial School District in November, 1999. A
significantly larger amount proposed by Red Clay Consolidated
School District earlier this year was rejected by voters there.
Christiana School District also had a requested bond
authorization turned down this year.
of 10,000 Brandywine district residents turned out on May 31 to
give the bonds a 75.8%-to-24.2% endorsement. The vote was 7,554
to approve the issue with 2,414 cast in opposition.
approved, by 71.6% to 28.4%, was a separate one-time capital
expenditure of $948,000 to build rubberized all-weather running
tracks at the district's three high schools. That vote was 7,120
said the referendum result show "voters in this district still
have a strong interest in investing in quality public
reflects confidence in the current administration and
Photo courtesy of the Brandywine
Senator Thomas Carper
congratulates Superintendent Victoria Gehrt on the success
of the Brandywine School District's bond referendum.
willingness to support us and to work together with us," she
added. "It makes me proud to be in Brandywine."
few minutes after the polls closed at 9 p.m., the issues
never were in doubt. When the first returns, from the polling
place at Concord High, were entered into a computer spreadsheet
and flashed on a screen, showing a strong favorable vote, a
cheer went up. As other results came in, it was hugs and kisses
superintendent Victoria Gehrt -- whom Doorey and others credited
for restoring public confidence leading to the success in
convincing residents to support the bond issue and the building
program it will help finance -- said a decision to involve
members of the community not only in the referendum campaign but
also in the process of establishing priorities and goals for the
district has paid off.
been honest and forthright in telling what needs to be done. The
community has shown that once again it trusts Brandywine," she
said the district will begin immediately to move the building
program forward. Harlan Intermediate School will be totally
renovated during the 2002-03 school year, while its students are
housed in the former Burnett Intermediate building in north
Wilmington. Concord High's turn will follow in 2003-04.
not yet been decided if the tracks will be installed in time for
the opening of the next academic year in September. The tax levy
to finance it will not be due until Sept. 30. While Brandywine
probably could arrange for short-term borrowing against those
receipts, Gehrt said there has not been any discussion about
following that course.
declined to say whether she expects to be around to see the
renovations program carried out. She indicated she has not yet
made that career decision. She has served in the Brandywine post
for most of this academic year on a leave of absence from the
New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District.
Harter, who is to succeed her as Brandywine's 'permanent'
superintendent in July, said in a telephone interview with
Delaforum from his home in Fort Myers, Fla., that he regards the
referendum outcome as reflecting "a great deal of confidence in
the school district." While he played no direct role in the
referendum campaign, he said he watched its progress closely for
an indication whether Brandywine residents would continue their
"tradition of great support for public education."
Gilbert, who co-chaired the volunteer referendum steering
committee, called the effort to turn out voters and convince
them to support the bond issue "a true citizens effort."
clear to observers that what began as an uphill struggle
gathered momentum as it went along. It
mustered considerable support during the past three weeks or so
through an intensive, well organized campaign which reached not
only school audiences but also civic and business groups.
Huxsoll, who takes his school board seat in July, said he was
happy to see "things going in a positive direction for the
district." He said the vote reflected the desires of "a wide
cross-section of the community -- not just the staff, not just
the parents, but everybody."
said she was pleased while touring the polling places "to see
the large number of senior citizens" who turned out to vote.
"Their kids received quality education here and they want the
same for the next generation," she said.
several people who publicly voiced support before the vote for
the district's effort showed up briefly to share in the victory
celebration. U.S. Senator, and former Governor, Thomas Carper
said his endorsement was both "as a parent and a public official
who believes passionately in public education." His
children attend Hanby Middle and Claymont Intermediate.
sidestepped a question of whether he thought his record as a
politician who never lost any of the several elections in which
he has been involved proved contagious.
That may be put to the test
relatively soon. Brandywine officials have said that it is
virtually certain the district will return to voters, either
late this calendar year or early next, to seek approval to
increase the ceiling on its operating tax rate.