the data is not encouraging, it allows for a starting point to
make plans for the future," the report presented to the school
board on Aug. 30 declares.
Rehrig, coordinator of school climate at Mount Pleasant High
School, told the board that the reported increases in serious
incidents and resultant major disciplinary action send a mixed
signal. The data, she said, can be interpreted to mean the
problem is growing or that teachers and school administrators
are more aware of the seriousness of so-called 'minor' instances
of school violence and related incidents and are moving
aggressively to counter them.
way or in a combination of both, it is certain there is more
thorough reporting and documentation of incidents than there was
five years ago, she said.
report presents information from those years in graph form for
both the district as a whole and for each of the district's 18
schools. The key finding is that suspensions have increased in a
steady rise from about 3,150 in the 1996-97 academic year to
about 4,350 in 2000-01. There were between one and five
expulsions in each of the years from 1996-97 through 1999-2000
but 19 in 2000-01. Serious reported offenses fluctuated between
120 and 180 in each of the years covered.
increases came despite a decline in student population by about
300, to 10,885, during the period.
of staff, students and parents, taken last February by the
University of Delaware's Research and Development Center found,
on the plus side, that respondents did not indicate a concern
about weapons or gangs in the schools, felt that discipline-code
guidelines were being followed and that discipline was
administered without regard to race or ethnic background. On the
down side, there were reports of bullying and fighting and a
feeling that there was less "positive reinforcement" available
to youngsters after they moved from the elementary- to the
committee, which was formed last autumn, found that all the
schools have preventative programs, conflict resolution
activities and available counseling for students identified as
potential disciplinary problems.
activities planned for the academic year that is just starting
is formation in each school of committees, to include parents
and community representation, to analyze discipline data and
make specific recommendations for the respective schools. Data
collection is to be expanded to include tabulation of incidents
in which students are referred to the principal's office as well
as those in which more severe actions are taken.
another matter, the board approved the final version of a
preliminary budget for the current year. It projects spending
$111.8 million, an increase of $13.4 million, or 13.6%, over
what was actually spent in fiscal 2001. Of the increase,
however, $8.7 million is programmed for major capital programs
approved in the May referendum. Projected income from all
sources is $109.4 million. The difference will be covered by the
district's carryover balance, which is expected to be reduced
from $5.2 million on June 30 to $2.8 million next June 30.
financial officer Mike Shockley told Delaforum that the budget
provides for a 3% pay raise and other elements which come out of
just-completed negotiations with the teachers' union on a
one-year contract extension. A ratification vote is scheduled
for mid-September with the school board expected to endorse the
agreement at its September meeting. Salaries and benefits
account for 74% of total district spending.
the second one-year extension of the pact, which expired in
August, 2000. Extensions have been in lieu of a new contract
because of the district's financial bind. Officials have said
they intend to go to voters in a referendum late in this
calendar year or early in 2002 to seek authorization to increase
the operating tax rate to go into effect in the fiscal year
which begins next July 1.
was told that the committee appointed to provide oversight for
the building renovation and modernization program wants to adopt
a construction management arrangement different from what has
been used in the past for school construction in Delaware.
Reduced to simplest terms, it would involve hiring a 'total
project management' firm rather than a conventional construction
management firm. That firm's fee would be based on its ability
to bring the project to completion on schedule and within or
for the committee, Craig Gilbert told the board that the
managing contractor would be hired by bid in time to begin
design late this year and construction next summer on the first
of two schools to be involved -- Harlan Intermediate, which is
due for a complete renovation, and Mount Pleasant Elementary,
which is to be partly renovated. A further incentive, Gilbert
said, is that the 'total project management' firm will want to
be retained to work on the other six schools included in the
Delaware Department of Education turned down a proposal to
include an on-time incentive such as Delaware Department of
Transportation used to get the rebuilding of Interstate 95 north
of Wilmington completed sooner than scheduled last year. The
Brandywine committee is negotiating with DelDOE to get use of
'total project management' sanctioned.
part of the plan, Gilbert said, is to develop standard designs
with the first two schools which will be applied to the other
six. Classroom specifications, for instance, would be the same
in all the schools. Doing that will reduce the amount of time
necessary for and the cost of planning as the project moves
University of Delaware has done a lot of standardization and
students and teachers don't even recognize [the results]," he
said. That gets down to such details as to weather conventional
or dimmer light switches are used, but the idea is that once
those kinds of decisions are made they are applied to every
received and referred to its policy-drafting committee, a
proposal for weighting high school grades to determine class
standing for graduating students. The proposal is said to
eliminate the present situation in which students getting 'A's
in less rigorous courses end up outranking those who get 'B's in
honors and advanced-placement courses. Class ranking is one of
the major factors considered in determining admissions,
especially to so-called prestigious universities.
'clarifying' its direction to the district's Neighborhood
Schools Act planning committee, the board decided that its
request for racial data in the two or more plans it wants to get
for consideration is an after-the-fact matter. The plans, it
decided, should be drawn, as the law requires, without regard to
the racial composition of the resultant schools caused by
attendance patterns, but that such data be included as a point
of reference when the plans are presented for consideration.
Cobin, a member of the committee, noted that the school district
and its Data Service Center are the sources of such information
and not the committee. "It is something you'll have to
tell us; we aren't in a position to tell you," she said.
president Nancy Doorey said the board wants "student assignments
[made] on a geographic basis, but then provide the information"
about the composition of the schools as one of the elements of
the ultimate decision-making.
silly not to tell the public what [the schools] are going to be
like," said board member Ralph Ackerman. "They (the state
legislature) have essentially said to resegregate Delaware
schools. We're going back to 1968 with this; we're getting ready
to take a giant step backward."
reference to 1968 was to the year when the General Assembly
established Wilmington, with its growing Black population, as a
distinct entity in the state's public school alignment. That was
one of the moves which led to the desegregation case in federal
court a decade later. Ackerman repeated an earlier prediction
that the Neighborhood Schools Act is likely to lead to a similar
other hand, board member Mark Huxsoll declared, "We have to make
it clear we're not trying to fight the law."
referred to the policy committee for further study was a
proposal by member Thomas Lapinski to set guidelines for public
participation at board meetings. His proposal would allow for
members of the public to comment at the start of the sessions
for up to three minutes apiece to a total of 30 minutes, with
priority given to those who wanted to talk about items on the
meeting agenda. Other items could be brought up during the
remaining time in the pre-meeting session and during a similar
session at the end of meetings. Presentations of up to 15
minutes that were germane to the matters before the board could
be made by other than board members if scheduled as part of the
agenda at the discretion of the superintendent.
said his idea was to encourage, rather than limit the
opportunity for, public participation.
"We should accept and respect input
from our community regardless of whether they agree or disagree
with our decisions. Many of us ran for election on the promise
to be open, honest and accountable to our constituents. We must
keep that promise," he said.