the school board [to make the decision] a lot more than I trust
the public," said committee member Jeff Cragg. "You could end up
with a muddle."
has scheduled a public vote on the matter for Oct. 30, but has
not yet said whether it will consider the results binding or advisory.
which will go before the public and eventually the school board call for assigning students to schools with modified attendance
areas based on either postal zip codes or the geometric
midpoints between schools, or establishing a 'magnet' school
on a 'campus' which includes the P.S. du Pont and Harlan
Intermediate Schools buildings in Wilmington.
Superintendent Bruce Harter touched off the discussion when he
told a committee meeting on Oct. 3 that, earlier in the evening,
he had been approached by an attender at a church gathering at
which he spoke and asked why, if the law simply requires sending
children to the school closest to their homes, the district is
mulling over three possible plans.
Harter said, illustrates that many people in the district do not
appreciate the complexity of matching student population to
and others noted that the interest level concerning the issue
apparently is not high. "I'm surprised so few people attended
the [public hearings]. I would like to know why they're not
coming," said Susan Cobin. The committee so far has held three
of five public hearings required under the law.
effort to get out the word before conducting the unprecedented
public vote, the district is mounting an extensive public
relations campaign. Cornerstone of that effort will be mailing a
16-page 'voter's guide' to all 40,000 residences in Brandywine
Hundred and north Wilmington.
an Oct. 5 deadline for assembling contents of that document, the
committee wrapped up its work on drafting the possible plans by
modifying two of them to include the Carrcroft area in the Mount
Pleasant High School attendance zone while ceding a segment of
Claymont to Brandywine High. A delegation of Mount Pleasant
faculty and staff had request that the proposed boundary lines
be redrawn to permit their school to retain something similar to
its present configuration.
Administrator Wayne Emsley said it was not possible to eliminate
a quirk in another of the plans which has Talley Middle School,
and houses immediately around it, within the Hanby Middle
attendance area. Changing that arrangement would require
shifting other boundaries to the extent that student assignments
at that grade level would no longer be based on postal zip codes
and groups of children would not be kept together through their
said he thinks asking the public to vote on which plan they
prefer and expecting more than a relative handful to respond
knowledgeably is futile. He said there is insufficient time to
educate potential voters and that he doubts if residents will
thoroughly read, let alone digest, the contents of the 'guide'. Most, he noted, see the
matter merely as a process to end more than a generation of
Freedman said that earlier public opinion surveys demonstrated
that the majority of residents prefer neighborhood schools "but
aren't willing to pay higher taxes to get them."
noted that inclusion of a plebiscite asking whether people
prefer adopting one of the plans or retaining the status quo
raises the danger that some voters will think the latter is an
option. The possibility that a large expression of disapproval
of the law might lead the board to take up a suggestion made at
a previous workshop-style information meeting that it commit
what amounts to an act of civil disobedience and not produce a
plan did not arise during the committee's discussion.
closest the group came to that was a reference to board
president Nancy Doorey's having remarked that the law mandates
spending a considerable amount of money and jeopardizing
educational quality to achieve a small reduction in the average
distance Brandywine children have to travel to attend school.
noted that her disparagement of the law amounted to drawing a
conclusion from the data presented at the workshop while the
'voter's guide' and other informative activity "will have all
the facts, but not put them together in the way that draws a
be the News-Journal," he quipped, leading Cragg to remark that
the fact that newspaper is by far the dominant dispenser of
public information in the state is the reason Delaware, unlike
many other states, does not provide for voter initiatives,
referendums and plebiscites.
Oct. 30 vote will be conducted by volunteers, necessarily drawn
from the ranks of district activists and presumably supportive
of its opposition to the law, Harter said they will have to be
at pains to conduct their duties in a way which does not appear
intended to improperly influence voters.
He also indicated that, to get a
large turnout, the district intends to provide of