got down to discussing the bases for possible plans at its Aug.
8 meeting, however, some members of the committee took sharp
issue with the Brandywine Board of Education over the 'charge'
on which the board agreed two evenings earlier.
Craig charged that one item in the instructions, which calls for
including data regarding racial composition of each school in
the final plans to be presented for board adoption, violates
state law. The Neighborhood Schools Acts, which the committee is
to recommend ways to implement, specifically forbids use of race
as a criterion for pupil assignment.
Hartman said that the board's statement that it "believes ...
diversity enhances educational quality" is something of a
landmine waiting to explode. "That word (diversity) is a very
dangerous word in today's society. ... It's a 'hot button' for
special interest groups, some of which stand 360º
apart in what they stand for," he said.
Cobin said it would be unwise for the committee to "even leave
the perception" that it ran counter to the law in its
deliberations. To that end, "the best thing to do with this (the
charge) is just set it aside [and] get down to what we're
charged by state law to do. This clouds the whole issue," said
Superintendent Bruce Harter said that he "cannot accept"
rejection of a board charge because that body "is the elected
representative of the people," but agreed to seek clarification
and possible revisions to the 'charge'.
dividing the 24-member committee into subgroups to come up with
starting points for drafting plans -- the board has called for
the committee to produce at least two -- Harter almost casually
dropped what could prove to be a pivotal element in obtaining
public support for any plan. He said, "The board didn't say we
had to keep the same schools as elementary, middle and high
reconversion of P.S. du Pont Intermediate to again be a high
school and possibly also house a middle school has been a
sticking point with some prominent Wilmington politicians and
activists. Because the city was left with only one high school
-- Wilmington High, literally on its western edge -- and no
junior high or middle school under court-ordered desegregation,
city youngsters have had to spend most of their school years
riding buses to the suburbs. Many in the city now strongly
advocate 'returning' schools at those levels. The Wilmington
High building now houses Charter (high) School of Wilmington and
Cab Calloway School of the Arts, a combination of middle and
high school. P.S. originally was a junior-senior high school.
there was no discussion on that point, it appeared to open the
door for some creative thinking in the subgroup sessions.
led by district administrator Wayne Emsley came up with the more
novel suggestion. Rather than trying to gerrymander areas to
meet the law's closest-to-home assignment patterns for a
population no longer in tune with school locations, it proposed
combining nearby school into more-or-less single units and
assigning pupils to logical configurations on the resultant
would look at 'families of schools' with a large degree of
cooperation and coordination. The schools would work together
much more closely than they do today," Emsley said.
Intermediate, P.S. and the now-closed Burnett building in north
Wilmington, for instance, could house kindergarten through
eighth grade. Although students would, through the years, move
among the buildings, which are just a few blocks apart, they
would spend the entire time in what would be, administratively,
a single unit. A similar set-up could involve Darley Road
Elementary, Claymont Intermediate and Talley Middle. Its
'campus' would be spread over a larger area, but all three
schools currently have a community identity with Claymont.
code idea initially evoked humor as some committee members
questioned what possible connection could be found between the
postal scheme and public education, but a subgroup chaired by
administrator Barry Bogden concluded that it is mathematically
possible to evenly apportion Brandywine's population among at
least three high schools and three middle schools on the basis
of the five digits in their address and nearly so among the
asked both groups to meet informally before the next committee
meeting to fill out those respective approaches.
subgroup he headed dealt with comparing student enrollments
projected if elementary-school attendance areas were divided by
lines drawn at the midpoints of distances between schools with
school capacities. Although some schools did not have sufficient
capacity and other would be left with excess capacity, shifting
the lines somewhat among adjacent zones would bring all of them
within capacity. Brandywood, Lancashire and Forwood Elementary,
for instance, could be so treated.
works better for a K-5 (kindergarten through fifth grade)
configuration than a K-6, but we've demonstrated it is
theoretically workable either way," Harter told the reassembled
from the other direction, a subcommittee led by assistant
superintendent Donald Fantine found possibilities in
establishing secondary schools with slightly difference
configurations. They could possibly combine middle and high
school in some cases, put sixth-graders into some middle schools
and make P.S. a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school.
Although that might make pupil
assignment easier, there are snags, the group found. Teacher
certification, for instance, is different for sixth-grade
teachers than it is for high school teachers. Also, Fantine
pointed out, parents are likely to object to "having sixth-grade
girls ride on the same [school] bus with 11th-grade boys."