estimated that about half of the 980 elementary-grade students
living in the city and about 50 from each of the nine
elementary-grades attendance zones in the suburbs would elect to
attend the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school on a
'campus' which would include Harlan and P.S. du Pont, according
to administrator Wayne Emsley. Those schools are two blocks
apart in north Wilmington.
development of a previously proposed plan to establish a
'magnet' school concentrating on performing and fine arts --
similar to the Cab Calloway School of the Arts in the Red Clay
Consolidated School District -- at that location, the idea now
is to bring the International Baccalaureate Organization's
program to Delaware. That proposal was unveiled on Sept. 24 at
the only one of the required five hearings scheduled to be held
in the city.
in 1968 and based in Geneva, Switzerland, the international
organization provides a standardized curriculum intended to
prepare students from their earliest years for entry into
prestigious universities. According to its Web site, the program
is now operative in 1,182 schools in 101 countries.
those schools is in Lee County, Fla., from where Brandywine
superintendent Bruce Harter and Mount Pleasant High School
principal Dennis Runyon came this summer. Runyon taught in the
believe they do have the ability to achieve" in such a setting,
Harter replied when confronted by an attender at the hearing
with the apparent contradiction in proposing to provide an
education at the high end of the academic spectrum to a largely
lower socioeconomic enrollment after previously claiming that a
predominantly urban population requires a disproportionate
amount of special school services.
are examples [of such programs working] all around the country.
I have no reason to believe that our kids couldn't do that
here," Harter said.
briefly described by Runyon -- who previously joined with Harlan
principal Anita Thorpe and P.S. principal Judith Curtis to come
up with the arts school proposal -- the International
Baccalaureate Organization's program would be open to any child
at the elementary and middle-school level and available to those
who qualified at the high school level. The high school program
would be housed at Mount Pleasant in a 'school within a school'
arrangement serving about 300 students.
of the program include such things as year-around schooling and
courses requiring community service, he said.
said the half of the Wilmington school population not opting to
enter the elementary-level program would be assigned to the
schools next closest to their homes -- Lombardy, Carrcroft and
Mount Pleasant Elementary. Middle and high school students would
necessarily be assigned to the district's existing secondary
schools. That would mean that city children would be bused to
the suburbs for their entire careers instead of the nine years
previously required under court-ordered desegregation.
point was not raised at the hearing, it was apparent to
observers who have followed developments associated with the
Neighborhood Schools Act that the Brandywine 'magnet' plan comes
close to the charter-school arrangement proposed by the
Wilmington Neighborhood Schools Committee but rejected by
default by the General Assembly. That idea was to offer high-end
schooling in the city with the idea that would preserve some of
the racial diversity now existing in area schools by attracting
two proposals now being considered in Brandywine involve
establishing attendance zones based on somewhat modified postal
zip codes area or lines drawn close to the geometric mid-points
between schools. Previously proposed attendance areas have been
altered to that student populations fall within the capacities
of the schools. Emsley cautioned, however, that the lines have
been drawn based on enrollments as of September, 2000, and that
some further changes probably will be needed to reflect the
actual counts when the ultimate plan goes into effect.
told the hearing that the district has rejected using
modular classrooms to cope with overcrowding which would result
if there were strict adherence to the law's closest-school
requirement and either opening or closing any school buildings.
Brandywine, which of the four school districts formerly under
the court desegregation order has most vigorously opposed the
law or changing the status quo of school assignments, is
developing the plan to be submitted to the state Board of
Education on or before Nov. 15 in an obvious attitude of
reluctantly doing so only under irresistible compulsion.
Brandywine board president Nancy Doorey emphasized that the
district's Neighborhood Schools Act committee is complying with
the law's prohibition against including racial composition of
the resultant schools as one of the criteria in designing them.
But she said the district administration will provide such data
among points of information to be made public before district
residents are given an opportunity to vote on which plan they
at its Sept. 20 meeting scheduled that vote for Oct. 30. Doorey
said it has not yet decided whether results of the vote will be
regarded by the board as binding or advisory. The board is
scheduled to formally approve a plan at a meeting scheduled for
public vote, she said, will include a "second question" which
will ask voters whether they favor the plan they have just voted
for or would prefer keeping the status quo. Delaware law does
not provide for plebiscites and Doorey has characterized
submitting that question more in terms of a survey intended to
send the proverbial message to legislators. She said the
district intends to seek "professional guidance" concerning how
to word the question to avoid any extralegal implications.
those same lines, the board also has scheduled a workshop-style
meeting on Oct. 1 at which she said it "will bring in experts"
to provide information on the "educational implications" of
complying with the law.
She, Harter and the other district
officials at the hearing sidestepped a direct response to an
admittedly perplexed attender's suggestion that the
controversial law might be subject to modification or even
repeal prior to its supposed implementation with the opening of
the 2003-04 academic year.