January 17, 2003

Renovation of Concord High School will proceed on schedule, looking to a September, 2004, completion, despite the general cutback in the amount of state money that will be available to support school construction during the coming fiscal year.

The Brandywine school board accepted a three-phase plan for a complete overhaul of the 32-year-old building off Ebright Road in northern Brandywine Hundred. That will permit the district to move quickly to solicit construction bids on the $25.9 million project and begin awarding contracts this spring. Work is scheduled to begin as soon as the academic year ends in June.

At its meeting on Jan. 16, the board also agreed to an aggressive teacher-recruiting campaign with a view toward signing up "the best and brightest" of available teacher candidates for the 2003-04 school year before the crop is picked over.

Brandywine had asked the Delaware Department of Education for $22.8 million in capital funds to cover the state's 60% share of the cost of implementing its extensive school-renovation program during the fiscal year which begins July 1. Citing the state's financial crisis, DelDOE has reduced the amount of capital funds it will request from the General Assembly. As a result, Brandywine has been told that its request will be cut by $7 million, or nearly a third.

The school board accepted a recommendation that it apply all of the reduction to the cost of planning for renovation of Talley Middle School and Forward and Lombardy Elementary Schools in subsequent years, even though that will likely result in delays of four to six months in the timetables for the elementary schools.

While agreeing to what was described as "our part" in meeting the state's budget crisis, the recommendation stipulated that Brandywine will expect the $7 million it is giving up for the coming fiscal year to be added to what it has requested for Fiscal 2005.

On the operating side of the state's  financial crunch, the board was told that the Minner administration's recently reported 'finding' of sufficient revenue from abandoned property to enable it to cancel its request that school districts give back a portion of their state allotments, will have a salubrious effect on Brandywine's own financial health. It will get to keep the $925, 799  it previously agreed to 'return' to the state.

Actually, that translates into putting about $200,000 back into the Brandywine budget to avoid having to cut some disciplinary programs, professional development and other things, financial officer David Blowman told the board. Most of the 'give back' was in the form of credits for money not spent to pay custodians in authorized but not filled positions and as a result of not hiring some teachers until as late as early October.

The approved Concord High plan calls for rebuilding the school's office complex, cafeteria, kitchen and lower-floor classrooms during the coming summer; the rest of its academic classrooms and most other parts of the building during the 2003-04 academic year; and its science laboratories during the summer of 2004.

The board accepted a bid of $734,000 from G.E. Capital Modular Space to install and later remove modular classroom and $49,200 a month to lease them in order to house Concord students during the renovation.

Doris Stevenson, director of human resources, told the board that the recruiting effort will concentrate on "critical areas of need" based on anticipated retirements and resignations. In, particular, she said, mathematics and language teachers will be needed. Distribution of a recruiting brochure prepared by DelDOE and supplemented with Brandywine district material and participation in regional 'job fairs', including one which Brandywine will sponsor, are the main strategies to be used.

Brandywine, she said, hires about 60 new teachers a year. There are 72 present teachers with 30 or more years of service eligible for retirement and, based on past experience, about 25% to 30% of them can be expected to go. The district this year is offering $500 to those who submit notices of their intention to retire by the end of January.

This year it will attempt to have many, if not most, of the new teachers signed up during the spring rather than over the summer. "You can't wait until August and [expect] to get the top candidates," she said. "We hope to have early commitments by the end of March."

While new graduates are the primary object of the recruiting, Stevenson said experienced teachers also will be sought. Present staff members are being asked to identify potential candidates and selective approaches will be made to "others whose excellence in teaching has been recognized" through such things as publicized awards and having achieved national certification, both in other Delaware districts and elsewhere.

2003. All rights reserved.

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