the problem has been using substantial local discretion. That we
intend to stop," Superintendent Bruce Harter told the board.
the district's choice-law policy and adopting new procedures to
go with it headed a crowded agenda at the board's meeting on
Oct. 17. Other actions included:
extensive revisions to the policy governing use of school
facilities by school-related and outside groups;
adopting a preliminary $99 million operating budget for the
current fiscal year;
a new labor contract with the union representing
pay raises to administrators, specialists and secretaries;
the level of a new administrative position and immediately
hiring someone to fill it; and
Authorizing the hiring of a construction management firm for the
planned renovation next year of Concord High School.
school-choice issue centered around a provision in the
seven-year-old state law which allows consideration of an
application received after the deadline if there is a 'good
cause' for its being late. The deadline is the second Wednesday
enumerates several 'good causes' but the list ends with a phase
referring to any reason that is similar to the others. That is
widely interpreted as allowing school districts to decide what
else might constitute 'good cause'. Neither Delaware Department
of Education nor any other agency is empowered to police those
now, Brandywine has interpreted the law liberally on a
case-by-case basis. Harter described that as "some kind of
brokering outside the concept of the law." Acceptance of
applications pretty much has depended only on space being
available in the school the student wants to attend and
agreement by the principal there to accept the student.
revised district policy uses the same list as the law, without
the law's 'etc.' phrase. The procedures adopted for the coming
'choice' season -- early November until mid-January -- include
the same list ending with "circumstances consistent with the
definition of 'good cause' in [the] policy." Harter said that is
how the law will be strictly applied from now on.
allows us to treat all parents requesting choice for their
children equally. I am not sure we have been doing that," said
district lawyer Ellen Cooper.
said the new policy will not eliminate late applications, but
"the vast majority will not meet our [new] definition of 'good
member Thomas Lapinski, who has been a persistent critic of the
way Brandywine has handled the 'choice' system, charged that
there has been considerable abuse. "I have expressed my
sentiments behind closed doors and in open session. We have
created high-poverty schools," he said.
up voting against the revised policy, without explaining why he
did so, but voted in favor of the procedures based on it. The
policy was approved by a 5-1 vote and the procedure unanimously.
Member Harold Thompson did not attend the meeting.
president Nancy Doorey questioned before the vote a clause in
the procedure statement which stated as a determining criteria
"the demographic composition of the [receiving] school,"
specifying race and gender, Cooper ruled that was applicable
when the district was under the federal court desegregation
order but is no longer now that the order has been lifted. The
clause was stricken.
was told yes when she asked if the revised policy would preclude
accepting a student deciding in mid-summer to transfer from a
nonpublic school into a district school other than the one to
which he or she would be assigned based on residence. The
decision would have to have been made before the previous
January, Cooper said.
Ralph Ackerman questioned why the district would want to refuse
admission to a 'choice' student coming from another district if
space is available. In the case of interdistrict transfers, the
sending district is required to pay the receiving district the
average local cost of educating that student. "If they want to
come in from [elsewhere], I would take them at any time," he
said. He voted in favor of both the policy and the
proposed facilities policy also is intended to bring Brandywine
into compliance with state law -- this one enacted during the
General Assembly session which ended in June. It requires that
districts make school buildings available for community and
other pro-bono use, but on a basis which recovers additional
costs incurred by doing so.
Brandywine proposal is to establish three classes of users:
groups associated with the schools, such as band boosters, and
other nonprofit organizations deemed worthy of special
consideration, which would be accommodated without charge; other
nonprofit, governmental and similar organizations which would
pay minimal fees to cover the costs of such things as heat and
light; and other groups, including commercial ones, which would
pay a full rate.
Edmison, executive director of support services, said principals
still will have final say over whether an intended use or
organization can be suitably accommodated. But he said, adoption
of specific rules for arranging building use and paying for it
will eliminate complaints that the district has been
inconsistent in that regard and shortchanging itself.
presented a proposed fee schedule for the two paying categories
divided into two levels each, based on the size of the schools
and their facilities. The board will have to specifically
approve which outside organizations will be entitled to free
use. Examples of likely candidates previously suggested are Boy
and Girl Scout troops, which have long traditions of using
did not explain apparent wide disparities in relative relations
of minimal fees and the full ones. A gymnasium in a large
building, for instance, would cost those entitled to the
former $25 for the first three hours and $5 an hour after that
while a full-fee group would pay $125 and $30 respectively. A
cafeteria, without use of the kitchen, however, also would be
$25 and $5 for a low-fee user but only $90 and $25 for one
paying full freight. A classroom would go for $10 and $2 at the
low end and $20 and $8 at the other end.
swimming pools -- the issue which brought facilities-use
practices into public view -- would be $30 an hour for the
selected groups and $100 an hour for others. Any group in
either category charging an admission fee for an event in an
auditorium, gymnasium or cafeteria would pay a premium -- $400
for three hours plus $100 for each additional hour in a large
building and $300 plus $75 in a smaller one.
revised facilities policy was presented on a first-reading basis
with the board expected to take action at its Nov. 21 business
meeting. It was explained that voting on the choice-law policy
at the same session at which it was presented was necessary
because of the law's requirement that procedures for the coming
year be in place by Oct. 31.
the board adopted the budget by unanimous vote, chief financial
officer David Blowman flatly denied that it reflected reductions
in the amount of money made available to schools. "That is not
true. ... School allocations are up about 2% over last year," he
said when member Craig Gilbert said that "the first thing I hear
is that building budgets are down."
went on to explain that schools "are still feeling the residual
effects of what we had to do to get back into the black" before
the end of the past fiscal year. Although he added that "budgets
are still tight [and] we are a long way from being out of the
woods," he repeated an earlier assertion that "we have not
touched principals' budgets nor [central office-based]
budget itself was approved unanimously and without discussion.
It is unchanged from what was previously presented, and reported
by Delaforum, at a board workshop meeting. The final version of
the budget is scheduled to go to the board for approval, in what
Blowman said will be a somewhat different format, in December.
contract with Local 752 of the American Federation of Teachers,
an A.F.L.-C.I.O. union representing Brandywine paraprofessional
employees, was ratified without any discussion or explanation of
its terms in public session. Unlike what occurred when a similar
approach was taken at a previous meeting when the board ratified
an amended contract with the Brandywine Education Association,
the teachers' non-affiliated union, no summary of the terms was
provided to attenders after the board voted this time
has protested and filed a request for disclosure under the state
Freedom of Information Act, but a reply had not been received as
this article was being prepared.
also voted to match the 2% pay raise negotiated with the
teachers' union in the locally-financed portion of the salaries
of administrators, specialists and secretaries. Those who are
paid entirely with district money will receive a 3% increase,
which Harter said is the approximate net teachers have
received this year as a result of a raise in the larger state
portion of their pay.
fiscal note in Harter's recommendations said only that they "
have been budgeted in to [fiscal year] '03 preliminary budget."
The raises will be made retroactive to July 1, he said.
regard to administrators, Doorey cast their raises in the
context of a growing shortage of principals and
holders of other education management positions. "We have to see
what [else] we need to do to stay competitive," she said.
asked and the board agreed to eliminate the administrative
position of testing coordinator and replace it with that of
supervisor of accountability. A supervisor outranks a
coordinator and, he said, is paid $4,000 a year more.
of candidates that applied for the coordination position did not
meet district expectations. We do know that, by upgrading the
position, we will get candidates who can not only coordinate the
testing but also take on key areas from the strategic plan," his
written recommendation stated.
the meeting, just before the routine approval of personnel
changes, Harter distributed an agenda addendum to board members
which listed Julie Schmidt as a new hire to fill the new
position. It omitted her salary and there was no information
pertaining to her background and credentials presented in open
voted without dissent to approve all the personnel changes.
list revealed that Penny Person, construction project manager
with responsibility for overseeing the district's extensive
renovation program, had resigned. There was no mention of that
in open session.
in the new-position recommendation was a request for board
approval of a revision to the district's organization chart --
which was not distributed -- which establishes, as previously
discussed, a dual reporting role for internal auditor John
Croney. He will be responsible to both the board and Harter.
Brandywine Hundred-based Nason Construction was given preference
among four firms to be construction manager for the Concord High
project. Harter was authorized to negotiate a contract with it.
The fall-back candidates, in order of preference, are Bancroft
Construction, Whiting-Turner Construction and E.D.I.S. Inc.
told fellow board members that Nason got the nod largely on the
basis of its proposal to assure that its work will be done in a
way which "provides for the safety of students" who will be on
the Ebright Road campus concurrently. One of the specifics, he
said, is aimed at preventing use of foul language on the job.