Superintendent Bruce Harter told the school board before it
approved the contract that the district budget for this year --
which is yet to be presented in preliminary form -- will be able
bear the total cost of the amended contract and still allow the
district to end up with a sufficient cash balance next June 30
to avoid the near-crisis which occurred as a result of ending
fiscal 2002 with a razor-thin margin.
not, however, disclose the actual cost during the board's public
session on Sept. 9 nor was it contained in the fiscal note
on his written recommendation that the board ratify the
contract. The information was provided to Delaforum, along with
a list of all the amendments negotiated during the summer with
representatives of the Brandywine Education Association, on
Sept. 16 by public information officer Wendy Lapham in response
to request under the state Freedom of Information Act.
material also revealed some previously undisclosed terms,
including 2% increases in each of the two years in extra pay
staff members receive for taking on extra responsibilities,
mostly involving extracurricular activities; improved employee
benefits equivalent to an 18.6% increase; and an immediate
activation of committees to review report-card and
The amended contract was described at
the board meeting as a first step to achieve an announced goal
of making Brandywine economically competitive among districts in
the Middle Atlantic region in attracting and retaining
high-quality teachers. Nancy Doorey, vice president, noted that
district residents surveyed a year ago strongly endorsed that
Harter described the contract changes
as being fully in line with the district's long-range
plan, developed with extensive collaboration with community
leaders and residents.
The board approved the contract
without dissent after a brief but non-specific discussion at a
sparsely attended business session before a workshop meeting.
Board president David Adkins told Delaforum that the board had
been thoroughly briefed about it in executive session behind
closed doors. Lapham distributed a press statement containing a
summary of some of the contract provisions to media
representatives immediately after the vote.
Teachers ratified the contract on
Aug. 27. Delaforum could not determine the process by which they
did so, but it is reasonable to presume no one would vote for or
against a proposal without knowing its contents.
Ellen Cooper, the district's in-house
attorney, ruled, however, that the public could not be made
privy to its terms until after the board formally ratified the
document -- in effect, making it an irreversable done deal.
She explained to Delaforum that her
ruling was based on "my reading of the law." The Freedom of
Information Act and the open-meeting statute it contains
specifically shield labor negotiations from public disclosure.
Cooper said she interpreted that to extend until the resultant
pact is agreed to and signed by both parties. While
acknowledging that labor contracts are not shielded, she said,
"there is no contract until [a negotiated agreement] is finally
Nothing in the law requires public
agencies to withhold anything except certain personnel
information nor prevents them from being more liberal about what
they disclose than the law requires.
Cooper rejected a Delaforum request
that she seek an advisory opinion from the attorney general's
office about the correctness of her interpretation. As a public
agency, a school district is entitled to such an opinion. The
only way Delaforum or a member of the public could obtain one
would be to allege a violation of the law. Because that could
possibly result in a nullification of the school board's vote
and considerable inconvenience to Brandywine teachers until new
board action is taken, Delaforum does not intend to do so.
The documents that were made
available to Delaforum under its request contain local salary
schedules which show that a first-year teacher with a bachelor
degree will earn $8,582 locally financed this year and $8,904
next year. The state portion of her or his salary this year is
$23,597. Local pay under the schedule ranges up to $27,118 this
year and $28,135 next plus $42,687 from the state this year for
someone with a doctorate and 15 years of experience.
Interestingly, the Brandywine
schedule defines the upper end as a philosophy doctorate --
Ph.D. -- while the state is not specific. Many educators hold
educational doctorates -- Ed.D.
The extra pay provisions include both
salary supplements for specific positions and hourly-rated pay
for undertaking extra-time assignments. The former involve a
schedule pegged to length of experience in the job of up to
The highest-paid position, high
school athletic director, will get between $5,347 and $6,190
this year and between $5,459 and $6,314 next year.
There is a definite pecking order
among positions with a head football coach paid slightly more
than a basketball coach. The lowest-rated sports are tennis and
golf. A marching band director is the highest-paid non-sport
activity. Moderators of the National Honor Society, Science
Olympiad and academic clubs will receive between $802 and $926
this year and $818 and $945 next year.
The hourly eper rate increases from
$22 last year to $23 this year and $25 next year.
The stipend which teachers can apply
to the value of locally-financed employee benefits they select
from a menu of available benefits is set at $1,675 this
year and goes to $1.725 next year.
Formation of the report card
committee was provided for in the basic three-year contract
adopted last year, but there was no effective date specified and
neither that committee nor the professional-development one were
constituted.. An amendment this year sets the effective date for
both at Sept. 15, 2002.
The report-card committee
consists of three administrators and three teachers. The
amendments provide, however, that the present system will
continue in use at least until the basic contract expires in
August, 2004. The change which brought about the present system
several years ago emerged from extensive public controversy,
including considerable objection from affected teachers.
The amended contract also requires
that the district administration negotiate the issue with the
union before introducing electronic reporting of grades.
Teachers are now required "to make
every effort to monitor" Internet access and downloading by
students and others. They previously were "held accountable" for