school board unanimously approved for submission to the state
Department of Education a preliminary plan which calls for a
complete overhaul of the landmark P.S. du Pont building in north
Wilmington, replacement of the Bush Early Childhood Center in
Talleyville with a new structure, constructing a combination
facilities maintenance shop and bus depot at a site yet to be
determined and remodeling four other schools and the district's
administrative headquarters in Radnor Green.
will be filed "knowing full well that, with our declining
enrollment, we are not going to be renovating all of them,"
Superintendent Bruce Harter said.
matters at its meeting on June 28, the board:
to impose an 8% increase in the rate for calculating the
property tax due on Sept. 30.
Approved a 'tentative' $106.8 million operations budget for the
fiscal year which begins July 1.
told that the professional mentoring arrangement for newly hired
teachers has been extended from one to three years in an effort
to stem what board president Nancy Doorey an "alarming" rate of
attrition among young teachers.
Unlike the approach taken in
previous phases of the building renovation and modernization
program, the coming one will be based on an architectural and
engineer study conducted by five
consulting firms and confirmed by the district's
volunteer facilities committee, which is made up of
people in the construction and related fields.
Board member Craig Gilbert,
who was involved in planning the second phase and the
bond referendum which authorized its financing,
contrasted that with what happened in 2001 when "the
information was sketchy at best."
David Blowman, the
district's chief financial officer, said the study was
expensive, but will prove well worth the money spent
P.S. du Pont
several coming years. He did not specifically state the cost,
but linked it to a reported $1.1 million spent on contractual
services during April. That was more than double the amount
spent in any previous month of the current fiscal year and
brought the 10-month total to more than was spent in all of
John Read, the district's capital
projects manager, told the board that current planning is geared
to providing building components which are expected to last for
30 years. "We shouldn't be putting in products that have a
six-to-eight-year life," he said. State policy is to finance
capital spending with money borrowed by selling 20-year bonds.
the state's 60-40 school construction cost split to the initial
version of the plan, Brandywine voters would be asked to approve
a $52.3 million bond issue at a referendum anticpated to be held
in April or May, 2005.
is scheduled to vote on a final version of the plan and terms of
a referendum to finance it in October. That decision is to be
based in large part on recommendations from a taskforce which is
looking into the district's anticipated facilities needs and is
expected to conclude that one or more buildings be closed.
Meanwhile, Read said, DelDOE will review the initial submission
prior to determining which components to include in a
certificate of necessity, which is tantamount to approval to
necessity, Read said "none of these buildings are falling down
tomorrow" but added that "our newest building opened at about
the same time as Veterans Stadium." That Philadelphia sports
facility was branded as obsolescent, replaced and demolished
something of the same vein, he pointed out that Brandywood and
Lancashire, the elementary schools included in the phase three
plan, were designed with classrooms clustered around 'centrums',
which were all the rage in the late 1960s, but are now
considered educational dinosaurs. It probably would be more
cost-efficient, he said, to replace those buildings, but the
plan as it now stands does not recommend that.
recommend that Bush be replaced with a new building, which
probably would be located in what is now a parking lot at
Concord Pike and Whitby Drive. The lot previously served the
now-closed Concord Pike Library. The school district owns that
that it would cost significantly more to reconfigure the
existing building to accommodate the pre-school children that it
serves. Moreover, he said, the building, which has 23,000 square
feet, is too small. The program there requires 27,000 square
feet, he explained. He said the need for replacement "is so
glaringly obvious" that any alternative would be unreasonable.
the largest single project, at an estimated cost of $42 million,
is P.S. du Pont. Constructed in 1935 by Wilmington Public
Schools as a junior-senior high school, it now serves fourth,
fifth and sixth grades. It was previously remodeled to
accommodate that age group, but basic infrastructure was not
noted, for instance, that its entire wastewater disposal system
is connected to the city's sanitary sewer system and will have
to be separated to go into the current sanitary- and storm-sewer
systems. Energy-inefficient windows, which are 10 feet high,
need to be replaced -- at an estimated cost of $1.2 million.
Also, three of the building's five boilers were not converted to
burn natural gas, have been unused for many years and must be
removed. "The coal chutes are still there," he said.
other hand, such mid-1930s touches as the design and decor of
the school library need to be kept. "You couldn't begin to
afford to build that library today," he said.
theoretically on the table to be considered by the taskforce for
closure, P.S. is all but assured of escaping that fate. It has
long been considered one of Wilmington's architectural assets
and is listed on the National Register of historic buildings.
Read said he has "met with the historic [preservation] folks"
and has received their support. That was based, he explained, on
"what we did at Harlan." Historical and architectural features
of that nearby building were preserved during its phase two
expected, the tax rate for the coming fiscal year was set at
$1.1875 for each $100 of assessed property value. Following the
practice of prior years, the board did not consider passing
through the state-financed tax relief subsidy to residential
taxpayers. Districts have the option of doing that or keeping
the money -- about $2.2 million in Brandywine's case -- to help
component of the tax rate increase is for debt service, which
will go up 5¢ to 12.8¢. Blowman said that it was decided last
year not to spread that over two years because resultant revenue
was not immediately needed to finance retirement of bonds and
payment of interest. Brandywine has seven outstanding bond
issues, dating back to 1995.
rate was approved unanimously with the proviso that it be rolled
back by 1¢ in the unlikely event that the General Assembly does
not require districts to hire reading specialists for a new
program. The pending state budget bill permits districts to pay
their share of those salaries with revenue from the minor
capital expenditures component of the tax rate, which is not
subject to voter approval.
Brandywine rate brings the local current expense component to
the 51.4¢ ceiling authorized by voters in the 2002 referendum.
As has been anticipated for more than a year that is being done
a year earlier than had been expected at the time of the
referendum. The next operating tax referendum is likely to be
held in the spring of 2006.
from the general public showed up to testify at a public hearing
on the tax rate held before a recent 'workshop' meeting of the
members of the board voted to approve the budget. Thomas
Lapinski abstained, without giving a reason for doing so, and
Sandra Skelley left the meeting before that vote was taken.
Delaforum previously reported, the fiscal 2005 spending plan is
3.6% higher than the one for the year now ending. Blowman
pointed out that the budget is 'tentative' because information
about the level of state financial support is not yet known. A
preliminary budget will be presented in August and a final one
in November or December when actual data is available.
the tentative budget includes a 'place holder' for additional
spending to finance a new contract with the teachers' union. The
present contract expires in August and a new one is now being
negotiated. If past practice is followed, the Brandywine
administration will not disclose contract terms until after they
are final and have been ratified by the school board and a
majority of union members.
and employee benefit analysis in the budget document puts the
fiscal 2005 total at $76.1 million, up 3.5% from what was
budgeted for fiscal 2004.
coordinator of professional development, told the board that the
one-year professional mentor arrangement for newly hired
teachers, which has been in place since 1998, is being extended
to include their second and third years of employment.
teachers are paired with veteran teachers in the schools to
which they are assigned. The veterans, who are paid a stipend
for their services, in effect, show the newcomers the ropes.
Guzzo said a frequent complaint among new teachers is reluctance
to go to experienced colleagues with questions or to seek advice
"out of fear that they will be [seeking] something they're
expected to already know."
mentoring will be augmented by 'coaching' at the district level
and an expansion of the number of available professional
workshops from seven to 25 during the coming academic year.
Several of the current new hires also are participating in
summer sessions, she said.
program includes all newly hired teachers with some variations
for novices and for those who have had prior teaching
cited a Harvard University study which found that, nationally,
40% to 50% of new teachers leave the profession within five
years of starting. She and Doorey said they have seen Delaware
statistics and they are comparable. They did not disclose what
superintendent Tammy Davis said Brandywine so far has hired 35
novice teachers for the coming academic year. It expects to hire
more in August, after the total number of retirements from the
district's teacher force is known, she said. Last year, a total
of 67 new and experienced teachers were hired.