that "any way I cut this ... I come down to the conclusion that
the overwhelming majority wants the [current] configuration,"
she said. "Instead of spending time going out to a public vote,
we should spend the time ... digging further into modified
[scenario] 'A' [to] look for greater efficiencies."
was responding to a suggestion by board member Craig Gilbert
that the two options the board received from its facilities
taskforce be put out to a non-binding plebiscite before the
board makes a decision which plan to submit to the Delaware
Department of Education for inclusion in the state's fiscal 2006
capital spending legislation.
members of the board were well aware of the taskforce's
recommendations and the controversy surrounding them, the
workshop-style meeting on Oct. 14 was convened for the official
presentation of the taskforce report. The meeting was preceded
by a public hearing at which previously voiced objections to
scenario 'D' were repeated.
'A', which was handed up slightly modified from what originally
had been proposed, calls for building new schools to replace
Brandywood and Lancashire Elementary, and renovating P.S. du
Pont Intermediate and Springer and Hanby Middle while keeping
the present four-tier grade configuration. The taskforce report
put pricetags of $124.4 million and $126.4 million on that
option with the difference depending upon to where the Bush
Early Education Center program is relocated.
'D' calls for going to a three-tier arrangement, closing either
Hanby or Springer and renovating the other, and replacing
Brandywood and Lancashire. That was pegged to cost between
$103.9 million and $107.4 million. The difference there involves
Bush and which middle school option is chosen.
scenarios also would relocate the Bush program for pre-school
children to a 'wing' of the new Brandywood or one of the other
elementary schools, closing the district's administration
building and relocating the administrative staff to one or more
schools, beginning the process of obtaining a new bus depot and
maintenance base, and upgrading athletic facilities and
playgrounds throughout the district. Both options contain
caveats that closed buildings would be demolished and the land
on which they stand kept by the district to meet future needs
should they arise, being used in the meantime for a benign
community purpose such as a county park.
discussion and votes at its most recent meeting appeared at the
time to demonstrate a clear preference for Scenario 'A', the
report handed up to the board contained an unequivocal
recommendation for 'D'. It states: "The taskforce believes that
Scenario 'D' clearly has little support from those who attended
the public hearings or provided feedback to the taskforce. But
in terms of educational viability and financial soundness, the
taskforce believes that 'D' is a better plan."
report, which was dated Oct. 11, had been posted to the district
Web site. Delaforum was unable to determine who wrote it.
Bullock, who co-chaired the taskforce, denied that the report
reflects any change in position. He told Delaforum that the
impression that 'A' was favored was the result of the
preponderance of discussion at the previous meeting having been
focused on it. "We had [previously] focused the same way on
'D'," he said.
presenting the report, Bullock said the taskforce recognized
"the controversy inherent in [its] decision." but added that 'D'
"is by far the preference of the taskforce."
closest any board member came close to agreeing with the 'D'
recommendation was Gilbert's statement that he is "willing to
buck the public support [for 'A'] if there is an educational
advantage." He also questioned whether the nearly 500 comments
received, either in person or in writing, from the public is "a
fair representation" of public sentiment. Based upon
distribution of the Brandywine Review, the district puts the
number of residences within its jurisdiction at 47,000.
Superintendent Bruce Harter repeated a previous observation that
all the options before the taskforce were "educationally
neutral." Joseph Brumskill, vice president of the board, decried
what he called a disappointing public response. "We gave the
total community the opportunity to speak out. If they did not do
that, they're going to have to live with what we decide," he
member David Adkins said public response is critical. "The
community made it clear they're in favor of 'A'. When you go to
referendum, they're putting money on the table ... [and] will
make [their choice] clear in unequivocal terms," he said.
said her analysis of responses found about three-quarters of the
public responders and two-thirds of the staff members who
responded favor retention of something close to the status quo.
"It takes more than 50% support to go through a major change.
I'm not seeing any level of support [for doing so] that even
comes close to that," she said.
Indicating that she does not feel a plebecite would turn up any
significantly different support level, she said the time it
would take to organize and conduct one would be better spent
looking for further modifications to 'A'. She did not suggest
what they might be.
idea of closing any schools predicated on a projected downward
trend in student enrollment, she said actual counts during the
next few years would enable the district to determine if the
projections by University of Delaware demographer Edward
Ratledge are valid. Several speakers at the four public hearings
said that the turnover of Brandywine Hundred properties from
older occupants to young families belies the forecasts.
always go back [to the community] if it turns out he's right. We
could end up closing [buildings] ... on [the basis of] what
looks like it might be premature data," Doorey said.
public hearing portion of the session, state representative
Wayne Smith told the board that objection to closing "some of
the finest schools in the state ... is almost as unanimous as
public sentiment can get on an issue." Representative Greg
Lavelle and Assembly candidates Steve Tanzer and Stacy Griggs
also voiced opposition to any school closures." Lavelle also
urged that nothing be done to significantly change the Bush
Doris McKenna voiced objection to vacating "valuable property"
to potential development. Taskforce member Charles Landry
replied that the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine
Hundred "will never allow properties to be sold for development
that the community doesn't support."
Joe Pasquarella said that district taxpayers will be willing to
pay higher taxes to keep all the present schools open. "There's
not a difference between [capital] spending of $100 million and
$120 million. We live in an area where we can afford it," he
referendum is tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2005 at
which voters would have to approve selling 20-year bonds to
borrow the money necessary to finance the 40% local share of the
cost of what is to be the third and final phase of Brandywine's
long-term renovation program.
told the board that DelDOE has approved an extension from Oct.
29 to Nov. 12 of the deadline for Brandywine to submit a
building plan. Doorey said the board will decide at its regular
meeting on Oct. 18 how to proceed to reach to reach a decision
on which proposal to submit.