school election law, which dates back to the racial
desegregation order and the formation of four consolidated
districts in the early 1980s, provides for board membership
based on geography, but not geographic representation.
Candidates are 'nominated' -- actually, they nominate themselves
by filing their intention to run with the elections department
-- from the five districts into which Brandywine and the three
other northern New Castle County districts were divided. They
are elected at-large, however, and are expected to provide a
districtwide perspective when functioning as board members.
Carrying that seeming anomaly a step further, eligible voters
may vote at any of several polling places irrespective of where
they live. It is also possible to vote by absentee ballot and
such ballots received by the elections department by 9 p.m. on
election day -- an hour after the polls close -- will be
counted. The department offices are on the fourth floor of the
Carvel state office building at 9th and French Sts. in downtown
This year, there are five
candidates competing in contests for two board seats which
become vacant with the expiration of David Adkins's and Thomas
Lapinski's terms on June 30. The new members will be
into office at the first meeting of the board after July
The choices are between:
● James Garrity, Olivia
Johnson-Harris and Michael Procak;
● Jeanne Best and Debra
Voters can choose one of
the candidates from each of the sets.
About 50 people turned
out at a recent meeting to hear the candidates give
their views on a variety of topics. They indicated that
they are generally supportive of the present course
being followed by the board, but differed on some
District residents who are American citizens age
18 and older are eligible to vote.
Polls will be open between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Votes may be cast at any of these locations:
Brandywine and Mount Pleasant High, Carrcroft,
Claymont, Concord, Lombardy and Maple Lane, and
Church of Our Savior.
is a summary of some of the views they expressed:
Garrity said the primary reason he is running is that he
believes "we have too many dollars that are in administrative
areas" and, as a result, he is "not so sure we are doing enough
for our students." He said 60% of the teaching 'units' which the
state allocates to the district are used for classroom
assignments with the other 40% going to support administrative
Johnson-Harris said that, as a pre-school teacher and a parent
whose children went through district school, she "likes the way
the district is going." She said she is ready to continue that
trend. "We are shaping these children and helping them feel
confident," she said.
said that, as the father of three children, he has a "vested
interest" in furthering the quality of education in the
district. He said he favors publicly supported full-day
kindergarten and seeks "improved fiscal responsibility." If
elected, he said he will "make sure we are spending our dollars
said that "good schools are necessary to keep our community
vibrant." She said she wants to reduce the size of classes in
order to provide a "positive learning environment." Among the
goals she will seek if elected to the board is a narrowing of
the disparity in performance between Caucasian and
Asian-American students and African-Americans and Hispanics.
"The achievement gap must and will be closed," she said.
Heffernan described herself as "an independent candidate [who
will] seek out diverse opinions, evaluate issues and make
informed decisions." She said that she favors "lobbying the
state legislature for more flexibility in the way we use the
money they give us." Among other things, she said, she would
like to see "all teachers adequately equipped with resources and
support." That is particularly important, she added, in the area
of special education. She advocated equitably apportioning
resources among special-needs, academically 'gifted' and
of the evening was given to responses to questions fro the
audience. Among the topics raised were:
Class size -- Garrity said "class size is everything to the
quality of education." Johnson-Harris pointed out, however, that
without sufficient state money to finance additional teachers,
Brandywine and other districts are finding it impossible to
comply with size mandates. Procak cautioned against taking
teacher allotments from secondary schools in order to reduce
class size in elementary schools. "Just to shift money from
point A to point B isn't going to do the job," he said.
said she favors "making class size as small as we can." But. she
added, "You can't ignore the upper grades. Class size is a
K-to-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) issue." Heffernan advocated
raising additional local revenue to finance smaller classes.
"Let's put a line item in the 2007 operating referendum [for]
additional money to reduce class size," she said.
Full-day kindergarten -- Best said that is a state-level issue,
but suggested that the controversy among Governor Ruth Ann
Minner and some members of the General Assembly could be
resolved by following the Brandywine model. "I feel we have a
good mix now and would not like to see the state come in and
change that," he said. Brandywine provides full-day kindergarten
for 'at-risk' students with financial support for households
with limited income; parents of other students are given the
option to attend full-day session, which requires paying
$320-a-month tuition. Heffernan said the full-day subsidized
option should be provided now to special-education students and
advocated complete state financing if full-day kindergarten is
mandated for all districts.
Garrity said there is educational research to support the belief
that full-day kindergarten has benefits for all children but
that so-called 'at risk' students benefit to a greater extent.
"For at-risk children, it's a wonderful program [but] for many
regular-education children it becomes day-care," he said. If it
is mandated for all, "we're going to spend a ton of money [and
parents] are still going to have to pay for [after-school]
day-care," he added. Johnson-Harris said she prefers letting
"parents make the choice of what's best for their children."
Procak said he is "not against offering a half-day program," but
said that a half-day schedule does not allow enough time for a
complete instructional program.
Discipline -- Best said she favors a strong
alternative-education program for "some of the 'frequent-flyers'
to the principal's office." It provides a means to work more
closely with children "who don't have the classroom skills to be
successful." Heffernan said alternative education should not
"become a dumping ground for children who have family problems"
which lead them to being disruptive and called for "greater
involvement by our counselors" in the early grades "where
behavior problems start."
Garrity said he favors a strong alternative-education program
"for students who don't follow the rules" but should not be the
only approach to dealing with student problems. Johnson-Harris
said "each child comes to school every day with a different set
of problems" and that there should be "better coordination
between teachers, administrators and counselors" to deal with
those problems. Procak said, "There is a need for alternative
schools to take those students who disrupt classes out of the