"Whenever you have change involved, you see a lot of
disequilibrium; where there is no disequilibrium, there is no
advance," Harter told a community breakfast meeting on
"There's a daunting challenge ahead. ... To say this will be an
easy journey would be very misleading," Gilbert said.
said it is important when confronted with difficult and often
unpopular decisions "not to pull back to the way things were
been building up for the past four years; now is the time to
break through," he added.
identified several topics that will be on his administration's
agenda as it prepares over the next 18 months a new five-year
strategic plan to succeed the present one. Following
self-evaluation within the system and study by outside
consultants, the drafting process will be put into the hands of
a taskforce of community volunteers and school personnel.
Financing the plan the board will approve will be a significant
element of the proposal to be put before district residents at a
tax referendum in the spring of 2007.
before the planning process is fully underway, an immediate
charge is to reform the approach to educating
special-needs children, which the superintendent called "a
substantial problem for us in the Brandywine School District."
Following presentations by several parents at a recent meeting,
the board directed Harter to prepare a plan to respond to their
concerns. At the breakfast, he promised to bring about
noticeable improvement in the measured performance of
special-needs students within the current academic year.
going to modify our instruction to let them meet [state]
standards," he said. Although the performance gap of those
students compared to 'typical' students has narrowed, he said it
is still too wide.
"We're not going to put up with that," he added.
now, he said, the focus has been on "the disability, ... not the
person behind the disability."
Another group of children whom Harter said have been
short-changed are "the four out of 10 who leave [Brandywine
schools] only marginally prepared for service jobs [at] minimum
challenge there, he explained, is to look beyond those who
intend to go on to college and to prepare every student to meet
the demands of an increasing sophisticated and competitive
global economy. In his remarks Gilbert also referred to
providing all -- he emphasized that word -- students to meet
"the demands and rigors of today's economy."
that would in no way diminish the district's commitment to
students on the upper rungs of the academic ladder. "Our kids
[are prepared to] go to the same high-end colleges and
universities as [those from] Archmere, Tatnall and Tower Hill,"
he said. Those are area private college-preparatory schools.
Brandywine district employs one teacher for every 15 students
with 86% of its teachers rated 'highly qualified' and another
12% as 'qualified' when measured against national teaching
standards. "That's tops in the state," he said. "Public
education is our calling. That's why we're here."
noted that Brandywine enjoys a high degree of community support.
That was evidenced by the approximately 200 attenders at the
breakfast meeting. The audience included a cross-section of
people active in community, business and public affairs.
specifically invited their participation in the strategic
Referring to the array of family situations which affect
learning, the superintendent said it would be "easy to say it's
not us, we're not responsible for these things." However, he
added, schools and their faculties and staffs are in a position
and have an obligation to deal with the results.
have them for six hours a day. If the legislature would let us
have our way, I would have them for eight," he said.
other objectives he listed were "safe and orderly classrooms
[which] are absolutely essential"; a need to "eliminate racial
predictability"; and more frequent assessment of student
performance than once-a-year state tests.
Outside the classroom, the district faces a need to determine
whether it should "'privatize' or partially 'privatize' our
[bus] transportation or leave it like it is," he said.
Brandywine is the only district in the state which operates its
bus system totally in-house. The will be one of the questions
put to an outside consultant for study and recommendations,