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July 25, 2006

 

Barring an unexpected adverse development during the remaining review process, the Brandywine school board will hire James Scanlon, superintendent of the Quakertown (Pa.) Community School District, to be Brandywine superintendent.

Brandywine board president Craig Gilbert said he and vice president Nancy Doorey probably will be able to negotiate an employment contract with Scanlon in time for it to come before the board for approval at its regular monthly meeting in August. If so, he most likely will begin work here on or about Nov. 1.

Gilbert would not provide a salary range for the position. Bruce Harter, who resigned as superintendent to become superintendent of the district in Richmond, Calif., earned $154,832 in his final year, according to data

previously provided to Delaforum by the Brandywine district. Scanlon currently makes $141,900.

Scanlon told Delaforum that he has committed to remain in Brandywine "for at least five years," but added that he is "looking forward to a very long [association] with both the district and the community." Harter was employed here for five years, to the day. Five years is the minimum service required to qualify for a state pension in Delaware.

Scanlon said he was attracted to Brandywine by "the diversity of the district" and because it is "poised to pull a lot of things together with regard to curriculum ... so

James Scanlon

everybody's going in the same direction." He said he is "very focused on student learning" and dedicated to "providing for the needs of all kids."

Scanlon was identified as the sole "finalist candidate" for the Brandywine superintendency at a special board meeting on July 24. His identity was a closely kept secret before the meeting. It was first revealed when Gilbert read a statement from Doorey, who did not attend the meeting, after the board voted unanimously and without prior discussion to undertake the  review process.

During a preface statement before the vote, Gilbert thanked "the community" for allowing the board "to keep the [selection] process very confidential." A 'press release' distributed after the vote said that 70% of the 80 participants from the district staff and community interviewed before the search for candidates and an undisclosed number of other people who responded to a 'leadership questionnaire' posted on the district's website "supported the confidential search in order to gain the strongest applicant pool."

Acknowledging that that differed from the comparatively open process by which Harter was selected, Gilbert said the district was "in a different spot five years ago." Harter succeeded superintendent Joseph DeJohn who had resigned under fire during a scandal involving purported misuse of district funds.

Gilbert emphasized, however, that identifying Scanlon as the finalist was not the end of the selection process, "but the beginning of the next phase." The final hiring decision, he said, will be guided by 'feedback' from participants in the review process.

That will begin with a visit to the Quakertown district by a delegation led by board members Olivia Johnson-Harris, Mark Huxsoll and Joseph Brumskill which will include members of the Brandywine staff and 'community members'.

Scanlon will come to Delaware for full days of meetings on Aug. 7 and 16. There will be open public meetings beginning at 7 p.m. on both days -- at Harlan Intermediate School and Brandywine High School, respectively. The public and media will not be permitted to attend other sessions, including one with "business leaders, elected officials, and leaders of local religious, community and civic groups." Also on the schedule is a session with any district student who wishes to attend, which board member Debra Heffernan said Scanlon requested be included.

Gilbert said Hazzard, Young & Attea Associates, a search firm, "presented us with four very qualified candidates" from which to select the 'finalist'. He thanked his six colleagues for putting in "untold hours [and] missing swim meets" to interview the candidates and make the selection. School board members are not paid.

After the vote, each of the other members at the meeting endorsed Scanlon as the proper selection. Brumskill said he was swayed by Scanlon's "sincere concern for student involvement." Johnson-Harris said she "liked the fact he talked about collaboration."

"He is both a very warm and approachable person and an effective leader committed to the success of every student," Doorey said in the statement that Gilbert read.

Gilbert said Scanlon led the Quakertown district from having student test scores at or below the state average to an overall ranking in the top fifth of Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts. Quakertown has an enrollment of 5,400 in 11 schools. The district is in northern Bucks County about 15 miles south of Allentown and Bethlehem.

Scanlon, 47,  holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a masters degree and doctorate in education from Temple University. He has been superintendent in Quakertown since 1999 and before that was assistant superintendent of the Neshaminy district in southern Bucks County. A copy of his full resume was not available at the Brandywine meeting.

Scanlon is not a stranger to the Brandywine district. He and his wife, Beth Trapani, lived in North Hills -- from he commuted to Quakertown -- between 2003 and 2005.

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