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August 22, 2006

 

The school board, as expected, unanimously approved hiring James Scanlon to be the fifth superintendent of the Brandywine School District.

The adopted resolution "authorize[d] board officers to sign the [employment] contract as discussed in executive session." Board president Craig Gilbert said terms of the contract "will be made public once we have a formal contract." That, he added, will be after Scanlon resigns as superintendent of the Quakertown (Pa.) Community School District and signs the document.

During a recess after the board completed action on Scanlon's appointment, Gilbert refused to disclose the salary that has been agreed upon saying, "We will make all that public once the contract is signed."

Gilbert told the meeting that Scanlon will take the position in late October or early November. Dane (Andy) Brandenberger has agreed to serve as interim superintendent until late in October.

Scanlon  is to submit his resignation at a meeting of the Quakertown school board on Aug. 24. Pennsylvania law requires that he remain in that job for 60 days after resigning, Gilbert explained.

The Brandywine board voted to hire Scanlon at its regular meeting on Aug. 21 after all seven members and two parents who were members of the delegation which went to Quakerton to 'check out' Scanlon's credentials and reputation strongly endorsed his candidacy. No one had anything critical to say.

Gilbert said Hazzard, Young & Attea Associates, the executive search firm hired to conduct a national search, brought forward four candidates. "Dr. Scanlon was head-and-shoulders above the rest," Gilbert said.

State law requires that the actual hiring be done is open public session. But there has been no doubt that Scanlon was the board's choice since he was presented as its only 'finalist candidate' at a special meeting on July 24. The board, as the law permits, conducted interviews and discussed the candidates' qualifications in closed-door executive sessions before then.

In an acceptance speech after the vote, Scanlon said he is "very eager to help everybody make a difference for all kids in this school district."

"Public education is under a lot of pressure today. ... Very demanding requirements are being placed on our schools," he said.

He promised that "every decision [he makes] will be made on behalf of students."

Board member Mark Huxoll said he personally spoke with nine of the 10 persons Scanlon provided as references. Those conversations were "overwhelmingly favorable," he reported. "It gets back to what's good for the kids."

Among those endorsing Scanlon, Huxoll said, was Vicki Gehrt, who served as Brandywine's  interim superintendent during the 2000-01 academic year. She is now superintendent of the Kennett Consolidated School District in Pennsylvania.

Reading from a prepared statement, Kim Matthews, president of the Brandywine Parent-Teacher Association Council, detailed an extensive list of Scanlon's accomplishments discussed during the Aug. 1 visit to Quakertown. "We need someone in Brandywine who is going to motivate and lift the morale of our staff," she said.

Darcie Herkimer, of the Brandywine special needs P.T.A., said she was especially impressed during the visit by Scanlon's reputation for promoting interaction among teachers and other staff members. "We don't have that collaboration here," she said.

Herkimer added that she confirmed Scanlon's commitment to supporting the 'special education' program.

Board member Olivia Johnson-Harris said the 20 delegates who made the trip "kept hearing he will do what's best for the students."

She said there were no concerns about Scanlon's ability to apply that commitment in a considerably more racially and ethnically diverse school district.

She said responses to questions about why Scanlon would want to leave a district where he has been so successful indicated that he is interested in new challenges, wants to "work with more diverse students" and likes the Wilmington area. He and his wife, Beth Trapani, lived  following their marriage for about three years in Brandywine Hundred near Mount Pleasant High School.

Scanlon "possesses all the character I want to see our teachers possess," Joseph Brumskill said.

Gilbert said that, among 69 survey forms returned after get-acquainted sessions open to the general public, 83% favored hiring Scanlon, 14% opposed doing so and 3% were undecided. "A clear preponderance of people said they would support a board decision to hire Dr. Scanlon," Gilbert said.

He said he would not apologize for the process by which the board reached its decision to hire Scanlon. He said Hazzard, Young & Attea Associates "strongly recommended we conduct a closed process."

That was especially necessary, he explained, because former superintendent Bruce Harter accepted a superintendency in California late in the academic year after "the type of superintendent we wanted to attract" was likely to be set in position for the coming year and being revealed as seeking another job tends to sour relations. "Friction is easy to come by between the board and community and a sitting superintendent," he said.

The Brandywine board, however, was publicly understanding while Harter spent several months seeking positions before landing the California job.

Gilbert said the favorable result of the search trumps any criticism of the process.

He said Scanlon comes to the district as "absolutely committed to our goals as we are."

2006. All rights reserved.

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