school superintendent James Scanlon appears to have
made a good impression during his first public
appearance in the Brandywine School District.
Speaking informally to about
30 people at a get-acquainted session in the Harlan
Intermediate School library on Aug. 7, he said he intends to
"set high standards for all the kids in the community."
As previously reported,
Scanlon is all but certain to be officially appointed to be
the district's top official when the school board meets for
its monthly business session on Aug. 21.
"We as a body and as
individuals believe [he] is the best fit for the district at
this time," board member Mark Huxoll told Delaforum after
the Harlan session. "I thought we would be shopping two or
three individuals to you. ... [But] it was very clear to us
on the board that Dr. Scanlon was the person to bring
forward to you."
The board has scheduled an
executive session on Aug. 16 following the second of
two public meetings with Scanlon. Purpose of the closed-door
to discuss employment matters for [sic] a citizen
James Scanlon speaks
at the first of two introductory meetings. The
second one will be on Aug. 16 in Brandywine High
School, beginning at 7 p.m. In addition, Scanlon
is meeting with teachers and other district
staff, students, parents, business persons,
community activists and public office-holders,
in gatherings closed to news media and the
employment in the district," according to the posted notice.
Huxoll confirmed that the 'citizen' is Scanlon and said the
board "has some details about the [employment] contract to
State law requires that the
actual decision to hire be made in public, but, barring
highly unlikely developments, that vote will be a formality.
Scanlon told attenders at the
Harlan session that the fact that Hazzard, Young & Attea
Associates, the executive search firm which recruited him,
assured him that Brandywine was conducting a 'closed
process' to find a new superintendent "really gave me the
incentive to apply." After having been publicly identified
as a finalist for the superintendency of the Rose Hill-Media
district in Pennsylvania, he did not want it known he was
again seeking a position.
"We're not getting somebody
looking for a job but someone who was doing a great job [in
another district] who we can pry away," Huxoll said.
Scanlon spent about half of
the 90-minute session speaking about his record as
superintendent of the Quakertown Community School District
in Bucks County, Pa., since 1999. During that time, he said,
that district's 5,500 students have risen from having, on
average, performed at or below the state average to a point
where the high-70s to low-80s percentiles are rated as
'proficient' or 'advanced'. The percentage of high school
graduates going on to community or four-year college has
risen from 68% to just under 80% during that time.
He described the approach he
follows as "what we are teaching kids; how we know if they
have learned it; and what do we do if they don't."
He said he is committed to
ample opportunity for communication and interaction among
the teaching staff. Such things as hiring 'permanent
substitutes' who become known in their respective buildings
and beginning the high-school day an hour later allow
teachers to confer and plan together on a regularly
"I'm all about being an
advocate for students -- all students," he said. In response
to a questioner, he said he "places high priority [on]
closing the achievement gap, particularly for students of
He said about 7% of the
Quakertown district's enrollment consists of children from
racial or ethnic minorities. The 'achievement gap' in that
district mainly is between children from
One of the innovations
Scanlon cited is instituting what he called 'focus walk'.
That, he explains, involves periodic interviews with
students from kindergarten through high school, who are
selected at random, about their learning experiences. "What
happens in kindergarten is just as important as what happens
in high school," he said. Since they are intended to gather
data to improve instruction, the interviews are conducted
early enough in each semester to allow time for teachers to
make indicated changes, he explained.
Also, he said, he and members
of the district's administrative staff are regular visitors
to the schools and classrooms. "I can't say I know them
(students) all, but they all know who I am," he said.
During his tenure, the
Quakertown district built a new middle school and a new
elementary school, converted a former middle school into a
'ninth-grade center' and put an addition on a high school.
The 'ninth-grade center',
which shares a campus with a high school, was primarily
intended to relieve overcrowding without requiring
construction of a third high school but also serves to
provide a transition for the students.
Both the 'center' and the
high schools use block scheduling with students having the
equivalent of double class periods. They take four core
subjects in each of the two semesters of the academic year.
He said that parental
involvement is significant in achieving a child's academic
success and that lack of time is not a valid excuse for
failing to get involved. "Think of how much time you're
going to need when your kid gets all screwed up," he said.
"Everybody's busy and everybody's under a lot of pressure,
but they have to take time for their kids."
Scanlon described his coming
to the Wilmington area as a 'homecoming'. He and his wife,
Beth Trapani, lived for about three years in Brandywine Hundred near
Mount Pleasant High School. They have no children yet, but
have decided they would "like to raise our family here."
He said he intends a
long-term commitment to the Brandywine district. Trapani said they already have begun house-hunting.