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August, 2006

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Eight of the 13 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina and brought to New Castle County a year ago still live here and another is living downstate. The others have returned to New Orleans.

Anne Farley, general manager of the county Department of Community Services, pronounced the humanitarian relocation effort a success. What's more, she told Delaforum, the approach has "provided a model" for incorporation into the official disaster plan for dealing with future emergencies. What contributed most to the success, she said, was county government's decision to involve community agencies rather than attempt to go it alone. "We worked in a facilitating role rather than providing direct services," she said. "It was an incredible experience trying to pull together [community] resources."

There was no direct expenditure of public money, she said. County government did donate the services of four staff members who were "intensely involved" in addition to Farley's time. Nonprofit and other agencies and several individuals responded. The degree of cooperation was nothing short of extraordinary, she added. "Sometimes we in government don't realize the extent of [private sector] resources that are available to us. We are fearful we don't have adequate resources to take on something like this." Although disasters of Katrina's magnitude are, fortunately, rare, "we learned a lot about the needs of families in crisis," Farley said.


CONTRACT SIGNED: Brandywine School District has singed a three-year employment contract with James Scanlon, its new superintendent. His initial salary will be $163,000 prorated to reflect the portion of the fiscal year he will serve, according to a press statement issued on Aug. 29 by the district. As far as can be determined, Scanlon's predecessor, Bruce Harter, was paid $154,832 in his fifth and final year with the district. Scanlon's contract has a provision for an 18-month extension conditioned on "successfully accomplishing performance goals [that] he and the school board set," the statement said. Other details of the contract were not made public. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)


CHIEF SELECTED County Executive Christopher Coons selected Rick Gregory, the Florida Highway Patrol's deputy director of field operations, to be chief of the New Castle County police force. The nomination is subject to confirmation by County Council. According to a press statement issued by Coons's office, Gregory has 24 years of experience in law enforcement. He has "the right combination of operational, managerial and command experience and the vision to ... make our streets and communities safer," Coons said in the statement. Scott McLaren, who  has been heading the county force on an acting basis, was a candidate for the chief's position.


CAN'T GIVE IT AWAY:  New Castle County government will sell 5 acres of airport property to the EasterSeal Society for $1 million and 10 acres for an undisclosed amount to the Delaware National Guard. According to Richard Przywara, general manager of the Department of Special Services, "we'd like to give it away for $1," but federal regulations require that it be sold for  fair market value. But the sales won't produce a windfall for county coffers. The same regulations require that proceeds be used only for capital projects at the  airport, he said. The site will be used as the location for a new combined headquarters for the Air and Army National Guard.


James Scanlon promised residents who turned out for the second of two get-acquainted sessions that he is "ready for a long-term relationship" with the Brandywine School District.

He acknowledged in response to a question at the Aug. 16 session that the average stay of a school superintendent is four to five years, but said he has determined that his coming to Brandywine is "a good match, professionally and educationally for me." Charles Landry, a resident who was with the group that went to Quakertown, Pa., to confirm Scanlon's references, said he was impressed by the prospective new superintendent's involvement with that community. Brandywine board member Joseph Brumskill said he was told Scanlon "will do for every child what is expected of him."

Scanlon, whose appointment to succeed Bruce Harter as Brandywine superintendent is all but certain to be formally approved by the board on Aug. 21, said his priority will be maintain strong ties between the district and the community. He spent the day in a series of closed-door meetings with public officials, invited community leaders, active parents and students before the open session attended by about 35 members of the general public. Board members who were there then went into a closed 'executive session' at which board president Craig Gilbert said no formal action would be taken. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)


GOOD NEIGHBOR:  "There is no question that softball fields are compatible with the neighborhood," Martin Lessner told Vice Chancellor Stephen Lamb. The lawyer for Talleyville Girls Softball League argued in Court of Chancery on Aug. 15 for dismissal of a suit seeking to block construction of a four-field complex on the site of the former Old Mill Lane School. Lessner said the league spent two years working with the surrounding community to come up with an acceptable design and now "a very small minority of people who are vocal" are challenging the project. The league wants to complete the fields in time for the start of the 2007 spring season, he said.

Richard Abbott, who represents one resident each of Shellburne and Liftwood and the respective civic associations -- although questions have been raised about whether the civic associations formally authorized him to do so -- said the objectors are not concerned "with what they see, but what they don't see." He said there is ample room to enlarge the complex on the 11-acre site. Lessner acknowledged that the original plan proposed seven fields there. He said, however, that use of the site for youth sports would be considerably less invasive than its former use as a public elementary school. Lamb said he will rule later on the request to dismiss the suit. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)


Sign of the times? Spotted on a recent trip to New York City: "Prepare Your Child to Go Back to School". It was in the window of a martial arts studio.


BONDS SOLD:  New Castle County government sold $68.6 million of 20-year bonds to Merrill Lynch with an average interest rate of 4.22%. Most of the proceeds from the sale will be used to replace money 'borrowed' from the county's budget reserve accounts to finance the new public safety building and other capital projects. A press statement issued on Aug. 9 said 10 firms bid competitively for the issue. It was the first bond sale in more than 10 years that was not a negotiated sale. It will be up to Merrill Lynch to determine in what denominations the bonds, income from which is tax exempt for most taxpayers, will be sold to investors. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)


REPORT CARD:  Eight Brandywine district schools received 'superior' accountability ratings based on students' performance in this year's state tests. The ratings are part of the annual public evaluation required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Delaware Department of Education said Brandywood, Carrcroft, Claymont, Lancashire, Lombardy, Maple Lane, Mount Pleasant Elementary and Springer were rated in the highest category as having achieved "adequate yearly progress" with at least 62% passing the reading test and 41% the mathematics test. Those goal will be increased for the coming academic year.

Darley Road and Harlan were placed on 'academic review' for their students having not met the standards in the present year. P.S. du Pont was listed as being on 'academic watch', the lowest rating, for missing the standards in two or more years. Brandywine High, Concord, Hanby, Mount Pleasant High and Talley were deemed to be making 'academic progress' although not coming up to the standard. Statewide, according to DelDOE, 103 of the 178 public schools, including charter schools, were rated 'superior' and 22 were 'commendable'. The 125 receiving those 'passing' grades was up from 122 in 2004-05.


CHOW DOWN: County government has enlisted 14 restaurants to participate in a 'buy from your neighbor' week during which they will feature menu items using locally grown products. The arrangement, which runs through Aug. 10 and is intended to become an annual event, resulted from "matchmaking between restaurants and local growers," according to County Executive Christopher Coons. For instance, until contacted to participate, Stanley's Tavern was unaware of Highland Orchards although they are located about a mile apart on Foulk Road.

Coons said his administration is attempting to raise public awareness about availability of a wide range of food products grown in the county in order to help assure "a long-term prosperous future for agriculture" here. Although not generally known, there are 358 working farms remaining in the county, occupying slightly more than a quarter of its land area. Other participating eateries: Cafe Gelato, Celebrity Kitchens, David Finney Inn, Harry's Savoy Grill, Harry's Seafood Grill, Hilton Christiana, Home Grown Cafe, Iron Hill Brewery, Maynard's Piano Bar & Restaurant, Pastabilities, Pizza by Elizabeth, Saints & Sinners and Six Paupers.

Deputy administrative officer Lynn Howard and Council president Paul Clark sample local vitals at a media event on Aug. 3.


PLAYING HARDBALL: Charging that the Brandywine school board ignored the impact on the surrounding community, the Shellburne and Liftwood civic associations have asked Court of Chancery to invalidate the deal allowing Talleyville Girls Softball League to build a playing fields complex on the site of the former Old Mill Lane School. A suit filed on July 13 and brought to light by Brandywine Community News alleges that violated the law and that the state legislature's direction that the property be leased to New Castle County government to be subleased to the youth sports organization expired before the school district got around to complying with it.

Last updated on August 29, 2006

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