board asks for
greater student diversity
that attendance zones proposed for the reconfigured school
district will not provide sufficient student diversity, the Brandywine
school board directed superintendent Jim Scanlon to revise some
of the alignments before presenting a final plan for
ostensively focused on significantly higher-than-average
proportions of students from low-income households eligible for
government-subsidized lunches who would be assigned to Harlan
Elementary and P.S. du Pont Middle in Wilmington.
Joseph Brumskill, however, said the underlying issue is race.
"Are we delving into the quality of [a school] or what is the
color of children's skins?" he said.
In another matter
before a combined business meeting and workshop session on May
5, Scanlon said the recent agreement by Governor Ruth Ann Minner
and the General Assembly to limit the extent of state budget
cuts to be borne by the Department of Education and public
schools has eased the pressure on Brandywine.
The district now
estimates that it will 'lose' about $1.3 million in state
financing, compared to more than $6 million that would have
resulted from having to go along with an 8% across-the-board
reduction. But, he pointed out, that will require "still
somewhat significant cuts."
summarized comments received as a result of having sent parents
and guardians notices listing which schools their children would
attend under the tentative plan put forth when the board
approved changing to a three-tier alignment of classes and
closing two schools, Brumskill sparked the diversity discussion
by declaring that he was "terribly concerned that free and
reduced [-price] lunch [eligibility] in every school is not in
The zones as they
now stand, he said, would "overburden" the two schools located
in the city.
Aletha Ramseur said
the district's announced priorities to maintain diversity and to
assign students to the school closest to their homes were
incompatible to the extent that many people tend to falsely
equate low income with low student achievement. Nevertheless,
she said, the 'acceptable range' of 20% to 50% of low-income
students is too broad.
questioned whether the range had initially been set at 20% to
40% and said that would be more acceptable. Scanlon said the
committees that produced the space-consolidation plan had used
the broader range as a guide since they were established last
Scanlon said he
recognized that Harlan's anticipated 53% of low-income students
exceeded the limit and that he intended to modify the plan to
At that point in
the discussion, Brumskill segued from economics to race as the
He said approving
attendance zones as they now stand would not prepare children to
live and function in a world where there are a variety of races
"We didn't do it in
1978 and we didn't do it in 1954. As long as I can help, I'm
going to try to make it work," he said. The dates refer,
respectively, to when federal court ordered racial desegregation
of schools in northern Delaware and to the U.S. Supreme Court
ruling striking down state and local laws mandating segregated
Brumskill, who is
black, said earlier in the meeting that, in the public's
reaction to which schools their children attend, "emotion
overrides and, in some cases, beats out logic."
Johnson-Harris joined her colleagues on the board in directing
Scanlon to produce a plan with a greater amount of diversity.
Board members Patricia Hearn, Mark Huxsoll and Sandra Skelly did
not attend the meeting.
Only a dozen
members of the general public came to the meeting. Six of them
commented on the plan as it affects specific schools.
"I don't know how
we can do that without making significant changes," Scanlon
said. "We already have [put] a considerable amount of work into
He did not,
however, reject the direction. He did say that making major
changes most likely would push back a timetable which calls for
the board to approve the attendance zones at its June 22
that drawing an attendance boundary along Marsh and Edgemoor
Roads and "giving some city children to Carrcroft and Lombardy
[Elementary]" could result in more equitable distributions.
Brandywine board very seldom rejects an administration
recommendation, Brumskill closed the meeting by remarking,
"Tonight's conversation is something that had to happen."
told the meeting that the lesser budget cuts probably can be
accomplished without having to lay off any classroom teachers.
He explained that, with expected retirements, attrition will be
sufficient. State government finances about 70% of teachers'
He also said it
does not presently appear necessary to postpone initiation of a
full-day kindergarten program for the coming academic year.
At the business
meeting, the board approved a preliminary plan for a new
Lancashire Elementary. It calls for a two-story brick building,
with a one-story section hosing the gymnasium and cafeteria,
to be erected on what is now the soccer field on the school's
Naamans Road property.
building will be used to house Brandywine Elementary while its
building is replaced and then will be torn down.
John Read said the Lancashire building will have a traditional
appearance. To come in within the approved $14.9 million budget,
he said, it was necessary to "cut some gingerbread" out of the
deign and to remove acquisitton of new furniture and playground
equipment from the plan.
Construction is to
begin with site preparation in June, he said.