two Brandywine schools
schools superintendent Jim Scanlon is recommending that the
school board vote to close Darley Road Elementary and Hanby
Middle, but not Carrcroft Elementary.
In the final report
of the space-consolidation committee, presented to the board and
made public at the board's meeting on Jan. 28, he said the
two-closures plan is the better of two options to be considered
by the board on Feb. 25. The other option would close Carrcroft
as well as Darley Road and Hanby.
In another matter
before the board, it voted unanimously and without public
discussion to approve a four-year contract with the Brandywine
Education Association which calls for establishing a joint
administration-union committee to devise and implement an
"alternative compensation plan" linked to teacher and student
performance to go into effect for the 2010-11 academic year and
beyond. Scanlon said such a plan would be the first of its kind
report included revisions of possible attendance zones and
possible locations for some of the district's programs, but
otherwise was not substantially changed from a preliminary plan
considered at a public informational meeting in early January.
The report said
Scanlon's recommendation is based upon three conclusions he
reached "after reviewing all the data." They are:
• "Closing three
buildings puts many of the rest of our schools at capacity and,
therefore, closed to choice [from] outside of the school district. This
could lead to a reduction in revenue for the district.
• "Closing three
buildings reduces the amount of space available for special
programs such as arts, music, after-school programs, etc.
• "Closing three
buildings makes it more difficult to balance economic diversity
in each building."
'Choice' refers to
the procedure provided by state
law which permits parents or guardians to choose to have their
children attend a public school other than the one to which they
would be assigned based on where they live. The option applies
to both transfers within a district and transfers between
districts. Brandywine's current budget projects $582,217 in
revenue this fiscal year as a result of more students being 'choiced'
into Brandywine from other districts than 'choiced' from
Brandywine to other districts, up from $468,614 in fiscal 2007.
According to the
report, Darley Road was only partly renovated in 1995 and Hanby
"is the last remaining non-renovated large building in the
district." It goes on to say that "Carrcroft also has a number
of maintenance needs, but Darley's maintenance needs are greater
and there are fewer students enrolled at Darley than [at]
attendance zones in Scanlon's preferred scenario would result in
the district operating at 82.4% of rated capacity after applying
an adjustment to state ratings based on Brandywine's
instructional programs. The range would be between 58.6% at
Mount Pleasant Elementary and 100.7% at Springer Middle.
attached to the attendance zones are derived from data about the
residences of present students. That is assumed to provide an
order-of-magnitude estimate of future enrollments. Closures
would not happen until the start of the 2009-10 school year.
The district would
'save' just under $1.7 million a year by not having to operate
the two schools,the report said. Scanlon has said previously
than any 'savings' would "go into the classrooms."
The portion of
'poverty' students would range from 18.8% at Brandywood
Elementary to 52.5% at Harlan Elementary, with a district
average of 29.2%. Currently the range is between 21% and 53%
with an average of 34%. 'Poverty' is measured by the number of
students receiving government-subsidized lunches.
The report said
high 'poverty' ratios do not necessarily equate to lower student
achievement. While acknowledging that "it can be one indicator,"
it said the district has experienced notable exceptions. Cited
as an example was P.S. du Pont Intermediate, where 'poverty'
students made up 44% of the enrollment but which had a greater
percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards on
the 2007 mathematics test, 56%, than Brandywood, with a
'poverty' enrollment of 21%, which had 52% passing the test.
"I believe firmly
that [low-income] students can achieve at higher standards --
and will -- in our district. ... The only way we can close this
achievement gap is by having high standards for all our
students," the report said. "We are not promoting high-poverty
schools nor are we promoting dispersing our ['poverty'] students
into more affluent schools just to try to get an equal balance."
Joseph Brumskill objected to establishing attendance zones which
would send children living in Wilmington to Brandywine and Mount
Pleasant High but not Concord High. "I will see children from
the city be assigned to all three high schools," he said.
"I don't think we
should be worrying about where they're going [but about] what
happens when they get there," board member Patricia Hearn said.
distribution of the students can work "as long as we're putting
resources where we need them."
however, that the drafts presented with the final report are
still preliminary. Actual attendance zones are to be determined
after the board approves a plan and information about them sent
by mail to every residence in the district. But he added, "I
think we're getting pretty close" to a final determination.
proposed, the Bush Early Learning Center program would be moved
to Brandywood, which would be housed in a newly constructed
building. The autism program would be divided between Carrcroft
and Mount Pleasant Elementary. The program for 'gifted' students
would be at Claymont and Mount Pleasant Elementary and P.S.,
which is to become a middle school. The International
Baccalaureate program would remain at Talley Middle and Mount
Pleasant High, with an expansion to Harlan Elementary
anticipated in the 2008-09 academic year.
The district has
scheduled public hearings on the closure issue on Feb. 6 and 11.
After the board
voted to approve the teachers' contract "as discussed in
executive session," Scanlon read a summery of its contents,
saying that it "is good for our students, good for our teachers
and good for our community."
David Bradley, the union's spokesman,
told Delaforum that the Brandywine Education Association is
satisfied with the agreement. He added that
"there are many definitions of
'alternative compensation' and many existing models throughout
the United States" and that merit pay "is just one small
He said the Brandywine union has
a little over 800 members, but he declined to reveal the vote by
which the contract was ratified.
Scanlon said the
'alternative compensation' committee will begin its work in July
and is targeted to complete it by March, 2010. Salaries in the
fourth year of the contract "will not become effective until the
'alternative compensation' plan is established and mutually
agreed upon," he said.
teachers, who have been working without a contract so far this
academic year, will receive a 4% increase in the
locally-financed portion of their salaries, retroactive to Sept.
1, 2007. They will receive another 4% increase in each of the
next two years.
and benefits are by far the largest expenditure in the
district's local-money budget. The district pays about 30% of a
Scanlon said that
it "took longer than anticipated" to reach an agreement because
of a delay in the start of negotiations as a result of having to
wait until voters approved an increase in the district's
operations tax rate at the second of two referendums last spring
and the innovative nature of the contract's key provisions.
"The district and
the association recognize that meeting the needs of students is
dependent upon employment of highly qualified and highly
motivated professional staff. In the interest of competitively
hiring and retaining such staff, the parties have agreed to
explore alternative types of compensation ... including, but not
limited to, student performance, teacher performance and
nontraditional salary schedules," the statement said.
With an apparent
view to dealing with the reassignment of teachers when schools
are closed, the contract increases the bonus paid for early
notification of intention to retire from $1,000 to $5,000 this
year and to $3,000 in 2009. It will then revert to $1,000.
The timetable for
the voluntary-transfer process was moved up three months and it
was agreed that union representatives "will be present at the
time voluntary transfer determinations are made."
Also, according to
the summary, the administration and union have agreed "to meet
to determine a staffing procedure if the [school] board closes,
opens or relocates a school or program from one building to
another or if the district needs to restructure a school
pursuant to state or federal law.
There is a
provision in the new contract requiring teachers to "proactively
and effectively communicate with [their students'] families."