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February 2009

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SCHOOL OVERHAUL: Instituting a modified form of block scheduling is the key component of a restructuring plan for Mount Pleasant High that the Brandywine school board is expected to approve when it next meets on March 16. The proposal calls for holding four 85-minute class periods on Wednesdays and Thursdays while retaining the traditional seven 47-minute periods on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. That creates an eighth period during which students will receive extra instruction in subjects in which they are deficient or participate in mentoring, 'career cruising' and other advisory activities.

Mount Pleasant is required to submit a restructuring plan to Delaware Department of Education because black, special education and low-income students failed to meet No Child Left Behind Act standards. Beyond the plan, which is to take effect for the coming academic year, several steps are designed to improve the school's atmosphere, principal James Simmons told the board during a recent briefing. For instance, he said, the youngsters are required on designated days to take lunch with other than their usual associates. A student advisory council will be expanded to give students a "voice in the decision-making process," he said.

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NO THANKS: County government is not likely to accept an offer to lease the Darley Road school property, according to Nicole Majeski, chief of staff to County Executive Christopher Coons. Although no final decision has been made, she said that "right now it doesn't look like a good fit for us." State government has already turned down an option and the county's doing so would free the Brandywine school board to decide between Boys & Girls Clubs and Odyssey Charter School, which have bid for the property, as long-term lessees. Darley Road Elementary will be closed at the end of the present academic year. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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County Council agreed unanimously to do away the popular practice of giving financial grants to charitable and community organizations during the coming fiscal year.

That move was the largest of several spending cuts in Council's fiscal 2010 budget request proposed by its president, Paul Clark. "I think it's impossible for us to continue giving grants when we're talking about furloughing county [government] employees," he said at a finance committee meeting on Feb. 24. He and Councilmen David Tackett and George Smiley announced that they would give no more grants during the remainder of this year and return what was left of their grants allowance. Others said they would follow suit after they fulfilled pending commitments. There was $69,300 left in the grant account.

Council previously cut the amount each of its 13 members was authorized to spend next year to $10,000 from the present $15,000. Smiley objected to Robert Weiner's obtaining approval at the meeting to give grants to the Concord High band and Brandywine High baseball team in light of the fact school districts collect some three times as much in property tax as the county does. "If it's not in their (Brandying School District) budget, why should it be in ours?" he said. In keeping with colleague courtesy, however, he voted to approve Weiner's request.

The members decided that, effective immediately, they would stop treating themselves to supper before their bi-weekly plenary sessions at public expense.

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HOUSING MEASURE APPROVED: With the threat of a General Assembly-imposed moratorium on enforcing the county's 'workforce housing' ordinance apparently lifted, County Council approved, unanimously and with minimal discussion on Feb. 24, a set of amendments to that law. Councilman Penrose Hollins had delayed bringing the amending measure, which he introduced in November, to a vote. He said he was now satisfied that the legislature would "address infrastructure issues" raised by increased residential density provided for by the law. State representative Michael Ramone testified that that will happen. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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'CHOICE' REQUESTS APPROVED: Two-thirds of the record number of Brandywine district parents' requests, under the state school-choice law, to have children attend schools outside their attendance zones will be granted. Superintendent Jim Scanlon told the school board on Feb. 23 that 1,172 'invitations' to go other schools are being sent out. A total of 1,727 applications were received, he said. Because the first-come, first-served arrangement used by the district freed seats as applications were being approved, about twice the originally estimated 588 applications could be accommodated, he said. The rest were put on waiting lists.

A report to the board not made public at the meeting but provided later by Scanlon at Delaforum's request showed that Concord High and Forwood and Mount Pleasant Elementary were the most popular destinations. Mount Pleasant High, Talley Middle and Harlan Elementary were the least popular. Scanlon told the board that 13 previously unassigned classrooms were made available in elementary schools, which will go to a kindergarten-through-fifth grade alignment in the coming academic year. Priority, he said, was given students who otherwise would have to change schools because attendance zones were redrawn. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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NO SILVER BULLET: The economic stimulus package "will not offset the county's bottom line," County Executive Christopher Coons said. In fact, he told an audience at the University of Delaware's Academy of Lifelong Learning on Feb. 23, his administration is "seriously debating whether or not we are going to apply for or accept" various components of the federal largess. Installing solar panels on county buildings, for instance, would yield long-term energy savings; however, a grant to employ more cops would require the county to find ways to finance the additional officers when the grant runs out in few years, he said. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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YOUTH ORGANIZATION BACKED: County Councilman John Cartier urged the Brandywine school board to lease the Darley Road school property to the Boys & Girls Clubs. Doing so would provide "a crucial component to address the needs of Claymont youth," he said at the board meeting. "It offers no negative impact on your school finances." He said replacing the nonprofit organization's facilities at the Claymont Community Center with larger quarters in the soon-to-be-closed school would enable it to expand programs to serve "400 additional youth -- half of them teens."

Cartier led a delegation of Boys & Girls Clubs supporters -- including members of Salesianum School's service club -- who turned out for the meeting. All six board members attending the session applauded after Carla Anderson, a single mother of four and a teacher at Chester High School, described how the clubs had significantly improved her children's academic performance. Boys & Girls Clubs is competing with Odyssey School, a charter school, for the property. Superintendent Jim Scanlon reported that state government has turned down its first option to obtain the property and said it is now being offered to county government. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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CURRENT SALARIES: Brandywine School District's administrative payroll for the current fiscal year increased 3.1%  over fiscal 2008, according to data released on Feb. 10  in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Delaforum. As has been the practice for the past several years, the request was filed soon after the fiscal year began last July 1. The district provided preliminary data last September, but that did not include what the district refers to as the "performance component." That adjustment apparently was made in December, retroactive to July. (CLICK HERE to access the year-ago list.)

Brandywine School District Salaries
               
 

July 1, 2008

   

July 1, 2007

     
Name Title Salary   Title Salary   Increase
               
District Administrators
               
Scanlon, J. Superintendent $170,417   Superintendent $167,075   2.0%
               
Blowman, D. Chief Financial & Administrative $136,111   Chief Financial & Administrative $132,193   3.0%
       Officer          Officer      
               
Cooper, E. Attorney $120,651   Attorney $116,744   3.3%
               
Bullock, D.       Director, Human Resources $117,234    
Bush, P. Director, Technology $127,133   Director, Technology $122,798   3.5%
Curtis, J. Director, Elementary Education            
       & Administrative Services $121,758   Director, Elementary Education $117,607   3.5%
Doherty, K. Director, Human Resources $118,003   Supervisor, Employee Relations $105,569   11.8%
Harris, E. Director, Curriculum &     Director, Curriculum &      
       Instruction $129,168        Instruction $125,674   2.8%
Hilkert, A. Director, Pupil Services $121,057   Director, Pupil Services $117,573   3.0%
Meredith, B Director, Support Services $126,621   Director, Support Services $122,304   3.5%
               
Alderson, T. Supervisor, Arts & Choice $108,404   Supervisor, Arts & Choice $104,708   3.5%
Gleich, S. Supervisor, Curriculum $111,501   Supervisor, Curriculum $108,099   3.1%
Gouge, P. Supervisor, Food Services $109,229   Supervisor, Food Services $105,505   3.5%
Harding, R. Supervisor, Transportation $103,761          
Linscott, L. Supervisor, Title 1 $108,004   Supervisor, Title 1 $104,708   3.1%
Schmidt, J. Supervisor, Research $107,067   Supervisor, Research $104,968   2.0%
Smallwood, D. Supervisor, Benefits &     Supervisor, Benefits &      
       Compensation $106,846        Compensation $103,386   3.3%
Viar, W.       Supervisor, Transportation $105,295    
               
Melenson, M. Manager, Technology $98,233   Manager, Technology $94,883   3.5%
Read, J. Manager, Renovations $101,456   Manager, Renovations $97,997   3.5%
Staker, P. Manager, Technology $98,062   Specialist A, Technology $75,196   30.4%
               
Conlon, J. Specialist B, Construction $69,991   Specialist B, Construction $67,855   3.1%
Costill, G. Specialist A, Facilities $81,141   Specialist A, Facilities $78,946   2.8%
Fraley, T. Specialist A, Safety & Security $72,900   Specialist A, Safety & Security $70,539   3.3%
Funk, S. Specialist C, Technology $62,302   Specialist C, Technology $60,177   3.5%
Gatta, P. Specialist A , School Nutrition $81,947   Specialist A , School Nutrition $79,153   3.5%
Gonce, J. Specialist C, Technology $62,062   Specialist C, Technology $60,169   3.1%
Looby, G. Specialist A, Energy $72,866   Specialist A, Energy $70,381   3.5%
Miller, R. Specialist A, Facilities $81,141   Specialist A, Facilities $78,946   2.8%
Minuti, A. Specialist B, Graphics $73,954   Specialist B, Graphics $71,686   3.2%
Nordsiek, P. Specialist B, Technology $67,825   Specialist B, Technology $65,513   3.5%
Parrish, C. Specialist B, Benefits &     Specialist B, Benefits &      
       Compensation $70,897        Compensation $68,601   3.3%
Rispoli, J. Specialist A, Finance $81,614   Specialist A, Finance $78,972   3.3%
Rosen, A. Specialist C, Human Resources $65,334   Specialist C, Human Resources $63,219   3.3%
Schrass, C. Specialist B, Finance $70,607   Specialist B, Finance $68,442   3.2%
Siciliano, R. Specialist B, Technology $69,852   Specialist B, Technology $67,471   3.5%
Townsend, C. Specialist A, Transportation $81,549   Specialist A, Transportation $78,769   3.5%
Wells, E. Specialist C, Technology $69,594   Specialist C, Technology $59,700   16.6%
Wells, K. Specialist C, Technology $65,060   Specialist C, Technology $62,842   3.5%
Wise, C. Specialist B, Technology $63,602   Specialist B, Technology $61,661   3.1%
               
Subtotal   $3,587,720     $3,562,558   0.7%
               
School Administrators
               
Barry, P. Principal $110,635   Principal $107,259   3.1%
Byrem, J. Principal $118,254   Acting Principal $114,683   3.1%
Carter, R. Principal $112,868   Principal $109,619   3.0%
Gliniak, M. Principal $117,502   Principal $113,917   3.1%
Grant, A. Principal $112,657   Principal $108,816   3.5%
Green, D. Principal $111,758          
Hohler, L. Principal $115,752   Principal $111,631   3.7%
Holodick, M. Principal $117,899   Principal $113,879   3.5%
Mendenhall, R. Principal $117,345   Principal $113,344   3.5%
Norman. C. Principal $111,194   Principal $107,403   3.5%
Pecorella, J. Principal $112,075   Principal $108,272   3.5%
Pinchin, B. Principal $115,119   Principal $111,194   3.5%
Pullig, M.       Principal $113,300    
Sharps, L. Principal $110,484   Principal $106,698   3.5%
Simmons, J. Principal $115,429   Assistant Principal $102,311   12.8%
Skrobot, J. Principal $111,891   Principal $108,094   3.5%
Thorpe, A.        Acting Principal $111,856    
Vansuch, E. Principal $114,594   Principal $110,800   3.4%
Viar, K. Principal $110,888   Principal $107,106   3.5%
Wilkie V. Principal $110,129   Principal $106,374   3.5%
               
Biggs, J. Assistant Principal $106,311   Assistant Principal $103,067   3.1%
Cheatwood, L. Assistant Principal $92,537          
Davis, M. Assistant Principal $98,572          
Gladfelter, N. Assistant Principal $98,868   Assistant Principal $95,497   3.5%
Greenlea, C Assistant Principal $104,928   Assistant Principal $101,726   3.1%
Harvey, H. Assistant Principal $107,521   Assistant Principal $104,240   3.1%
Jarman, L. Assistant Principal $98,095   Assistant Principal $95,087   3.2%
Lambert, A. Assistant Principal $107,435   Assistant Principal $103,772   3.5%
Mayer, M. Assistant Principal $103,760          
Murray, Y. Assistant Principal $97,741   Assistant Principal $94,409   3.5%
Napaver, K. Acting Assistant Principal $98,572          
Potter, L. Assistant Principal $105,644   Assistant Principal $102,603   3.0%
Robinson, G.       Assistant Principal $113,374    
Simmons, J.       Assistant Principal $102,311    
Scott, C. Assistant Principal $92,537          
Snow, L. Assistant Principal $105,981   Assistant Principal $102,549   3.3%
Tanzer, H. Assistant Principal $106,482   Assistant Principal $103,617   2.8%
Woodson, T. Assistant Principal $106,611   Assistant Principal $103,320   3.2%
               
Subtotal   $7,615,445     $7,305,129   4.2%
               
Total   $11,203,165     $10,867,687   3.1%
SOURCE: Brandywine School District          

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Unions representing county government workers evidently have rejected an administration proposal to accept 24 unpaid holidays -- equivalent to about a 10% pay cut -- in lieu of layoffs.

County Executive Christopher Coons said after what he called "a constructive conversation" with union officers on Feb. 17 that he is "trying to get to our objective" of dealing with a $40 million budget shortfall by splitting it, roughly in half, between a tax increase and a significant spending cut of the kind that concessions by the labor force would permit. "I am willing and ready to talk about [any] path forward that involves shared sacrifice," he said. He indicated that will be done "at the bargaining table" as negotiations continue on contracts for five of the six unions to replace ones that expired in April, 2008.

Although a Feb. 17 deadline to accept or reject the holiday proposal was not as firm as it first seemed, Coons is up against a tight timetable. He is to present a proposed budget to County Council on Mar. 17. Actually preparing that document, he said, will take a week. Council has until the end of May to enact a budget. Coons acknowledged that it is possible for him to recommend changes as Council deliberates the proposed budget or, at least in theory, for Council to make changes on its own. In practice, Council has, for as long as anyone remembers, enacted budgets without any substantive changes from what was proposed. (CLICK HERE) to read previous Delaforum article.)

Coons said the fiscal 2010 budget must address "not just a one-year problem," but evidence "a willingness to face what is for us a multi-year challenge."

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AMOUNTS UNCERTAIN: County government is in line to receive some money from the federal stimulus package which President Obama signed into law on Feb. 17, but Tracy Surles, general manager of the Department of Special Services, said she is unable at this point to estimate how much. "It depends on how the state [government] ranks the [proposed] projects," she told Delaforum. The federal money is to be funneled through state agencies to local governments. Surles said most, if not all, of what New Castle County receives will be for capital projects. Some will be in the form of grants and some will come as low-interest loans. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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The Bluewater Wind project to generate electricity by wind-driven turbines off the Sussex County coast is still on track, according to a company official.

A court order requiring Babcock & Brown, the company's financially troubled Australia-based parent, to sell assets means little more than that there will be a new owner as the project moves toward its targeted completion in 2013, Robert Propes, Delaware project director, told a class at the University of Delaware's Academy of Lifelong Learning.  "A number of investors are more than just kicking tires," he said. "It will be clear in the next few months who our new parent will be." Meanwhile, he said at the session on Feb. 16, Bluewater is actively seeking customers in Maryland, New Jersey and New England.

The first physical evidence that, contrary to published media reports, the project is alive will be construction of a meteorological tower at the site 12 miles off the coast to obtain precise data about wind patterns. That, he said, is part of an exhaustive process now begun to obtain several federal permits to allow construction of what the company calls its 'wind park'. Engineering studies are to begin this summer, Propes said. Also in near-term prospect is acquiring a site, probably on the shore of Delaware Bay, to serve as a staging area for assembling components for the wind towers and other construction-related work.

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County Executive Christopher Coons has proposed adding 10 unpaid holidays during the coming fiscal year and that the 1,478 county employees also not be paid for 14 already scheduled days off.

If the six unions representing the majority of the county government workforce and the autonomous county 'row offices' all accept the proposal, and a companion request that workers eligible for annual pay raises based on length of service forego them, it will save approximately $6.5 million, Coons said. Combined with 2009-10 departmental budget requests capped at 92% of current spending, it would cut the projected $40 million shortfall roughly in half, he said. Coons previously has indicated he favors splitting the shortfall between budget cuts reducing nonessential county services and a hefty increase in the property-tax rate.

In a letter to officials of the unions confirming discussion at a meeting with them held on Feb. 9, Coons said the alternative to agreeing to "furlough the equivalent of 24 work days" will be to eliminate an undisclosed number of county jobs. County offices and other facilities would be closed on the extra 10 'holidays', which have not yet been determined. Police and other emergency-services functions would be fully staffed on those days, but those who work then would have to take unpaid days off at another time, according to county spokesman C.R. McLeod. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

Coons also asked that the Good Friday and Memorial Day holidays, the only ones remaining in this fiscal year, also be payless to trim about $500,000 from current spending.

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LENIENCY DECRIED: County Councilman Jea Street charged that judges are making it too easy for persons charged with violent crime to return to the streets. His colleagues agreed with him and, at a public safety committee meeting on Feb. 10, decided to press Governor Jack Markell and Attorney General Beau Biden to spearhead an effort to change the practice. Specifically, Street complained that a man who allegedly threatened a county police officer with a shotgun was freed on just $2,500 bail. Deputy police chief Scott McLaren said the department "can give example after example" of similar treatment.

"When someone pulls a weapon on a police officer, the reaction is to take them out," Street said, adding that such incidents frequently result in arousing the community. In the shotgun incident, that didn't happen. When officers "do it right" in such situations, they are not backed up by the judiciary, he said. In calling for following up Street's complaint, Councilman Bill Bell said, "We have a duty to protect not just emergency personnel but the citizens of the county." George Smiley said that "it's not just the magistrates," noting that he was present in Superior Court when the judge fined a defendant convicted of resisting arrest just $100.

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'TARP' SPENDING APPROVED: County Council on Feb. 10 authorized accepting $7 million from the first round of the federal Troubled Assets Relief Program and using it to acquire 31 foreclosed-upon houses from banks which bought them at sheriff sales, fix them up and resell them. Anne Farley, general manager of the Department of Community Services, said $4 million will go for the purchases and the rest will pay nonprofit organizations to renovate them and for appraisals, lawyer fees and other administrative costs. She said the county program, previously reported by Delaforum, is to begin around Mar. 1. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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A property-tax increase this year -- considered by most observers to be inevitable -- will not cure the county's fiscal woes, County Executive Christopher Coons warned.

"It's not just this year, but next year and the next year. I don't see a recovery coming [sooner]," he told a town meeting-style 'listening session'. Skirting the unwritten rule against discussing labor-contract talks in public, he assured the meeting on Feb. 9 that such things as giving up annual pay raises and accepting furloughs are "subject to active negotiations" now going on with unions representing the majority of county employees. Responding to a question from a furloughed General Motors worker, Coons said county workers are "in the same environment" and liable for some of the same concessions as those in the private sector.

William Tansey, in whose Christiana Hundred district the meeting was held, said he will work as co-chairman of Council's finance committee to hold some, if not all, of its open-to-the-public budget hearings in the suburban Government Center instead of in downtown Wilmington. "Are our inputs considered or are they just listened to and ignored?" one attender then asked. Generally regarded as the most fiscally conservative member of Council, Tansey tantalized the meeting by remarking that he has "some personal thoughts about the finances of the county," but did not disclose what they were. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

Accepting the notion that any tax increase should be coupled with cuts in county services, Council president Paul Clark said, "We can't cut public safety [so there will be] dramatic cuts in libraries and parks."

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SUPERMARKET COMING: A Food Lion supermarket will be located in the shopping center along Philadelphia Pike across from Archmere Academy near Manor Avenue, according to County Councilman John Cartier. He said property owner Dave Cantera's leasing of the long-vacant building is "another great milestone" in the intended economic and physical redevelopment of Claymont. The new store will open after the building façade and interior are renovated, Cartier said. An extension of Manor Avenue is planned as the main entrance to the Renaissance Village mixed-use community.

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SUMMER PROGRAMS: Brandywine School District will not provide summer classes this year for students who fail the state assessment tests nor offer sports camps. The former are victims of state budget cuts and the latter move is because of the district's space consolidation, according to superintendent Jim Scanlon. He said there will be makeup courses for students who fail English, math, science or social studies and preparation courses in physics and chemistry for those enrolled in advance-placement courses for the coming academic year. Driver education and the summer fine arts and dramatics programs will be offered.

Last updated on February 27, 2009

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