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August 25,  2009

Brandywine picks one of its own
to be the next superintendent

It's doubtful that the public will ever be told how wide a search for a superintendent the Brandywine School District conducted, but it turns out that it did not have to leave its own turf to find him. 

The school board voted unanimously at its regular monthly meeting on Aug. 24 to designate Mark Holodick, principal of Concord High School, as the sole finalist for the job. Not only is he principal of one of the district's three high schools, he also is a Concord alumnus.

"We believe you will agree that Dr. Holodick presents an outstanding match for our district and our community," board president Debra Heffernan said, reading a prepared statement after the vote was taken.

She maintained to the end the veil of secrecy in which the selection process was draped, asking for a motion to

"approve the decision we made in executive session" and not revealing the successful candidate's identity, or even what the vote was about, although its outcome was assured. Heffernan earlier had refused to disclose how many candidates were being considered.

Board member Ralph Ackerman lauded his colleagues for having selected one of its own to be the district's top administrator. Doing so, he said, "proves that Brandywine does produce quality graduates who go on to do great things."

Heffernan said that, although Holodick "is well known in our district," the public will have opportunity "to get to know him better." She  did not explain in what venue that will happen.

Next step, she explained, will be negotiation of an employment contract -- which will include his starting salary and other terms -- after which the board will formally vote at a public meeting to hire him. He is expected to take the position in October, she said.

Sheryl Siskin described Holodick, who attended the board's executive session but was not present at the public portion of the

Mark Holodick

meeting, as someone who "will stay with us for a long time." Holodick told Delaforum later that he "intends to be around for a long time."

He succeeds Jim Scanlon, who came to Brandywine from a job in Pennsylvania and remained two-and-a-half years until he claimed that Delaware education law does not provide education administrators with sufficient flexibility and resigned to become superintendent of the West Chester, Pa., district. Scanlon's predecessor, Bruce Harter, came from Florida and left after five years for a job in California after having interviewed in at least two other districts, including Christina in Delaware. Circumstances which led to his resignation from Brandywine never became public. Harter's predecessor, Joseph DeJohn, was advanced from principal of P.S. du Pont Intermediate School and resigned under fire during an extensive public controversy.

Noting that Holodick and his family live in the district, Olivia Johnson-Harris said he is well positioned "to move our vision forward."

Board member Joseph Brumskill struck something of a discordant note when he disclosed he initially had "great concern and reservation" about appointing Holodick. "I had reservations, [but] now they're gone," Brumskill said, adding that he intends "to work with him and support him."

Five of the seven board members were present at the meeting. However, statements praising Holodick from Patricia Hearn and Mark Huxoll were read.

After graduating from Concord in 1989, Holodick earned his undergraduate degree at West Virginia Wesleyan. His doctorate in education is from the University of Delaware. He began his teaching career at Gunning Bedford Middle School. He taught at Talley Middle and Concord before becoming principal at Delmar (Del.) Middle and High Schools. He returned to the Brandywine district as Concord's assistant principal and was appointed principal there three years ago.

He currently is a member of Brandywine's labor negotiations and alternative compensation committees. He served for seven years on the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association's board of directors, including holding its chairmanship.

Holodick and his wife, Angela, have three children. The oldest, Taylor, attends Claymont Middle; Rosie and Lily are pre-school age. Angela Holodick previously taught at Delmar and for a year at Harlan Intermediate.

"Dr. Holodick also has a high level of experience working within the confines of the Delaware educational finance system," Heffernan said.

The superintendent search was conducted by the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration. James Flynn, of the institute, and "two anonymous retired Delaware superintendents" used results of an online survey and focus-group discussion about qualities the public would like to see in a superintendent as "a comparison point" when reviewing applications, Heffernan said.

Andy Brandenberger, retired former superintendent of the Cape Henlopen School District in Sussex County has been serving as Brandywine's interim superintendent.

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Read previous Delaforum article: Brandywine begins superintendent interviews

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