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November 2009

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DOG CONTROL: With the turn of the year, the county's canine population will come under the purview of county government. Although it is accepting jurisdiction mandated by state law reluctantly because of the cost, conversation at a meeting of County Council's executive committee on Nov. 24 signaled that it intends to do a more thorough job managing dog control than the state Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control has done while it has had the responsibility. Nicole Majeski, County Executive Christopher Coons's chief of staff, told the committee that Delaware Animal Care & Control -- formerly known as Kent County S.P.C.A. -- has been awarded an $856,000 contract to enforce the dog-control law and inspect private and commercial dog-housing facilities.

An ordinance likely to be enacted at Council's plenary session on Dec. 8 incorporates the entire state dog-control law into the county code. It requires all dogs to be licensed and sets handling and treatment standards for kennels and retail outlets. In current form, the measure calls for dog owners to pay $10 a year to license neutered and spayed animals and $15 for others. Kennels and stores would be licensed for $75. Majeski said those amounts may be modified before Council votes. Dallas-based Pet Data Inc. will administer dog licensing and maintain a database of owners. Murrey Goldthwaite, of Delaware Animal, said the county's dog population is about 126,000, but, statewide, only about 25,000 dogs are licensed. County law will provide for fines up to $250 for having an unlicensed dog.

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OUTLOOK BRIGHTENS A BIT: There was no clicking of heels or jumping for joy, but some of the dark economic clouds seemed to be parting as the New Castle County Financial Advisory Council agreed to a slight upward revision in the revenue forecast for this fiscal year. The council was told that the finance department expects the general fund to take in $158,400 more than was budgeted for the year ending June 30. Meanwhile, spending through the end of October was running at a pace which pointed to its coming in $2.8 million under budget. Collections from the bellwether real estate transfer tax are still running behind a year ago, but higher than needed to stay on budget, the council was told at its meeting on Nov. 17.

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CLASS SIZE: Fourteen of 158 kindergarten-through-third grade classes in Brandywine School District have more than the 22 students allowed by state law. "That is one more than we had last year, but we have 10 more classes this year," chief financial officer David Blowman told the school board before the four of seven members who attended its regular monthly meeting voted unanimously to grant the district a waiver from the class-size cap. Board president Debra Heffernan noted that the law, enacted several years ago, did not provide additional financing for districts to fully comply with the limit. "Every single district in Delaware has to declare [an annual] waiver," she said. Harlan, Lancashire and Lombardy are the elementary schools in which no classes exceeded the limit.

In another matter at the meeting on Nov. 16, the board retroactively approved the sale last month of $8.5 million worth of 20-year bonds to finance the next-to-last phase of the district's multiyear building renovation program. It did so after Blowman questioned their 4.91% interest rate. That was up from 3.2% on comparable bonds sold a year ago, but below the 5.35% estimated at the 2005 capital referendum which authorized the financing. State government bought the bonds at a rate determined by the rate received at its most recent bond sale. According to information the state website, two issues of state bonds totaling $493 million, to be redeemed serially through 2027, sold in October at rates ranging from 3% to 5.3%, depending on term. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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The volunteer fire service that has protected northern Delaware for many generations is at a crossroads. Lack of public support and a fall-off in participation are taking their toll.

While the trend downward, which began with suburbanization, has been continuing for years, it became accentuated this year when both county and state government significantly cut their annual subsidies, according to Thomas DiCristofaro, president of Claymont Fire Company. It received $457,000 from the state and $180,000 from the county, compared to $540,000 and $193,000, respectively, in fiscal 2009. At the same time, contributions from residents and businesses, also squeezed by recession, come up well short of making up the gap in the company's $1.5 million budget. Barely 30% of households, 7% of businesses and 5% of apartment owners contribute to the company's annual solicitation, he said.

The biggest problem, he said, is that many residents believe their taxes fully support a paid fire service. On the contrary, Claymont, the fifth busiest of the county's 21 companies, has only 11 full- and part-time paid staff members -- hired mainly to assure that its ambulance service is operative around the clock. The 70 some others qualified to respond to calls for service are not paid. Moreover, job and family responsibilities and other reasons restrict members' availability. The company gets about a dozen recruits a year. "If we retain six we're doing pretty good," DiCristofaro said.  He envisions all companies going to a combination arrangement with more paid staff supplemented by volunteers. He also advocates enactment by county or state government of a $50-per-address fire service user fee.

The fire service is unique in that no other public safety agency is expected to provide vital protection to its community on a 24-7 basis while being required to raise more than half of the money required to enable it to do so, DiCristofaro said.

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The building on Philadelphia Pike which formerly housed Holy Rosary parochial school  is not sitting idle as Delaforum previously reported. Administrator John Gayton said the parish's School of Religious Education, which serves more than 150 children, is located there and the building also is used for community programs, adult education and social events. They will be relocated to other buildings on the Holy Rosary campus when Reach Academy for Girls, a public charter school which will lease the school building, moves in, he said.

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PARAMEDICS REHIRED: The nine New Castle County paramedics-in-training laid off last May have been rehired and the Emergency Medical Services unit is seeking to fill six other vacancies by hiring already qualified medics. Deputy chief Richard Krett told County Council's public safety committee on Nov. 10 that four returnees will resume field training. Four who were receiving classroom instruction at Delaware Tech continued doing so at their own expense. The one who was unable to do that will receive some on-the-job training before returning to the school in March. Eight staff positions remain unfilled, he said. Meanwhile, the committee was told that there were 420 applicants for four 9-1-1 call operator positions to be financed with federal stimulus money. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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Brandywine School District's administrative payroll was reduced 2.4% this fiscal year when compared to last, according to data provided in response to Delaforum under terms of the state Freedom of Information Act.

The decline was the result of a 1% cut in administratorsí salaries and a decision to forego district-financed performance bonuses this year, chief financial officer David Blowman said. That, he said, complied with the mandate that state government employees take a 2.5% pay cut or its equivalent to relieve the state budget crisis. Because two schools were closed as part of the district's realignment, with the resultant elimination of principal and assistant principal positions, the overall payroll cut was deeper among school administrators than among office-based administrators. With release of the administrator data, it was publicly disclosed that the teachers' union agreed to accept the 2.5% reduction in the state portion of their salaries, generally about 70% of their pay.

Most teachers, however, are eligible for automatic raises as they move up on the 'merit-system' scale pegged to education and length of service. The district honored an existing contract provision for a 4% increase in the local portion of teachers' salaries in return for their union agreeing to their working on two of the five days the state eliminated by cutting the teacher work year to 183 days from 188 days. Those days were used to prepare for realignment of the district's grade structure. Net result was that most Brandywine teachers are making at least as much this year as last and district taxpayers are, in effect, financing part of the state budget cut. Blowman said that will be offset by shutting down the district on five additional paid holidays to save on energy and other operating costs. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

Blowman said the complex pay plan was approved by the school board in two executive sessions and submitted to the state Department of Education by the superintendent. The department, he said, has approved the arrangement.

 

Brandywine School District administrative salaries

               
  Fiscal year 2010     Fiscal year 2009      

Name

Title Salary   Title Salary  

Increase

               

District administrators

               

Holodick, M.

Superintendent $170,000   Principal $117,899  

44.2%

Scanlon, J.

      Superintendent $170,417    
               

Blowman, D.

Chief Financial Officer $134,750   Chief Financial & Administrative    
             Officer $136,111  

-1.0%

               

Bush, P.

Director, Technology $125,862   Director, Technology $127,133  

-1.0%

Cooper, E.

Director, Legal Services $119,444   Attorney $120,651  

-1.0%

Curtis, J.

Director, Education Services $120,540   Director, Elementary Education      
             & Administrative Services $121,758  

-1.0%

Doherty, K.

Director, Human Resources $116,823   Director, Human Resources $118,003  

-1.0%

Harris, E.

Director, Instruction  $127,876   Director, Curriculum &      
             Instruction $129,168  

-1.0%

Hilkert, A.

Director, Specialist $119,846   Director, Pupil Services $121,057  

-1.0%

Meredith, B

Director, Support Services $125,355   Director, Support Services $126,621  

-1.0%

               

Gouge, P.

Supervisor, Food Services $108,137   Supervisor, Food Services $109,229  

-1.0%

Harding, R.

Supervisor, Transportation $102,723   Supervisor, Transportation $103,761  

-1.0%

Linscott, L.

Supervisor, Title 1 $106,924   Supervisor, Title 1 $108,004  

-1.0%

Schmidt, J.

Supervisor, Assessment $107,189   Supervisor, Research $107,067  

0.1%

Smallwood, D.

Supervisor, Compensation     Supervisor, Benefits &      
       Service $105,778        Compensation $106,846  

-1.0%

               

Askakson, T.

Manager, Technology $95,752          

Melenson, M.

Manager, Technology $97,251   Manager, Technology $98,233  

-1.0%

Read, J.

Manager, Construction $100,441   Manager, Renovations $101,456  

-1.0%

Staker, P.

Manager, Technology $97,081   Manager, Technology $98,062  

-1.0%

               

Conlon, J.

Specialist, Construction $69,291   Specialist B, Construction $69,991  

-1.0%

Costill, G.

Specialist, Facilities $80,330   Specialist A, Facilities $81,141  

-1.0%

Fraley, T.

Specialist, Safety $72,171   Specialist A, Safety & Security $72,900  

-1.0%

Funk, S.

Specialist, Technology $61,679   Specialist C, Technology $62,302  

-1.0%

Gatta, P.

Specialist, Food Service $81,128   Specialist A , School Nutrition $81,947  

-1.0%

Gonce, J.

Specialist, Technology $61,441   Specialist C, Technology $62,062  

-1.0%

Looby, G.

Specialist, Energy $72,137   Specialist A, Energy $72,866  

-1.0%

Miller, R.

      Specialist A, Facilities $81,141    

Miller, T.

Specialist, Technology $74,955          

Minuti, A.

Specialist, Graphics $73,214   Specialist B, Graphics $73,954  

-1.0%

Nordsiek, P.

Specialist, Technology $67,147   Specialist B, Technology $67,825  

-1.0%

Parrish, C.

Specialist, Benefits $70,188   Specialist B, Benefits &      
             Compensation $70,897  

-1.0%

Rispoli, J.

Specialist, Business Office $80,798   Specialist A, Finance $81,614  

-1.0%

Rosen, A.

Specialist, Human Resources $68,133   Specialist C, Human Resources $65,334  

4.3%

Schrass, C.

Specialist, Business Office $69,901   Specialist B, Finance $70,607  

-1.0%

Siciliano, R.

Specialist, Technology $69,153   Specialist B, Technology $69,852  

-1.0%

Townsend, C.

Specialist, Transportation $80,734   Specialist A, Transportation $81,549  

-1.0%

Wells, E.

Specialist, Technology $68,898   Specialist C, Technology $69,594  

-1.0%

Wells, K.

Specialist, Technology $64,409   Specialist C, Technology $65,060  

-1.0%

Wise, C.

Specialist, Technology $62,966   Specialist B, Technology $63,602  

-1.0%

               

Subtotal

  $3,430,445     $3,367,815  

1.9%

               

School administrators

               

Barry, P.

Principal $108,628   Principal $110,635  

-1.8%

Byrem, J.

      Principal $118,254    

Carter, R.

Principal $111,739   Principal $112,868  

-1.0%

Gliniak, M.

Principal $116,327   Principal $117,502  

-1.0%

Grant, A.

Principal $111,530   Principal $112,657  

-1.0%

Green, D.

Principal $110,640   Principal $111,758  

-1.0%

Hohler, L.

Principal $114,416   Principal $115,752  

-1.2%

Lambert, A.

Principal $113,205   Assistant Principal $107,435  

5.4%

Murray, Y.

Principal $104,819   Assistant Principal $97,741  

7.2%

Norman. C.

Principal $110,082   Principal $111,194  

-1.0%

Pecorella, J.

      Principal $112,075    

Pinchin, B.

      Principal $115,119    

Sharps, L.

Principal $109,359   Principal $110,484  

-1.0%

Simmons, J.

Principal $114,275   Principal $115,429  

-1.0%

Skrobot, J.

Principal $110,772   Principal $111,891  

-1.0%

Thompson, A.

Principal $118,865          

Van Such, E.

Principal $113,448   Principal $114,594  

-1.0%

Viar, K.

Principal $109,778   Principal $110,888  

-1.0%

Wilkie V.

Principal $109,028   Principal $110,129  

-1.0%

               

Biggs, J.

Assistant Principal $105,248   Assistant Principal $106,311  

-1.0%

Cheatwood, L.

Assistant Principal $99,578   Assistant Principal $92,537  

7.6%

Davis, M.

Assistant Principal $102,722   Assistant Principal $98,572  

4.2%

Gladfelter, N.

Assistant Principal $97,879   Assistant Principal $98,868  

-1.0%

Greenlea, C

      Assistant Principal $104,928    

Harvey, H.

Assistant Principal $106,446   Assistant Principal $107,521  

-1.0%

Jarman, L.

Assistant Principal $97,114   Assistant Principal $98,095  

-1.0%

Mayer, M.

Assistant Principal $102,722   Assistant Principal $103,760  

-1.0%

McKinney, Y.

Assistant Principal $102,723          

Mendenhall, R.

Assistant Principal $116,172   Principal $117,345  

-1.0%

Napaver, K.

      Acting Assistant Principal $98,572    

Potter, L.

Assistant Principal $104,588   Assistant Principal $105,644  

-1.0%

Rolph, K

Assistant Principal $102,723          

Scott, C.

Assistant Principal $91,612   Assistant Principal $92,537  

-1.0%

Snow, L.

Assistant Principal $104,921   Assistant Principal $105,981  

-1.0%

Tanzer, H.

Assistant Principal $105,417   Assistant Principal $106,482  

-1.0%

Woodson, T.

Assistant Principal $105,545   Assistant Principal $106,611  

-1.0%

               

Subtotal

  $3,332,321     $3,560,169  

-6.4%

               

Total

  $6,762,766     $6,927,984  

-2.4%

               

SOURCE: Brandywine School District

           

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The Brandywine school board acted properly when it approved a plan to implement a state mandate for five unpaid holidays for teachers behind closed doors, but not when it failed to tell the public why the doors were being closed.

Responding to a Delaforum complaint that the executive session itself and any actions taken there violated the state's Freedom of Information Act, deputy attorney general Judy Oken Hodas ruled in a decision dated Nov. 6 that the session was properly held to discuss strategies "concerning collective bargaining and threatened litigation," which the law shields from public disclosure. On the other hand, the opinion noted that the published notice of the meeting and posted agenda referred only vaguely to a discussion of the holidays law. "The reasons for going into executive session ... did not reflect the actual purposes for the July 13 executive session," Hodas's said "A poorly drafted notice and agenda resulted in the confusion."

Curiously, the opinion, in its review of "relevant facts," stated that the closed-door session dealt with "strategies for negotiating salary and wage increases [sic] with the unions." The law called for devising a plan to use unpaid holidays in lieu of subjecting teachers and other public education employees to the 2.5% pay cut imposed on other state workers. Although she referred to the Delaforum complaint as "based solely on speculation," Hodas apparently accepted the district's explanation and concluded that the board "discuss[ed] how to handle the threats of litigation from some union representatives in connection with the elimination of paid work days." The alleged threats and their sources were not specified. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

In only one of five other Freedom of Information Act decisions posted on the attorney general's website so far this year did the ruling uphold the complaint and in that case the complainer was a state legislator. Normal practice is to allow the public agency complained about to respond to the complaint, but the complainer is given no opportunity to respond to the agency's position.

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VACCINE UNPOPULAR: Fewer than a third of the children in 20 public schools in which swine flu vaccine was administered during the first three days of the state program received it. The Division of Public Health reported a total of 2,941 students who had their parents' permission, received the H-1-N-1 nasal spray. That was 30.4% of those schools' enrollment. The two Brandywine district schools where the vaccine was administered -- Maple Lane Elementary and Claymont Middle -- had total responses less than the state average. There 29.6% of enrolled students received the vaccine. The proportionately largest turnout -- 55% -- was at Frankford Elementary in the Indian River district. Lowest was Brennen School  in the Christina district.

After a delay of more than two weeks in responding to a Delaforum inquiry, which was renewed several times, Heidi Truschel-Light, spokesperson for the division's parent Department of Health & Human Services, said on Nov. 5 that vaccine received free through the federal government's immunization program is being administered in the public schools by state public health employees. It will be administered in non-public schools which opt to participate by an contractor, whose identity she still did not reveal. She said the contract -- being financed by a federal grant -- calls for the contractor to be paid $10 a shot up to a maximum of $1,005,000. It is intended to also be given free to those students. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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CHARTER SCHOOL: Reach Academy for Girls, a new charter school, has leased the idle Holy Rosary school building on Philadelphia Pike and plans to open grades kindergarten through fifth in September, 2010. Brett Saddler, executive director of Claymont Renaissance Development Corp., told the Claymont Design Review Advisory Committee on Nov. 4 that the single-sex school already has 125 students signed up for the next academic year and expects eventually to attract about 400 after it expands to include classes through eighth grade in 2011. A public school chartered by the state board of education, it has no church affiliation, he said. A Reach Academy contact person did not respond to Delaforum e-mails seeking information about the venture.

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A well-programmed presentation by residents of Edenridge and Tavistock sought to convince the Planning Board that a proposal to build an age-restricted community in their back yards is a perversion of efforts to renew blighted areas.

At issue at a board hearing on Nov. 3 was a plan by Reybold Group to build a 149-unit community of mixed housing types on the 15-acre site of Pilot School on Garden of Eden Road. The plan was filed under the county redevelopment ordinance. The school intends to relocate to a site on nearby Woodlawn Road. Summarizing the opposition's positions, Nancy Hannigan said the school is a "vibrant functioning" entity, not a problem property the law was intended to rehabilitate. Moreover, she and others argued that it would be the first time that redevelopment of a residential site has been proposed. The rub is that the ordinance provides a significant density bonus as an incentive to developers. The residents said 60 units would be more in keeping with the 'character' of the neighborhood.

Kathy Craven, director of the highly-rated private elementary school for children with developmental needs, said sale of the present property to a developer who can make a profit on it is necessary in order to replace an educationally outmoded 45-year-old building. Reybold executive Jerome Heisler said the density the firm seeks is what makes the project viable in the current real estate market. Building to such standards "is what the [county] comprehensive plan tells us to do," he said. Both proponents said they are mindful of community interests and that the new neighborhood will not adversely affect them. Craven said the school rejected alternate bids for the property which would have resulted in putting a strip shopping center or Brandywine School District's replacement bus depot there.

Among those testifying in opposition to the project were state Senator Michael Katz, Representative Dennis Williams and county Councilman Robert Weiner. No one from the general public supported the proposal.

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THINK SMALLER: Delaware is going to have to give up its "large company corporate culture" and set its sights on building an "entrepreneurial economy," according to Ernie Dianastasis, chairman of Delaware Business Roundtable. The state ranks 45th among the 50 states in the number of "fast-growing" companies and last in the number of start-up companies, he told an audience at the Academy of Lifelong Learning on Nov. 2. There is no possibility of duplicating past success in attracting banks and other financial services firms or hosting corporate giants like Du Pont and Hercules. "It's not going to happen. ... They are not going to magically appear," he said. Instead, the future lies in building a base in new technological fields such as alternative energy and bioscience..

The Roundtable, an organization of top executives of 43 major companies headquartered in Delaware or having significant operations here, is currently offering a service to "connect people who have good ideas [with] investors sitting on a pile of money." It has "40 to 50 [possible venture-capital projects] in the pipeline," he said. Meanwhile, it's supporting efforts to have the state included among the 15 which will receive competitive 'race-to-the-top' federal grants to improve public education. That, he added, will entail "a real challenge with the teachers' union" to establish a working system of teacher- and student accountability. "That issue can't be delayed or dodged," he said, in a state where education performance "is mediocre in a country that is mediocre in the world."

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CONTRACT TERMS REVEALED: Brandywine schools superintendent Mark Holodick will earn $170,000 a year under terms of his employment contract, released to Delaforum on Oct. 30 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. That is slightly less than the $170,417 which, according to the most recent data made public by the district, Jim Scanlon, whom Holodick succeeded on Oct. 12, was making. Holodick also is eligible for a bonus equal to  2% of his salary for each of the "top three" goals stated in the contract that he achieves. The goals, however, were listed in a section of the contact which district lawyer Ellen Cooper 'redacted' from the copy provided to Delaforum on the grounds that its contents were "personal" and exempt from disclosure under the law.

The five-year contract, automatically renewable for an additional five years if neither party opts out, provides a "taxable stipend" of $13,200 for job-related expenses, such as automobile mileage, business meals and cellphone cost, during the first year with automatic 5% increases in each ensuing year. The school board will reimburse his out-of-pocket spending if the expense account is overspent in any year. The district will provide a tax-deferred annuity amounting to 3% of Holodick's salary in the first year and increasing by one percentage point in subsequent years to 5%. He will receive 24 paid vacation days in addition to state holidays along with other employment benefits provided to state government's administrative employees. (CLICK HERE to read previous Delaforum article.)

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PIKE MAKEOVER PLANNED: Delaware Department of Transportation proposes to reconfigure Philadelphia Pike between Harvey Road and the Interstate 495 interchange, but, at least in the short term, will do it partly with paint. The section south of the Governor Printz Boulevard intersection will be reduced from four to two lanes under plans presented at a 'workshop' session on Oct. 28. North of Governor Printz, the highway will remain four lanes wide, but bicycle lanes and room for curbside parking would be added on each side. DelDOT presenters said the plans are tentative and are being aired to obtain community reaction. They replace a 'safety improvements' plan which was scrapped in 2003 after it was found to be incompatible with then emerging redevelopment plans.

Because the southern section would not have to be widened, it will be possible to achieve the new design by painting appropriate lane stripes when already-scheduled resurfacing is done in 2011, according to Jerry Lovell, one of the DelDOT presenters. Timing of the more extensive capital-project work is uncertain because of state government's fiscal problems, he said. There are two exceptions, however. A $400,000 modification of the Commonwealth Avenue intersection to eliminate so-called 'jug handles' on its west side is in the department's current program. The developer will be responsible for extending Manor Avenue into the planned Darley Green complex  and construction of the resultant intersection.

Last updated on November 25, 2009

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