may be near a
Brandywine already pays its teachers the highest salaries of any
conventional school district in the state and "due to the
economic reality in our district and [the] current economic
environment ... cannot justify any large increases at this
time," according to a statement posted on its website and
distributed to news media.
The highly unusual airing of selected issues while a new labor
contract is being negotiated with the teachers' union
acknowledged a near impasse and announced that the sides will go
to mediation in early February if agreement cannot be reached by
then. Teachers have been working so far this academic year
without a contract.
The statement includes data attributed to the Delaware
Department of Education which discloses that the average
annual salary of Brandywine teachers is $65,623. That is 7.2%
higher than the next highest average, $61,206 in the Cape
Henlopen district in Sussex County. It tops the average in
districts in New Castle County, $58,959, by 11.3% and the
statewide average, $57,292, by 14.5%.
Neither the technical-vocational districts nor charter schools
are included in the comparisons.
The statement goes on to say that Brandywine "also has a very
competitive benefits package."
"We in no way intend this to be any different in the future," it
An update provided by district public information officer Alexis
Andrianopoulos in response to a Delaforum inquiry on Jan. 13
referred to "renewed optimism" than an agreement on remaining
issues can be reached before mediation. District and union
negotiations have four sessions scheduled.
"Superintendent [Mark] Holodick does not expect that the two
sides will need more than two or three mediation dates to
resolve the outstanding issues in the contract," she said. "If
mediation fails, then, and only then, would the parties go to
arbitration. Both parties have been clear that they do not want
to end up at the arbitration table."
The first session with the mediator is scheduled for Feb. 6.
Officials of the union, the Brandywine Education Association,
had not returned telephone calls seeking comment when this
article was written.
The posted statement refers to 12 bargaining sessions held
between last March and the end of 2011. The previous contract
expired last August.
A large number of teachers attended two school board meetings
during the autumn as a form of demonstration, but nothing was
said about the status of negotiations at those meetings. Usual
practice has been for the public to be kept unaware of what is
going on in the behind-closed-doors labor negotiations. Even the
fact that agreement has been reached and the terms of the pact
are not disclosed until after the school board, briefed in
closed session, has voted to ratify the pact.
This time, the posted statement refers, albeit in general terms,
to salaries and working conditions.
It said that 77 of the approximately 420 terms in the previous
contract dealt with matters that state law labels "permissive"
-- that is, optional subjects for collective bargaining. "Prior
to the start of negotiations the [school] board's negotiation
team notified the negotiations representative of the teachers
that 11 of the 'permissive' items in the [then-]current contract
would not be terms of the contract currently being negotiated
and that five of the 'permissive' terms needed to be changed in
order to remain in the contract being negotiated," the statement
It went on, however, to refer to just one of those terms,
indicating that the district wants to give principals the
authority to assign duties during the first or last 15 minutes
of the school day. "Although many of our teachers volunteer to
supervise and keep our students safe and secure before and after
the school day, under the [previous] contract the building
principal [did] not have the ability to fairly distribute this
responsibility among his-her entire teaching staff," the
"The district assures all stakeholders that it will continue to
negotiate and mediate in good faith. ... The district and
[union] must reach common understanding through ongoing
collaboration and professionalism. Both parties must be mindful
of student safety, student needs, fiscal responsibility and
overall sustainability," the statement concluded.