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Last updated Thursday, January 08, 2015

Administrators get hefty raises: Brandywine School District Superintendent Mark Holodick has received a 9% pay raise this fiscal year while 12 other district-office administrators have seen double-digit percentage increases. Fourteen school-level administrators – principals, acting principals and assistant principals – received increases of 10% or more. In all, 56 Brandywine administrators are earning more than $100,000 and 22 top $125,000. At $193,689, Holodick is the only one earning more than $150,000. The next highest paid – $147,443 apiece – are Assistant Superintendents Dorrell Green and Lincoln Hohler. Teachers this year received a 2% salary increase under terms of a three-year contract approved by the school board last September. Salary data was provided by Scott Kessel, the district’s chief financial officer, in response to Delaforum’s annual Freedom of Information Act request. Such reports in recent years have shown minimal or no raises. The salaries in this year’s report are retroactive to the start of the current fiscal year last July 1. Kessel said the amounts could not be determined until after the school board approved the final version of an operating budget. That happened at the board's business meeting last month. At that time, he referred briefly to the fact that administrators would be getting raises, but gave no details and the board did not discuss that or other matters related to the budget before approving it unanimously. Half of the amount of the increases is being distributed this month. The district will spend a total of $8.22 million in administrators’ salaries this year, up from $8.153 million in fiscal 2014. Of this year’s amount, 35 district-office administrators will share $3.85 million and $4.37 million will go to 37 at the school level. CLICK HERE to access the district’s administrators payroll.

 Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Y’all  come: State government has launched a half million dollar advertising campaign to convince potential visitors and vacationers that there’s more to Delaware than our beaches and I-95 tolls. It’s built around a logotype with a tag line, ‘Endless Discoveries’. That slogan, which took two years to come up with at a cost of $150,000, was inspired by questioning people at the Interstate 95 rest 

stop about their knowledge of the state by Destination Analysts, a market research firm, according to Linda Parkowski, director of he state tourism office. Miles Partnership, an agency which focuses entirely on tourism, will

 handle the ad campaign. Parkowski told Delaforum the entire cost of the project is being paid for by higher-than-expected revenue generated by the hotel tax. At the public unveiling of the campaign on Jan. 5 in the office at Brandywine Creek State Park, she referred to the new trademark as “comprehensive branding” which, hopefully, will last indefinitely. Governor Jack Markel said the focus will be on the “unbelievable number of things [people] can do here.” Alan Levin, secretary of economic development, said the ad campaign is intended “to change how Delaware is viewed nationally and regionally.” Parkowski said that the campaign will limited to the eastern seaboard and concentrated on surrounding states. “A national campaign would be unrealistic; a regional one is realistic,” she said. A television commercial highlighting a variety of Delaware attractions, will be broadcast on stations in Philadelphia, New York, Washington and Richmond. There will be print advertising in regional editions of Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living, A.A.A. World and Oprah magazines. Social media also will be used to spread the word. Levin said tourism is projected to pump $2.5 billion into the state economy by 2017, up from $1.45 billion in 2007.

 Monday, January 05, 2015

It’s scary: Republicans will formally take control of Congress tomorrow. They’ll have a comfortable majority in the Senate, although not enough seats to make it filibuster- or veto-proof. Shockingly poor voter participation in last autumn’s elections resulted in a 13-seat gain and the largest majority since shortly after World War II in the House of Representatives. There’s a slim to no chance that John Boehner (R.-Ohio) will lose his bid to continue as Speaker. Nevertheless, he still has to deal with the party’s ultra-right wing. Although he has been promising responsible legislating, it’s likely that his not very well disguised hatred of President Obama – which I’m not convinced isn’t racially motivated – will make that the same kind of hollow rhetoric we’ve been hearing from him during the past six years. Unsuccessful in his efforts to unseat Mr. Obama, his obvious aim now is to besmirch his place in history. Our expectation is that obstruction and interparty squabbling will quickly become full-fledged political warfare on Pennsylvania Avenue. That will show up in several issues as the Republicans seek to benefit their buddies – multimillionaires, corporations, the gun lobby and numerous special interests – at the expense of the proverbial little guy – the poor through the middle class, older Americans and others whose voices are less heard by those who like to call themselves the ‘Grand Old Party’.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Alarming trend: The new year was barely two hours old when Wilmington had its first shooting. That followed a year which, according to statistics posted on Delaware On-line, saw the second-highest number of shooting incidents, 117 vs. 127 in 2013. Twenty-two of the 2014 victims were killed, up from 18 the previous year. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about violence in the city and no one seems able to find a way to counter its reputation as one of the most violent cities in the country. What struck me was the fact that newspapers around the country last week were reporting declining local violence. Most dramatic was New York where the number of murders, 328, were the lowest since the police department began collecting reliable statistics in 1963. What’s more, there were lower numbers in nearly every major crime category last year. Violent crime in Philadelphia fell 7% from the previous year. Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey attributed the drop to a sustained strategy focused on data-driven policing which targets known offenders, community outreach, and accountability - from officers working foot patrols to commanders responsible for strategy. New Castle County Police Chief Elmer Setting also has said that similar data-driven enforcement has been effective here despite the force having a lower number of officers per-capita than most jurisdictions of comparable size. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department, which patrols unincorporated areas and 42 cities which contract for police services, reported that violent crime decreased nearly 4% in 2014 from the previous year and that homicides fell more than 11%. Chicago and Detroit also reported declines. Nationally, homicides and violent crimes have steadily gone down over the last decade, according to the most recent F.B.I. figures. Raw statistics don’t tell the complete story, but clearly indicate that Wilmington – and, for that matter, all of northern Delaware – would stand to benefit from a comprehensive objective study of what police agencies are doing to combat crime.

Sarah Palin´s controversial post on Facebook about her son stepping on the family dog to help his mom do the dishes.

 Count me as a ‘like’: I’m not one who puts much stock in the doings of Sarah (the Russians are right down the street) Palin, but I’ll take her side in the controversy over her Facebook posting showing her son, Trig, using the family dog as a step stool. The boy, age 6, who has Down Syndrome, needed some elevation to help his mother do the dishes. The family Labrador didn’t exactly volunteer, but appears unruffled. In fact, he seems to appreciate the opportunity to of be helpful. The message earned 50,000 ‘likes’ from some of Palin's 4.5 million Facebook followers. Considerably fewer ‘friends’ objected.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Nothing to celebrate: What might have been an historic milestone has passed virtually unnoticed. In case you missed it, America’s longest war ended this week. Or so they say. The boys – and, yes, the girls too – won’t all be coming home from Afghanistan. More than 10,800 U.S. troops will remain in what military officials say will be a “narrowly defined two-prong mission: Advising the Afghan army and continuing to mount counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and other insurgents who may pose a threat to the U.S. or Afghan governments.” To my way of thinking “mount[ing] counterterrorism operations” sounds an awful lot like continuing what we’ve been doing.  ‘Operation Freedom’s Sentinel’ has replaced ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, but it appears not much will change. The war so far has claimed the lives of 2,356 U.S. service members and will take more lives in the months to come. We went to Afghanistan in what started out as a punitive expedition to avenge the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington, defeat Al Qaeda and kill or capture Osama ben Laden, and depose the Taliban government in Kabul which sheltered Al Qaeda. But the length and cost of the war have long since overshadowed the initial goals. President Obama’s current strategy calls for reducing U.S. forces to about 5,000 in 2016 and completely end the military mission there before he leaves the White House in January, 2017. We can only ask what more will – or can – be accomplished during that extended time.

 Friday, January 02, 2015

 A‘brat’and proud of it: An article this week in the Washington Post caught my attention. It told of how military ‘brats’ are up in arms over a kids book which suggests they should henceforth and forevermore be referred to as ‘champs’. Authors Debbie and Jennifer Fink obviously hadn’t done much, if any, research into the subject about which they intended to write. I vaguely remembered the term ‘brat’ as having dated back to World War II, but a bit of quick research told me that it may go back to the Civil War or even earlier. A ‘brat’ is a child of career military personnel who grows up in an Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard environment. Over the years there have been millions of them and it’s said they currently range from newborns to the over-90 generation. Except in photos of men or women leaving for or returning from war-zone deployment, the children are largely invisible to the general public. Considering what they go through during those absences they are as much the hero or heroine as their father or mother. If the parent is called upon to make the supreme sacrifice on behalf of the country, that holds true exponentially. I like to think the Finks had good intentions, but supposedly politically-correct ‘Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel’ doesn’t cut it. CLICK to read the Washington Post article. CLICK to read what Wikipedia has to say about the topic.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A minority view: The film has played to mixed – mostly unfavorable – reviews, but I, for one, recommend that, if you haven’t already seen it, you make Into the Woods your entertainment starter for the new year. I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation of the Broadway musical knitting together updated versions of the classic tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Repunzel. To begin with, there’s the Stephen Sondheim music – nuff said. Lilla Crawford as Ms. Riding-Hood and Anna Kendrick as Cindy turn in stellar performances. The unnamed Baker and Baker’s Wife – James Corden and Emily Blunt – unite the disparate plots in a way that brings the other characters from their fairy tale origins into contemporary reality. Along the way, there’s more than a few laughs – the Prince says he was raised to be charming, not sincere – to offset the lack of a happy-ever-after end after most of the supposedly sympathetic characters are killed off or die. True to the tradition of the Brothers Grimm, the Disney production offers a hard-to-miss moral: Be careful about what you ask for because you might get it. The movie has a Parental Guidance rating and is definitely not for young children, but great for teens and up.



All content, unless otherwise noted, by Jim Parks



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