Wilmington Learning Collaborative officials grappled over budget plans and filled two vacant council positions Thursday night in their second meeting since forming.
Shanika Perry, a Brandywine school board member on the governing council, was appointed by Gov. John Carney to serve as the chair of the collaborative, which is dedicated to helping the city’s elementary and middle school children learn and achieve more.
Christina’s Donald Patton, who is Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki’s appointee to the council, was selected as the vice-chair.
The term length for those positions is two years.
After in-depth discussions about establishing bylaws simmered down with none being approved, the group refocused on how it would finalize its operational budget and its school program budget.
Delaware’s operating budget allocates $7 million annually for the Collab. At Carney’s State of the State address last week, he recommended an additional $3 million towards it for Fiscal Year 2024, which starts July 1.
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Kim Klein, who works in operational support for the Department of Education, told the council members that they shouldn’t bank on additional funds each year. Any spending over the $7 million mark should be a one-time allocation, rather than built into their yearly spending, he said.
The group voted to create a budget committee tasked with outlining their initial budget.
Co-chaired by Jennie Yeow, Red Clay’s parent representative, and Christina’s Alethea Smith-Tucker, the committee will include the chief financial officers from Brandywine, Christina and Red Clay, the three districts that make up the Collab.
Estimated allocations must be submitted to the Department of Education by May 15, and final allocations by July 15.
Although the meeting was supposed to focus on creating bylaws, Matt Lintner, lawyer for the Governor’s Office, told the council that bylaws aren’t crucial right now.
“I would want bylaws at some point within six months from now,” he said. “If I was you guys. I would not worry about it right now. I would just get an executive director and start having a couple of meetings and figure out what the issues are that you’re trying to navigate around and how bylaws might help you or not.”
Brandywine Superintendent Lincoln Hohler said some policies definitely should be put into place, especially when the Collab is handling millions of dollars in funding.
“We don’t want to just spend $7 million, $10 million, or $17 million and then be sitting back at the table saying we had no progress,” he said.
Leadership matters to the success of the learning collaborative, he said, and the council needs to hire a strong, qualified leader.
The group is still developing a job description for the executive director.
After comparing averages of admins and directors throughout the three districts, the council voted on a starting salary range between $156,000 to $176,000.
Near the end of the meeting, Yeow asked the council to make sure they consider Latino individuals for the executive director position and other roles the council might need to fill moving forward.
The Wilmington Learning Collaborative is made up of nine Wilmington elementary schools in the Christina, Red Clay and Brandywine school districts.
It aims to empower families by giving them a voice in policy making with the goal of improving test scores, student achievement and other outcomes for city students.
The collaborative’s next meeting is Thursday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. Watch it here.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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