Red Clay, Christina and Brandywine school boards are getting their first debriefing of the Wilmington Learning Collaborative's draft agreement before voting whether to commit.

Wilmington Learning Collaborative: Who will sign on first?

Jarek RutzDelaware Live, Education, Headlines

Red Clay, Christina and Brandywine school boards are getting their first debriefing of the Wilmington Learning Collaborative's draft agreement before voting whether to commit.

Red Clay, Christina and Brandywine school boards are getting their first debriefing of the Wilmington Learning Collaborative’s draft agreement before voting whether to commit.

Red Clay Consolidated School District may become the first district to vote on the agreement that would formally set up the Wilmington Learning Collaborative.

Both Red Clay and Christina district boards had a synopsis of the 16-page draft agreement read to them Tuesday night.

Both agreed to consider the issue in their next meeting.

Christina will meet Aug. 9, but may ask to look over the document again and vote at its September meeting, one board member said.

The Red Clay board, though, agreed on Tuesday to vote when it meets Aug. 17.

Wilmington Learning Collaborative genesis

Red Clay, Christina and Brandywine school districts have been negotiating with Gov. John Carney’s office and the state Department of Education to create an agency that will oversee the Wilmington schools that are in each district.

A relic from the 1970s attempts to desegregate schools, each district has a few city schools among its mostly suburban district. 

Carney and others believe that city schools, particularly kindergarten to fifth grade, need their own governance to deal with issues peculiar to the city environment, including poverty, trauma, frequent moves, community stress and frequently changing teachers.

The districts voted early in the year to negotiate a way to break off the city schools.

On Tuesday, Red Clay Superintendent Dorrell Green debriefed the board, spending six minutes essentially reading the governor’s executive summary of the agreement.

It included establishing the collaborative’s principles, governing structure, financial allocations, community involvement requirements, and more.

Green said there’s more to be done before the collaborative’s policies are implemented.

“There’s still a lot of logistics that continue to get worked through,” he said, “and we will stay engaged to maximize any resource or collaborative effort that’s going to benefit our students, staff and families within the city of Wilmington.”

He asked the board to approve a motion to officially vote on the memorandum of understanding in their Aug. 17  board meeting, and the motion passed unanimously.. 

Although board members offered minimal reaction to the debriefing, several members of the public showed up to voice their opinion. 

Teachers respond

Nora Durant, a fourth grade English teacher at Lewis Elementary, said the collaborative could help right the wrongs of how teachers are treated and valued in the state. 

“I am very thankful for the dedicated efforts of our new building leaders to help us move forward, but it doesn’t change the heartbreaking fact that our students are accustomed to teachers leaving and it’s demoralizing,” she said. 

Durant said she’s not leaving, but wants to know that her district is willing to listen to those who choose to stay and dedicate so much of themselves to helping Red Clay’s students achieve academic excellence and personal success. 

“I need to know that my district is willing to allocate the resources and encourage the collaboration necessary to bring its words about equity closer to reality, and start improving teacher retention rates at our city schools,” she said. “The Wilmington Learning Collaborative seems to offer a way to support this.”

Two others spoke to the board asking for them to prioritize paying teachers adequately and providing them better working conditions: Jennifer Dalby, membership chair of the Red Clay Education Association, and Steven Fackenthall, music teacher at Richey Elementary and president of the Red Clay Education Association.

Brandywine’s board will get their first debriefing of the agreement at their monthly meeting Monday, July 18. The Wilmington Learning Collaborative is listed in several items of their agenda, which can be found here.

Also Tuesday:

  • Kecia Nesmith was elected board chair; and Jose Avila was elected vice president.
  • The board said there would be no school tax increases this year.
  • Outgoing president Cathy Thompson argued that the draft of a new school dress code needed more specific language pertaining to students covering their torso, and the board approved sending the draft back to the committee that wrote it.

Jarek Rutz can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz and on LinkedIn.

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