A motion to adopt plans for the 2015-16 school year dies on the table without a second motion

The Red Clay Consolidated School District’s controversial inclusion plan dies on the table as the measure fails to garner support among board members.

A motion by board member Cathy Thompson to adopt the district’s plan for special needs students at Richardson Park Learning Center and Central School and the pre-kindergarten program failed to receive a second during the Wednesday, March 19 school board meeting.

That means the motion did not receive a vote and was not open to further discussion by the board during the meeting.

The board also voted 4-2 against a similar motion to begin integrating the district’s English Language Learners back into their neighborhood schools in the 2015-16 school year, with board members Thompson and Kenneth Rivera casting the yay votes.

Board president Faith Newton was absent from the meeting to attend a conference.

Both votes were met with loud applause from the hundreds of community stakeholders packed into the Brandywine Springs Elementary School’s auditorium.  

The district has been fighting negative reaction to its inclusion plans, as part of its ongoing school choice program that allows parents and students to pick which school they wish to attend.  

Since December, board meetings have been packed with parents who are overwhelmingly against the district’s current inclusion plans for 2015-16, citing a lack of detail for how student needs will be met.

Many of those same parents are also touting the benefits of an inclusion program, but not under the administration’s current guidelines, or with what many said was only a framework for inclusion and not a fully developed plan.

Those guidelines call for shuttering Richardson Park and Central, both in Wilmington, and the Meadowood Program in Newark, and moving those students back into their neighborhood “feeder schools.”

The students would then be moved into a regular classroom setting, while the district provides students with the required support as before.

“They want inclusion with a plan, and I think that’s what we’re saying,” said board member Adriana Bohm.

Assistant superintendent for student services Hugh Broomall said that, in moving forward, the board would need to establish a timeline in order for the administration to make recommendations on implementing the inclusion plan.

That includes decisions made on staffing allocations, Title II and III funding and the decisions made by the attendance zone committee.

“It impacts everything that we’re going to do as a district,” Broomall said, added that the administration could still come forward with a plan for the 2015-16 school year in six months if the board so mandated.

Board Vice President Martin Wilson read a statement from president Newton where she said that she could not support the inclusion recommendations “as they are written.”

Thompson said she viewed the inclusion issue as one of civil rights, echoing a statement made earlier that it represents the last vestiges of segregation.

“I want that segregation to end,” she said.

The board ultimately decided to meet at a workshop session to decide on a recommendation for the administration as to a timeline for the April board meeting.

Bohm recommended that the workshop be open to the public and that the three-minute rule for public speaking be lifted for that session.

The over two dozen speakers who commented prior to the meeting represented a wide spectrum of district stakeholders, including parents, grandparents, students, graduates, teachers, administration and support staff.

Several parents also spoke against inclusion for their child, citing everything from severe physical disabilities to extremely limited or no social interaction skills as reasons not to integrate their child into a mainstream classroom.

Mike Matthews, president of the Red Clay Education Association, said that in a survey taken among its 1,200 members, 79.77 percent who responded were not in favor of the inclusion plans under the 2015-16 timeline.

In a follow up question, Matthews said that 60.4 percent voted in favor of inclusion as outlined if the timeline was extended to allow for more detailed plans.

Parent Nate Schwartz said that the message heard on Wednesday night was a strong one against the current plan.

“Let’s just get this right. Let’s slow it down and do it right for the students,” he said.