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August 5, 1994     Cape Gazette
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August 5, 1994
 

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12 - CAPE GAZETI'E, Friday, August5 - Augtt 11, :1994 Chancery Court dismisses parents' lawsuit over student transfer By Kerry Kestr Delaware's Court of Chancery recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of par- ents against Cape Henlopen School Dis- trict. The parents group contested the school board's March 2 decision to change the grade level - from seventh to fifth - at which students shift from Lewes Middle School to Milton Middle School. "I am convinced that the case now before me should be dismissed in favor of the claim against defendants currently pending before the State Board of Education, " wrote Vice Chancellor William Chandler in his June 10 decision.. "...the State Board of Education has ex- clusive jurisdiction to determine the appro- priateness of the transfer decision. This Court has statutory authority to hear plain- tiff's claim only after the State Board of Ed- ucation decides the dispute, or only if the State Board of Education refrains from de- ciding the dispute." Whether the State School Board will hear the ease may be determined on Friday, Aug. 12, when attorneys for the parents opposing the move and the school district will appear before Jack Nichols, a hearing officer for the State Board of Education. Nichols, along with a lawyer from the Attorney Gen- eral's office, John Reed, will hear argu- ments from both parties to determine whether the State School Board has juris- diction in the case. David Williams, the lawyer representing the school district, wrote to Reed on July 5 requesting the case be dismissed on grounds the appeal does not identify "...the Delaware law, policies, rules and regula- tions violated by the Cape Henlopen Board of Education." Reed said recently that the case was filed under rule 1058 "which specifically men- tions rules and regulations. They hadn't identified any rules and regulations...that have been violated by the local school board." "That's incorrect," said Ed Gill, one of the attorneys for the petitioners who de- clined to say anything further. "The counsel for the State Board," said Reed, "notified the party appealing that [the petitioner] is required to provide what rule or regulation the board is violating." He said that it was two months before the peti- tioners responded to the State Board's re- quest. "When they did, they failed to...ex- plain what rule or regulation was violated. We moved to dismiss the appeal." The ap- peal, however, was not dismissed. Reed said he believes it is very important for both parties to present their perspectives of the case. "I have not made up my mind on this;" he stated, adding that there are im- portant legal issues at stake and that both parties will have a fair opportunity to pre- sent those issues. "There were a number of rules and regu- lations that were violated," said Gill. He al- so said that he does not agree that the Aug. 12 hearing will determine only jurisdiction. He said he plans to present a portion of the case during the fifteen minutes he will be aUoted to speak. He added that because the district failed to provide transcripts from the meetings or hearings where the student transfer was dis- cussed, his office was unable to learn whether there were any additional viola- tions. "They [petitioners] made the accusation that the district had been tardy providing the transcripts from the hearing," said Skeen. 'q'hat's not true. We don't have to provide the transcripts until 10 days before the hearing before the State Board." Paul Fine, president of the State School Board, explained, "At our August meeting we would informally hear the preliminary results of the hearing officers' recommen- dations." Reed explained, however, that either par- ty would have a twenty day opportunity to make written comments about the decision to be included prior to the State Board's consideration. He said that what is basically at issue dur- ing the Aug. 12 hearing is, "whether or not the State Board has broad powers that go so far as to permit them to second guess every single decision made by a local board." "I don't think we've ever had an issue like this one come before us," said Fine. Reed reiterated that he wants to see both parties have a fair opportunity to present their cases. "I think it's important thay they both be given an opportunity to be heard on this legal issue," he said. Meeting Continued from page 1 utive session. The response to Tu- ransky on that matter reads, "...this office concludes that the Cape Henlopen School District complied with the provisions of the Act and did not discuss the subject of student assignments during executive session. To the contrary, the Cape Henlopen School District should be com- mended for its efforts and willing- ness to both initiate and facilitate public comment on this issue." The Attorney General's office Noise Continued from page 10 Fuqua went on to say there may be no equitable solution for every- one, "but we are attempting to minimize the inconvenience." Taking the floor, Chilcoat as- Sured that she doesn't want Fun- Land to close before midnight, but that it is "inconsistent to allow an exception. I talked with Mr. Fas- nacht two years ago about the Sea Dragon, but tabled it, thinking the noise ordinance would resolve the problem last year." She also questioned terming the "screaming and yelling" impulse noise, which are defined as "brief excursions of less than one sec- ond," adding that she doesn't be- lieve Sea Dragon operates within the decibel level. Chilcoat asked that the noise ex- emption at least be rescinded after 11 p.m.; close the delivery doors; that any other changes to the park would have to conform to present zoning; and that the board mem- bers sit down with Fasnacht and the people who are complaining to -hammer out an agreement. Mayor Sam Cooper told Chilcoat that he is concerned that concludes its opinion by formally requesting that the district re-no- tice the March 2 meeting and "...the Board should explain to the public its intention to formally rat- ify its previous action." "An agenda went out on Mon- day [Aug. I]," said Cape Superin- tendent Suellen Skeen, for the Monday, Aug. 8 meeting that the board will hold at the administra- tive office at 8 p.m. She said the notice was posted on the notice board in the district administration building on Monday, Aug. 1. "They [the board members] don't have to re-vote the issue," said Skeen. "It's a ratification of the vote [on March 2]?' "l rescinding the exception would "jeopardize the entire operation if someone wanted to hold the city's feet to the fu'e." He went on to ex- plain that when the exemption was granted, "the board made a choice as to what is best for the town. It may seem somewhat dis- criminatory, but that's the way we felt the town should go." He then asked Fasnacht to con- sider the requests from the neigh- bors and "get back with your best offer." "I don't make all the decisions," said Fasnacht, noting that 18 fam- ily members work at the park. "Basically, I feel we've already Cape principals' contracts renewed family would stop the ride at 11 p.m. on weekends." No one on the board wanted to resume discussion or consider tak- ing any action at the Aug. 12 regu- lar meeting. Chilcoat said that while she wasn't planning to take the matter any further than the city board, other neighbors may feel differently, and perhaps they may want to sit down and talk J;o Mr. Fasnacht,' she said. The contracts of Ed Schaefer, principal of Shields Elementary, and Gary Wray, principal of Lewes Middle School, have been renewed until 1996. Ac- cording to Linda Clifton, administrative assistant to the superintendent, the Cape Henlopen School Board voted unanimously at the July 28 regular school board meeting to renew the contracts for both men. The two principals' contracts, before the board's recent decision, were due to expire in July of 1995. According to the state statute, districts need to notify an administrator of an employment termination at least six months prior to a termination. Some parents of students at Shields were concerned that the board might decide not to renew Schaefer's contract. The contracts not being renewed in December of 1993, when other administrators' contracts were re- newed, caused parents within the Cape district to band together in an attempt to support Schaefer. The parents and a contingency of Shields' teachers at- tempted in June to petition the school board to listen to their comments on Schaefer's commitment to Shields students, faculty and programs. They also flooded the local newspapers with letters supporting Schaefer. However, Suellen Skeen, superintendent, refused to hear their comments in an open board meeting, cit- ing that matters of personnel are handled in closed, executive session only. "I appreciate all the support that the community provided," said Schaefer. School volunteers need background checks By Kerry Kester As a result of a new law that Governor Tom Carp- er signed into effect on July 14, nearly all people who work with children in the public schools will now be required to have a criminal background check before they may continue to spend time with the children. "We're finding that more and more certificates are made a big step toward compro-lcontractors and school bus personnel to have the raise and I'd be surprisgif-the- checks, so it isn't really a new concept to include oth- being revoked on teachers who had charges filed against them," said Karen Cannon, director of per- sonnel in the Cape Henlopen School District. "We've been lucky in the Cape District because it hasn't happened to us." However, she said, she would rather see such a strict law in effect than take any chance that someone-could harm a child. She added that it has been the law for some time for bus er personnel. "From now on employees, student teachers, bus contractors and volunteers will have to have criminal background checks," said Cannon. She explained that those employees who are continuously em- ployed in the same school district will be grandfa- thered under the law. However, any teacher who changes positions by moving to a different school district will have to get the check. Those who are not eligible to be grandfathered are any and all people who become new employees of a public school district after July 1, 1994. That in- eludes substitute teachers and volunteers. However, at a district's discretion, anyone who worked for at "If there's a desire from both parties to meet, maybe we can help facilitate," Cooper added. least 15 days last year in the same district could be el- igible to he grandfathered. Cannon expects that the number of school volun- teers may drop unless members of the community take advantage of an amendment to the law that will allow student teachers and volunteers a time exten- sion to work the required hours necessary to be grandfathered. The amendment provides a time extension until Ju- ly 1, 1995 for the student teachers and volunteers tO work 15 days and by doing so, avoid having to pay for the criminal background check. Last year, Can- non said, the district gave between 250 and 300 cer- tificates of recognition to those people who had vol- unteered time in the schools. Cannon said it is imperative for parents and other community members to spend as much time as they can in the schools this year so that they will not be burdened by the cost of the background check. "Get in those schools this year," Cannon said, "and do more than you've ever done before. We are urging yo u as-a public to get involved in your schools this year." In Sussex County, Delaware Police State Troop #4 in Georgetown will take fingerprints and collect the necessary data for the criminal background checks on Wednesdays from noon until 7 p.m. The cost for the check is $49, which is the respon- sibility of the person requesting the check. The Cape Henlopen School District, said Cannon, does not have the fmancial resources to cover the costs of any background checks.