Brandywine supporters mount positive defense to recallers’ accusations

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- In his short time as interim superintendent, Gary Campbell has made an effort to talk to teachers, students and administrators at Brandywine Public Schools.
The talks have made him draw a positive conclusion about the school district at a time when the district has received a lot of negative publicity, he said.
Held by supporters of the Brandywine school board, the meeting was organized to give community members an opportunity to inform themselves of the facts related to the ongoing recall effort of five school board members and the firing of the school district's former superintendent.
Among the documents available for public scrutiny were documents recently obtained by school board supporters through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The FOIA documents on display dated back to June of 2003.
But Campbell, a recently-retired superintendent of Lakeshore School District, realizes there are issues in the Brandywine school district that need to be addressed before the district can focus its energy entirely on the future.
One of those issues, Campbell said, is to have supporters and opponents of the recall effort get into dialogue with each other to find the best solutions for the school district.
Campbell also said the school district urgently needs to come up with detailed plans for the improvement of school district facilities as part of the $14.2 million bond issue the community passed two-to-one in June.
Campbell, however, realizes it can be difficult to shift gears when emotionally involved with an issue, as many people in the Brandywine community no doubt are when it comes to their school system.
Among those who wish the community would look forward instead of to the past, is Tina Newman.
A strong supporter of the school board, she voiced her opinion at Tuesday's meeting.
Mike Barnett, another long-time Brandywine resident, said for many years he watched the school district go downhill.
Lately, however, Barnett said he has seen improvements being made.
Also among the crowd at Tuesday's meeting, were Elsa Hemphill and Harriett Dean, who are among the group supporting the recall.
Hemphill addressed Campbell on several occasions during the meeting on issues related to the recall and the firing of the superintendent.
Campbell said he would be more than willing to have a look at Hemphill's documents.
However, he didn't think that it was appropriate for Hemphill to spread rumors based on information few of the people at the meeting were able to look at before letting the appropriate people in the school district go through them.
Jim Curran, school board president and one of the five school board members subject to the recall effort, which is targeting each of the five school board members individually, said he is a strong supporter of Brandywine.
Curran thinks the school district is going in the right direction and felt the community did the right thing when supporting the bond issue.
His biggest concern at the moment, however, is the budget and the decrease in enrollment.
He blames much of it on recent negative publicity
Campbell, who said the annual audit report will be presented at the Nov. 3 board meeting, may have some long hours by his desk in the months to come.
But he doesn't let that fact quell his optimism.

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