Suspensions, budget surplus top UCF board discussions

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By JP Phillips, Staff Writer, The Times

Unionville-chadds Ford Board of Education members Steve Simonson, and Victor Dupuis (left) and Jeff Hellrung (right) discuss issues as Superintendent of Schools John Sanville reviews information (center).

EAST MARLBOROUGH — A handful of motions were approved, the fate of surplus funds were debated and the student suspension discussion continued at the Nov. 20 Unionville Chadds-Ford School District Board of Education meeting, Monday — the final regular meeting of 2017.

In wake of student suspensions at Unionville High School earlier this year — and debate on the subject at the Nov. 13 Work Session — there was more public comment on the issue, Monday night.

During resident comments, several people expressed appreciation to the board for examining the Suspension and Student Records policy.  They reiterated that there should be a way for a student to redeem his/herself after making a mistake.  Additionally, offences vary in significances and should not all contain the same punishment.

A Pocopson resident added that she felt any out-of-school suspension, even one day, carried lasting consequences and should not be part of the policy except in situations when the student is a danger to him/herself or others.  Students are taught so much in a day that, “There is no way there cannot be academic ramifications.”  She added, “The disruption, and trying to make up the work, being out of their routine is just an immense, immense climb for them.”

Board member Gregg Linder added his own opinion. “I think we will have failed as a board if we cannot figure out a way to rescind these suspensions.”

The administration is scheduled to present a new Suspension and Student Records policy in January for board and public review.

In other actions, the board authorized some changes to classes at the high school, including approving five new or revised classes.  The addition of Engineering Design and Development allows for a four-year Engineering sequence.  Four English classes were changed from half to full year courses to allow better skill building.

Traditional Algebra I was approved for the middle school.  This gives students a course with an intensity between Beginning Algebra and Honors Algebra, allowing them a path to complete Calculus in high school.

The extended school year will be held at Pocopson elementary from June 25 to Aug. 2, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

The board gave a thumbs-up to the high school cheerleading squad’s trip to Disneyworld in February to compete in a national competition after it recently won the regional championship.

Hillendale Elementary will get a new HVAC system this summer, and K&W Engineers was approved to explore the best use of school roads, parking lots and fields at the high school, middle school, and Unionville elementary. Additionally, the district will contract with new suppliers for facilities scheduling software and tax shelter annuity administration.

The only debate regarded the placement of the approximately $2.2 million surplus from the 2016-17 budget, discussed since the October 9th work session.  The surplus consisted of $1 million in healthcare savings, $900 thousand from a special education overestimate, and $300 thousand in miscellaneous savings.  The administration recommends that the entire amount be put in the Capital Fund, which would be used to fund the 10-year facilities plan.

Lindner proposed an amendment to the motion to place the $300,000 in the unassigned fund for greater flexibility.  He reasoned that it could always be moved into the capital account via board vote at a later date.

Director of Business and Operations Bob Cochran replied that $3.8 million is planned to be spent this summer in building improvements. Almost $2.4 million will be spent on Hillendale’s HVAC system, so the surplus would help fund it if moved to the capital account in its entirety.

Lindner’s amendment to keep the $300,000 in the unassigned fund balance was defeated by the board with a vote of 7-2 (Board member Carolyn Daniels also voted for Lindner’s proposal).  The motion to transfer the entire surplus to the capital account passed.

In response to Daniels thoughts that the 10-year plan was presented long ago and might reflect some wants versus actual district needs, Superintendent John Sanville will send the plan to the board again, stating that it really is a just list of items needed to maintain our facilities.

“It’s not a wish list of things that we wanted, you are talking about HVAC, you are talking about routine maintenance kinds of things, roofs, that we want to keep our facilities up-to-date and upgraded.”

A PDF of the plan can be found here for download.

Reporting on legislation items, board member Jeff Hellrung reminded the public that just because the Pennsylvania constitutional amendment concerning property taxes altogether passed, it does not mean that property taxes are going to be reduced or eliminated.

“Changes in the future will take place only if there is enabling legislation signed into law.”  He added “If we eliminated property taxes statewide, it would be problematical in replacing that revenue for school districts, and local voters would lose control over their own local school districts.  And it won’t be locally elected school boards raising taxes and supporting the schools, the financial support would come from Harrisburg, which has not had a great record of fiscal responsibility.”

 

A Birmingham township parent brought up a scheduling problem not anticipated when the district moved to later start times.  Since his daughter participates in the Allied Health Science Technology Program offered by the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), she had to drop an Advanced Placement (AP) class in order to get there in time.  Even though the student’s schedule was known through the summer, the time conflict was somehow missed.  The administration will investigate to correct this for the future enrollees and follow up with the parent about the current situation.

Finally, Sanville used his Superintendent Comments to explain what he is thankful for:

“I am thankful for our teachers, staff, students, parents, volunteers, and a community who give UCFSD their all — every day.  You are the bedrock that our success is built upon.

“I am thankful for students who make us proud.  UCF students are thoughtful peers, gracious visitors, and considerate hosts.  Students who are successful on stage and on the playing fields — in academic competitions and in community service projects.  Your contributions are noted far and wide.

“I am thankful for our Board — you are dedicated, hard-working, and committed to our mission to empower our students for success after Unionville — we are lucky to have you serving our community.”

“I am thankful for lots of opportunities to say ‘never better!’

“I am thankful for Debbie, my bride of 20+ years.  Simply stated — you are the best.

“Finally — I hope that everyone’s holiday is filled with fun and fellowship shared with family and friends.”

And from this staff writer, I am thankful for my readers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Next up:  Board Organization Meeting 7:30PM on Monday, December 4th at the district office, located adjacent to the high school.   All board meetings are open to the public.  They are broadcasted live (and archived) on the UCFSD web site.

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