By John Chambless
On June 10, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board met the six candidates who are vying for the seat of departing board member Frank Murphy. Murphy's resignation will be effective June 17 at noon, but the meeting on June 10 was an opportunity to say goodbye to him and ask the candidates -- one of whom will be voted onto the board on June 17 -- a few questions about their backgrounds and qualifications.
Candidates Lorraine Ramunno, John Murphy, Dell Joshi, Leticia Flores DeWilde, Carol Biederman and Skip Barthold read short prepared statements and answered questions before district superintendent John Sanville instructed them about what will happen at next week's board meeting.
"In one week, one of you will be sitting up here," Sanville said. "You'll be approving the budget and the collective bargaining agreement." The board's nominations and vote will be taken in public. The winning candidate will fill out Murphy's term, which ends in December.
Frank Murphy thanked the candidates, saying, "I'm thrilled that one of you will be replacing me. As far as I'm concerned, the board cannot make a bad decision."
At their June 17 meeting, the board will approve the 2012-13 final budget and levy real estate taxes. The Chester County millage rate will be 25.73 (a 2.18 percent increase from last year), and the Delaware County millage will be 21.71 (a 1.26 percent increase). The weighted average millage increase will be 2.01 percent.
Under this proposal, the impact on the average homeowner will be $149.37 in Chester County and $69.69 in Delaware County.
The board will also approve the collective bargaining agreement with the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association next week. The agreement with the teachers union, effective on July 1, represents a projected increase in district expenses of 2.19 percent per year over the next two years.
The new contract makes no changes to the salary structure for teachers. A teacher starting with the district with a bachelor's degree will earn $48,520 per year, while a top scale teacher with more than 16 years of experience, a master's degree and more than 60 graduate school credits will earn $102,741.
Under the agreement, all teachers in the district will get a one-time bonus of $900 the first year of the contract. In the second year, all top-of-scale teachers will get a one-time bonus of $1,100, while the rest will get raises in year two based on the number of graduate credits they've completed and their years in the district. Teacher income for supplemental contracts is also being increased slightly, after several years of remaining unchanged.
The contract offers partial tuition reimbursement to encourage teachers to pursue master's and doctoral degrees. The contract also includes more time for teaching by replacing two student half-days with two full days.
The board will approve the district's fee schedule for use of its facilities at next week's meeting. The rates that outside users are charged for use of the athletic fields or school rooms will remain unchanged. Rick Hostetler, the supervisor of buildings and grounds, said that 50 organizations have used the district's facilities since the new fee schedule went into effect last year, and since July 1, 2012, there has been a net profit of almost $100,000. In previous years, that figure was around $50,000.
School security was in the spotlight at Monday night's meeting during a discussion of the Raptor Visitor Security System being proposed for all six district schools and the administrative office. Under the system, visitors would provide their driver's licenses at the main entrance. Their information will be checked against a sex-offender database, and the system then prints a badge with a photo of the visitor as well as the date and their destination in the school building.
Board members asked several questions about the system. If a visitor does not have a driver's license, a state-issued ID can be used. Board member Kathleen Do asked what happens when a large number of visitors arrive -- for a concert or other school event, for instance. The system takes about 30 seconds to process each visitor badge, so the backup for large events could be a problem. John Nolen, the district's director of curriculum and instruction, said the district is looking at ways to streamline the process for large events.
"What drew me to the system is that it adds this layer of safety for our students that they will not notice," Sanville said.
The system will cost $11,200 for all six buildings, along with a $480 annual renewal for each site.
Board member Jeff Hellrung reported on legislation affecting the school district, and noted that there is some national opposition to Common Core education standards that are set up in 45 states. The standards "are generally higher than the mismatched state standards we had before," Hellrung said, saying that "particularly conservative groups think the federal government is behind this, and that there's some sort of conspiracy going on. Activist groups are pushing ahead with false information about common core standards, so I wanted to make you aware that we need to be out there, being positive and honest about the situation."
Board member Do said that some school districts are nervous about the new standards "because it will require them to up their game," and board member Keith Knauss added that "some states say it will dumb down their standards."
At the end of the meeting, board members thanked Murphy for his years on the board, noting that he presided over some tough issues, such as the construction project at Unionville High School and contentious negotiations over a teacher contract. Murphy said, "I will not presume to give you words of wisdom, but to all the residents of the township, I must say it's been an interesting four years. I learned a great deal about myself, and I found friends in the darndest places. I'm a little sadder than I thought I'd be," he added with a smile before the board gave him a long round of applause.