By John Chambless
There were a few transitions – and plenty of reasons to celebrate – at the Nov. 18 meeting of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board.
The board members congratulated and thanked Jeff Leiser, whose two-year term ended after the meeting; as well as Eileen Bushelow, whose two-year term as board president is also expiring. Temporary board member Leticia Flores DeWilde was praised for her diligence in her 126 days on the board. She lost a recent election to Carolyn Daniels, who will be joining the board on Dec. 2, along with new members Michael Rock and Steven Simonson.
The good news was delivered by assistant superintendent Ken Batchelor, who joined John Nolen, the director of curriculum and instruction, in announcing the Annual District Achievement Report. The report, which included PSSA, SAT and AP test scores in the district, was very positive.
In a summary of the school performance profiles, Batchelor reported that, based on the percentage of students testing proficient or advanced, Chadds Ford Elementary and Hillendale Elementary scored 87.3 percent, while Pocopson Elementary School scored 87.6 percent and Unionville Elementary scored 95.3 percent.
The report did not include middle school and high school scores, which will be announced in January.
Nolen reported on the results of PSSA testing, saying that third to eighth graders in all schools tested at 94.4 percent proficient or advanced in math, and 92.2 percent in reading. Breaking down the statistics a bit more, Nolen pointed to a 77 percent reading score among fourth graders at Chadds Ford Elementary School as a cause for concern, but added that a new, more rigorous reading curriculum being adopted next year should bring that score up. “We're generally very pleased,” Nolen said. “Overall, these are very strong scores.”
Batchelor reported AP test results that showed that among 925 high-school students, 92.5 percent scored three or higher. “That's a really extraordinary statistic,” he said. The average AP test score was 4.07 out of 5, “which is quite impressive,” Batchelor added.
The high school had 13 National Merit Scholar semi-finalists, and 21 commended students, proof of “sustained excellence over the past three to four years,” said school district superintendent John Sanville.
In other business, the board approved two new supplemental positions, one for an additional high-school wrestling assistant coach, and one for a high-school indoor track head coach. The positions will cost approximately $3,000 to $4,000 each.
Addressing an issue that caused some disagreement at the board's work sessions, the board approved a contract with CCRES for potential support staff vacancies, and with CSS Technical Services for support staff vacancies. The two agencies supply support staff workers who are not offered the district's healthcare and retirement plans, which in some cases eclipse the salary of an employee. That saves the district money, but there has been board discussion about whether it's appropriate for staff members with full insurance to be working alongside those who are working without benefits.
The school district has specified that no more than 10 percent of 23 employee categories will be filled with contract employees. The contracts run through June of next year, and will be re-evaluated at that time.
Board member Kathleen Do objected to approving the agencies, saying, “Unionville-Chadds Ford is a destination district for the best of the best. But hiring support staff and paraprofessionals this way might change that.” She added that contract employees might not be satisfied long-term with working for no benefits, and “would always be looking for better opportunities.”
Do said she was glad that the program was being treated as a pilot, “but I still hope that even if it gives the district financial benefits, the board will consider its long-term impact.”
The board voted 6 to 2 for approval of the contracts, with Do and DeWilde voting no.
The board also approved seeking bids for replacing some buses and vans in the district, and they approved the purchase of oven equipment for Patton Middle School in the amount of $43,615.92. The school's ovens quit working recently and had to be replaced.
The board will meet on Dec. 2 to reorganize and welcome three new members. The public is welcome to attend. For more information, visit www.ucfsd.org.