By John Chambless

Staff Writer

After presenting their case to the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board earlier this month, a large crowd of students and parents came out to the board's meeting on Jan. 27 to ensure that the Unionville Rowing Club would be granted approval.

Fourteen students from Unionville High School sat in the front row of the auditorium at Patton Middle School, and each stood to address the school board and administration about the benefits of rowing, citing the positive influences, the work that's required and the discipline learned by rowing as a team. That discipline, they said, pays off with improved academic results. They ended by holding up Unionville placards and saying "Go U!" in unison.

The board voted unanimously to approve the UHS Club Crew Team, although board member Eileen Bushelow raised concerns about whether or not to charge an activity fee for rowing, and board member Steven Simonson asked whether students who were not able to afford the fee could be helped financially. Unionville High School principal Paula Massanari explained that the school has offered some financial assistance to students in the past. Fundraisers are also a possibility, she said.

In the end, the board responded by approving the club. Board president Vic Dupuis smiled and told the audience, "Congratulations. You have a UHS rowing club," as the students applauded.

The club will get no funding from the school district, aside from the cost of supplying letters to participating students. Students can row under the school's name and use the school's indoor facilities, but will be based at the Wilmington Rowing Center. 

Dupuis opened the board meeting by announcing that a tentative contract had been reached with school superintendent John Sanville. The board will formally vote on the deal at next month's meeting.

Reading from a statment, Dupuis said, "The terms of the contract are as follows: Salary, $210,000, increasing annually at the rate of the Act 1 Index; an increase in paid vacation days from 25 to 30 days; and dollar-for-dollar matching payments towards a retirement plan, not to exceed $700 per month. This contract will run for a four-year term, from Sept. 1, 2014 to Aug. 31, 2018. We recognize Dr. Sanville's efforts, and that his entire administrative team has served the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District community at an exemplary level. This agreement will place Dr. Sanville's compensation at a fair value relative to his performance, and comparable districts in the area."

The details of the contract will be posted on the district website for public comment.

"I'd like to start by thanking the board for their support in terms of my successor contract," Sanville said. "I'd like to give a shout-out to the entire Unionville-Chadds Ford staff that this is really a referendum on the hard work that everyone in the district does."

Later, board member Keith Knauss addressed the publication of a letter from Pocopson resident Bruce Yelton that has appeared in local publications. The letter strongly criticizes the board and points out what Yelton sees as declining morale and achievement scores in the district, particularly calling for the firing of Sanville. (The letter appears on page 10A of this issue of the Chester County Press.)

"I believe Dr. Sanville has had an excellent performance, and it is in the best interest of the community to retain and reward him," Knauss said. "I was going to go through each of Mr. Yelton's points, but I think I'll spare you the details. In essence, I found Mr. Yelton's reasoning unwarranted, without merit, illogical, unsupported, irresponsible, unsupported and, in the end, unpersuasive. I hope that, in the future, Mr. Yelton will do his homework before he speaks."

Dupuis also addressed the letter, saying it "insults the intelligence of our community. Mr. Yelton's right-to-know request was handled on time, as promised. The request was denied because it was too ambiguous in nature, and if it had been specific, it would have violated law and the privacy rights of students and their families. 

"Mr. Yelton cites district employee resignation as a sign of overall dissatisfaction and that, 'morale among employees is probably at an all-time low,'" Dupuis said. "We conduct exit interviews with every employee who leaves, and our findings are the opposite. Our stellar reputation among surrounding districts has made our employees targets for promotion and pay raises elsewhere. 

"Outside of one disgruntled school board member, who recently made a scene by resigning early after a rather embarrassing series of poor decisions on her part, morale and job satisfaction is actually quite good right now," Dupuis said.

"There is no evidence to support declining academic progress allegations," he said. "In short, Mr. Yelton's letter is filled with false data, leading to false conclusions, designed solely to hurt, insult and inflame a false sense of controversy."

In other business, the board approved a Spanish exchange program for spring break in 2015. Unionville High School students will visit spain during the break. As part of the exchange, students from Spain will visit Unionville this fall. 

The board also approved the 2014-15 school calendar, as well as a timeline for approving the 2014-2015 district budget, beginning with preliminary budget adoption and application approval for exceptions on Feb. 18, and ending with final adoption and setting of tax millage rates at the June 16 school board meeting.

For more information, visit www.ucfsd.org.