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A good school district will attract cheaters

07/30/2014 01:09PM, Published by Lev, Categories: Opinion, Schools, In Print

It's an honor, of a sort, that the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District is so highly regarded that families move to this area just for the schools.

But that honor has its drawbacks, as the district administration has discovered in the course of prolonged wrangling over one particular family whose residency in the district has been called into question. When district superintendent John Sanville started his job in 2011, he inherited a situation in which a family was supposedly not living in the district, but sending their children to district schools. It's the sort of thing that happens more often than you'd think. There are countless students across the nation whose parents have fudged the boundaries and rules to get their kids into one school over another school. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

But the issue in Unionville-Chadds Ford involves an unidentified family with some considerable resources – at least according to the rumor mill – and it has raised the hackles of a small but vocal group who is calling the whole thing a coverup, a scandal, and a conspiracy.

In these days when every internet pundit has an international voice, the comments of these few have come down hard on Sanville, as well as the school board, for their actions – or lack of actions. Admittedly, the residency issue is a complex one, and it continues to require watchfulness on the part of district authorities. But the fervor of online comment is almost reaching a point where the CIA and black helicopters are going to be implicated in the cloak-and-dagger conspiracy theory.

The unprecedented departure of former school board member Holly Manzone added considerable fuel to the fire. As details slowly dribbled out after her resignation, it seems that she considered the residency issue a crisis that merited her own personal investigation. Whether her actions rose to the “dangerous and irresponsible” level – as characterized by other board members after Manzone's departure – remains in question. But her grandstanding exit from the board was certainly newsworthy and clearly pointed out the dissension on the board.

All this has resulted in a formal investigation by the CCIU, and a revision of the district's policy which more clearly spells out the requirements for families who send children to the district's schools. All that is a good thing, and should clear the air for most people, who now have online access to letters, documents and a complete history of the investigation.

Can the school district now move forward with the business of educationg students? Of course. Can it do so without the shadow of a doubt about residency? Probably not.

But for the good of the district, it is time to move on.

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