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U-CF School Board tangles over strategic plan proposals

02/24/2016 11:01AM ● Published by J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Coming towards the end of a marathon meeting of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board on Feb. 22, the prickly statement from board member Michael Rock was a surprise to everyone sitting at the table with him at Patton Middle School.

“Can I be cantankerous?” Rock asked after fellow board member Robert Sage touched upon the district's strategic plan proposal, which has been under discussion for several months. District superintendent John Sanville had just given each board member five proposals from vendors to perform a strategic plan for the district.

“I consider us discussing proposals to go forward with a strategic plan illegitimate,” Rock said. “We created an activity called a strategic plan. It was never discussed at a board meeting. A motion was never made to add it. I came to a board meeting and all of a sudden we have an activity called a strategic plan. That is not very transparent. I even wonder if it's in violation of sunshine laws. That's point one.

“Point two, last year at the end of the budget process, we agreed to put some money aside for strategic planning,” Rock continued. “It came at the end of the process. The way it was added I consider to be illegitimate. Third, I will not participate in any strategic planning activity as long as the budget hasn't been approved. If the board goes forward with the strategic planning activity before the educational budget for next year is approved, I will not participate.”

There was an awkward pause before Sanville responded. “With all due respect, I couldn't disagree with you more. The process could not have been more transparent. I'm sorry you feel that way.”

Board member Gregg Lindner told Rock, “We had talked previously about this being done as part of the budget process. We had said nothing would be done before a budget process took place.”

Board president Victor Dupuis said, “The budget doesn't get formally approved until June. We are going to have budget discussions in March, April and May. As part of that, we'll talk about the strategic plan. It's not out of the question that we could approve the authorization of one of these vendors prior to the June approval of the budget.”

Lindner added, “Approving it before the budget would be disappointing to me. I would hope it would be part of the budget process.”

Sage countered Rock's complaint, saying, “If we go back and look, there was a presentation to the board in January 2015. One of the recommendations was to form a strategic planning committee, so I think that was a transparent suggestion to the board. The board provided feedback at that time. The committee was formed subsequent to that. I would also add that the amount of money that was proposed to add to the budget -- I agree at the last minute -- last year was declined by the board, and was not added.

“I think the facts are incorrect as stated,” Sage told Rock. “In April of 2015, we had a board retreat whose purpose was discussing strategic planning, which we did for about three hours. We discussed the merits of potentially going forward with such a process. I think there's been plenty of discussion in a transparent way.”

When offered another chance to comment, Rock responded only, “I beg to disagree.”

The five proposals will be studied by the board members and discussed at their March work session. Sage said, “For any vendors listening, this is going to be a very competitive process and they will need to sharpen their pencils.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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