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U-CF School Board re-elects Dupuis as board president

12/06/2016 09:57AM ● Published by J. Chambless

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

There was a smooth transition of the leadership of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board at the board's Dec. 5 meeting, with president Victor Dupuis being re-elected to serve another term by a vote of 8 to 1.

Board member Michael Rock nominated fellow board member Gregg Lindner for the president position, but he cast the only vote in favor of Lindner. Later, in a vote for vice-president of the board, Jeff Hellrung was elected by a vote of 7 to 2. There were two votes cast for Lindner as vice-president.

At the beginning of the meeting, district superintendent John Sanville noted the flower sitting at an empty chair at the table and announced that district secretary Denise Miller had passed away on the afternoon of Dec. 5. “She was a dear friend and colleague, and we will miss her dearly,” Sanville said, noting that Miller had been unable to serve as secretary for several months while she was ill. “In recognition of Denise, we have left her place at the table and some flowers there. She was such a great part of our district. This is a great loss to the district, the board, and to me personally.”

The board voted unanimously to hire Justin Webb as the new district office director of technology, effective Jan. 23. Sanville said nearly 50 people had applied for the position. Webb is currently the director of technology for the Springford School District. His new salary will be $131,500 per year.

“I appreciate this opportunity,” Webb told the board. “I was excited to accept the position. The reputation of this school district is great, and I'm extremely excited. I can't wait to get started.”

During public comment, Timotha Trigg of Chadds Ford Township, a former school board member, voiced her opposition to the district adopting the International Baccalaureate program, citing press reports of parent and teacher opposition to the program, which stresses an international curriculum for advanced students.

“Our current AP program is serving our students well,” Trigg said. “Please don't generate controversy by adopting IB when we already have an excellent program in place.”

Former school board member Holly Manzone also addressed the board, saying that, “The IB program is a good one, and the way it was developed is a good idea. But at Unionville, I think it's a terrible idea. I can't believe you're considering it. There are pluses and minuses about IB – there are a lot of good things and it works well in places. I'm glad you're taking the next year to think about it and listen to the public. I don't think it's right for us.”

The board voted unanimously to approve a proposal from Alban Engineering to install a new HVAC system at the middle school, in the amount of $120,700, as part of ongoing renovations at the building. Lindner said, “Alban has been a group that has worked with us previously, they know what our systems look like, so that allows them to do this at a rate that is very appropriate for the work we're asking for.”

The board also voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Ken Batchelor as the assistant to the superintendent, effective Jan. 27. Batchelor has been hired to be the new superintendent of schools in the Radnor Township School District. The board members said they will miss Batchelor's work for the district, and said they will formally comment about him at the board's January meeting. (See related story on Page 5B.)

“Thank you again,” Batchelor said. “Since being a teacher here in 1996, this place has felt like my home. I cannot thank all the people who have helped me. It is with a heavy heart that I leave here, but with much excitement as well. It is hard to leave Unionville-Chadds Ford.”

During board member comments, Michael Rock asked Sanville whether he had followed up with parents who had addressed the board at recent meetings about what they say is intimidation of minority students since the election of Donald Trump. Sanville said he had followed up, and would speak privately about his discussions.

Rock then read from a prepared statement. “I remain disappointed in our board and administration's response to our minority parents,” he said. “They came and identified specific incidents of post-election intimidation of their kids. They both said their children did not feel safe and they asked us to publicly support our minority students. One of them said that our silence sends a message.

“I now know two parents who refuse to come forward to talk about the intimidation of their kids, because they fear what will happen to their kids if they come forward,” Rock said. “In addition, when I sent an e-mail to each board member with an attached New York Times editorial titled 'Bullying in the age of Trump,' I got two responses from board members. One of them said, 'From what my kids tell me, students are handling the election well.' Another said, 'Hey, we cannot and should not be the community police on this subject.' I couldn't disagree more with both.

“So, what is to be done? I do have four recommendations. One, separately, I would like to urge the board, and the district, to issue public statements condemning intimidation of minority students in the district, and pledging to provide a safe school environment. This is what our minority parents asked for.

Two, I would ask the board and the district to hold a series of public meetings to engage our community – our students, our parents, our teachers, our staff and administration -- in a discussion of valuing tolerance and diversity. Three, I think I need – and this board needs -- to engage with the administrative staff in a series of workshops and training in diversity. Finally, I ask that we would build on our strengths by adopting a diversity plan and an annual report.”

Rock distributed copies of a diversity plan used by Bryn Mawr College to each school board member, saying the document wouldn't be an exact fit for the district, but would give an idea of what such a plan could look like.

At the end of the meeting, Dupuis announced that the board is considering John Nolen as a replacement for the assistant superintendent position being vacated by Batchelor. “We're probably going to be asking you to take an even bigger role in the district come January,” Dupuis told Nolen, who was in the audience. “It's a lot of stuff you've been prepared to do for a number of years. “

Nolen, who is currently serving as the director of curriculum and instruction for the district, said, “It's an honor to serve the students and community. If I get an opportunity to work at a higher level, that will be an incredible honor. This is a phenomenal place to work. Thank you for this possibility, and I look forward to the dialogue to come.”

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



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