Patton Middle School principal promoted to district position
● By J. Chambless
By John Chambless
Patton Middle School principal Timothy
Hoffman has been named the new District Director of Curriculum and
Instruction in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, and the
school board approved his hiring at their Feb. 27 meeting.
Hoffman will serve out his year at the middle school while transitioning to his new position, which pays $155,000 per year. The hiring process for a new principal to replace him will begin soon.
District superintendent John Sanville said there were more than 50 applicants for the Curriculum Director position, from inside and outside the school district. “I can tell you that on every step along the way, Tim was the leader,” Sanville said. “After a rigorous process that had four interviews, we are happy to have Tim on board. There's a lot of folks at the middle school who are sad and sorry to see him go, but we are thrilled that we still have him here in the district.”
Board member Jeff Hellrung noted that with recent staffing shifts in the district, “the net effect in salaries will be within about 1 percent once we fill that last position, compared to what we had before. So there will be no significant budget implications for these four recent changes, which hopefully are complete.”
During public comment, former school board member Holly Manzone addressed the board. “Dr. Sanville, last month, in recognition of school directors month, you said 'I've been working with the district since 2007, and with very few exceptions, I can tell you that the folks who have sat around this table have been really hard-working, dedicated people,'” Manzone said. “I would like to know which school directors have been less than honest and hard-working, and on what basis you impugn the character of those individuals.
“Throughout your tenure as superintendent, you've been plagued with complaints about bullying,” Manzone continued. “Do you even understand what bullying is? You can learn about it through the Olweus program that we have been spending thousands of dollars on. What you'll find is that physical bullying is obvious, but there is also verbal bullying and social bullying, which includes things like spreading rumors about someone, or embarrassing someone in public. Your comment about school directors falls into this category.
“But it is not an isolated incident,” she continued. “There are plenty of examples. Maybe your comments were not intended to be hurtful. Maybe they were just a thoughtless choice of words. As the leader of this fine school district, you are in a position of power. If it's OK for you to say hurtful things, then why should our kids be held to a higher standard? Olweus will also tell you that bullying is also about power. Information is power, and you control what information the School Board receives. They base their decisions on what you choose to tell them, and they often jump to your defense when you are criticized or challenged. We can solve the bullying problem in this school district, but only if we can show that bullying will not be tolerated or practiced by the highest levels of district administration.”
Later, during board member comments, School Board president Victor Dupuis, who was listening by phone to the meeting, alluded to the reason for Manzone's departure from the board, when she went to a home to see if a family lived inside our outside the school district. “Bullying does come in many forms. In some cases, it can be board members who camp out at the houses of residents and pretend they know better about residency rules and harassment to the point that they actually have to involve the police,” Dupuis said. “Sometimes it's verbal bullying, where people can make comments and perhaps not recognize how much is actually being done by the administration, because they have not had a conversation with the administration about what's going on with bullying in the district. So I would encourage anyone who has concerns to continue to come forward. I think that Dr. Sanville and his team have done a marvelous job of addressing this issue. I think they will continue to do so.”
Also during public comment, East Marlborough Township resident Jean Best told the board, “I've been concerned about the programs and the spending I've been seeing. As a taxpayer, I'm concerned to see if these programs make sense. First, the Chromebooks [laptop devices being issued to students in the district]. Back on Jan. 21, I asked how much the first year cost, what the projections were for the next five years, as well as the metrics. And while I did receive a lovely 39-page Powerpoint presentation that talked about this, I still don't know what the cost is, and what it is going forward.
“The International Baccalaureate was another program that was up for discussion. I understand it's on hold, but there's been no one coming to these meetings saying, 'Let's do it,' plus a previous board looked at it years ago, and it still wasn't needed. You haven't said no to it, yet, so these are still valid comments. My final one is this ropes course. It's $100,000, and when it was approved as a curriculum change, there was the one lump sum. But again, there was no cost projected to year two, three or four. So this is a ropes course that is going to only benefit one grade at a time, roughly 350 kids. I'm not a fan of asking for forgiveness instead of permission for something like that. It seems like something needs to be done to benefit more of the students for that amount of money.”
The board unanimously approved two expenditures that were discussed at last month's work session. The Patton Middle School rooftop HVAC unit will be replaced by Reynolds Energy Services at a cost of $2,378,700, and a storage building will be built at Hillendale Elementary School at a cost of $16,639.
During a discussion of pending legislation affecting the district, Hellrung said, “We had a discussion at the work session about legislation from Harrisburg that seems more likely this year than it has in years past. This legislation would eliminate the school property tax, in favor of increased state income taxes and state sales taxes. There is a general feeling around the board and in school boards across Pennsylvania that we may not be able to raise sufficient money for our educational programs if this would happen. There's concern about ceding local control to Harrisburg, which some of us think has not been the most responsible in supporting and funding education. If we lose the ability to do property taxes, individuals and businesses would not pay property tax. There would be a $2.7 billion windfall to businesses, which would no longer have to pay property tax. We talked in our work session about joining many other school districts and passing a resolution opposing this legislation.”
Board member Robert Sage added, “Following the work session, the administration provided an approved resolution from the Downingtown School District on this same issue. I marked that up, and edited it to focus on two points: That we prefer local control of funding, and that taking that away would limit our ability to have local control and decide the appropriate level of taxation in our community. The second point is to ensure that we maintain the flexibility, as a board, to meet needs as they arise, so we don't need to go to Harrisburg to get a change made.”
Board member Gregg Lindner said he would like to rework the wording of the resolution, and suggested posting similar resolutions for public viewing on the district's website to get public comment while the board considers the formal wording.
Sanville said, “I try to stay neutral, but I do feel that as a board, we can probably all agree that SB 76 is not good for our community. It's good that we're united in the concept that this would not be good for our district.”
Hellrung added that the proposal “seems attractive to some at first, but it's not a spending reduction or a tax reduction – it's a tax shift that would relieve businesses of an estimated $2.7 billion in taxes that they pay now, but in effect making Harrisburg a sort of super school board, with control over finances. I hope that we're not going to get too hung up on the language, and will keep the central point in mind. Let's get some input from the community and think about this.”
The board will discuss the resolution next month in their public work session.
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Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.