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U-CF School Board mulls how to invest surplus

10/24/2017 02:21PM ● Published by J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

It's a good problem to have, but the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board is discussing how to properly place an unexpected budget surplus of more than $2 million.

At their meeting on Oct. 23 at Unionville Elementary School, the board heard an outline of possible ways to use the $2,196,090 that arose chiefly due to a reduction in healthcare claims of $925,000, as well as a special education control point of $945,000. Last week, the board discussed three options, but the leading one is transferring the whole surplus over to the capital projects budget. Transferring the full amount gives the district the most flexibility. The board is considering its options, and the issue will be voted on in November.

Board member Gregg Lindner said, “This is an unusual thing to happen in the years I've been on the board.” He said he welcomed the additional revenue, but asked if the board could see a mid-year budget statement so they could determine which areas had shortfalls or surpluses before the money is moved. District superintendent John Sanville said that an up-to-the-minute statement would be provided to the board before next month's vote.

Board member Robert Sage said that the money was welcome, but unexpected. “About a third of this was due to health care claims, and that's not something you could predict in a budget cycle,” he said. “There's been some concern at other school districts about budgeting too conservatively. This is not an item that was budgeted conservatively. Health claims are going to go up and down.”

The board approved the purchase of a replacement pickup truck for the maintenance department in the amount of $33,296, and accepted a credit of $39,848.46 from Columbus Construction arising out of renovation work at the middle school.

In a discussion of policies toward the end of the meeting, a policy regarding use of electronic devices through the school wifi was analyzed by Sage.

“I'm concerned about the broadness of the language about things that we are prohibiting in the use of district technology,” he said. “If you look at court cases around First Amendment and freedom of expression for students, there's a balance that the courts have tried to strike between the free expression of students and the school's interest in maintaining an orderly environment. As I read this policy, it seems thast we have not struck that balance properly.”

As an example, he cited the policy's banning of “use of technology resources to transmit words, videos or other depictions that are obscene, indecent, rude, profane or advocate illegal drug use,” he said. “Court cases have covered all of these words, but not 'rude.' I think the use of that word is overly broad and prohibits speech, which frankly, for teenagers, is quite common,” Sage said.

“I want to also call your attention to prohibiting the use of technology resources for political lobbying or campaigning, not including student elecions,” Sage continued. “So if a student wanted to use technology resources to comment on one of our board proceedings, which are political, that would be prohibited. Again, I think that's an overly broad statement. If you go through the policy, every one of our kids has violated it. Having a policy like this is really unhelpful. It can seem arbitary if we go to enforce it. This policy also covers our staff, and I wonder if they have read this policy and undestand what restrictions they are under.”

Sage also pointed out wording in the policy that was unclear, such as prohibiting students from meeting someone they have met online. “I'm not sure why that's the school's business, as to who a student meets when they are using school equipment,” he said. “Perhaps it's referring to dating, but a student could use this technology to set up an appointment with another student to talk about later school start times, for instance. So that's an overly broad statement.”

Board president Victor Dupuis asked Sanville if the board could look over the details and perhaps revise them, and Sanville agreed.

Several board members thanked Sage for his thoroughness, and Dupuis suggested getting student input regarding the policy when it comes to “rude” content. “We want to get this right,” he said. “We can take this as an opportunity to engage other voices in the district.”

For updated district information, visit www.ucfsd.org.


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

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