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UCF School Board proposes putting surplus into Hillendale renovations

11/14/2017 10:29AM ● Published by J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The extra money that the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District found itself with recently will probably be put toward the cost of replacing the HVAC system at Hillendale Elementary School.

At their Nov. 13 meeting, the school board heard from Robert Cochran, the director of business and operations, about the work at the school that has a price tag of $2,373,175. That pretty well matches the projected surplus of $2,196,089, which arose from better-than-expected health care costs and special education costs to the district.

“Basically, this will fund the HVAC work at Hillendale,” Cochran told the board. “I want to be clear that there are no new things that are contemplated to be paid for with this money. This is all stuff that has been discussed as part of the 10-year plan that we looked at this past January. It's all for the HVAC at Hillendale and the related projects.”

The board will vote at their Nov. 20 meeting whether to proceed with the full transfer of the funds.

The board will also vote next week on approving new courses for the middle school and high school – “Traditional Algebra 1,” “Academic Statistics,” “Engineering Design and Development,” “American Voices: Study of Composition,” “American Voices: Study of Literature,” “Analysis and Critique: Study of Literature and Cinema,” and “Analysis and Critique: Study of Peace and Conflict.” The additional courses will not require hiring additional teachers, according to assistant superintendent John Nolen.

The board continued a discussion of Policy 322, which covers gifts to teachers and support staff from families. Board members have wrestled with the issue of allowing token gifts, without allowing lavish gifts that could possibly sway an instructor's judgment. Where to draw the line has been extensively discussed, and the draft of the new policy stated that the district officially discourages the acceptance of gifts “that would appear to impair professional judgment or exploit the relationship,” rather than attempting to put a dollar value on potential gifts.

Board members Gregg Lindner and Tom Day said that they didn't want the district to discourage gifts. “I want our teachers and support staff to use good professional judgment,” Day said.

District superintendent John Sanville said he would take the policy back to revise the wording again, possibly to say that while the district encourages gifts, there are specific guidelines to follow.

The district's policy on suspending students, and what infractions call for suspension, was the topic of almost an hour-long discussion, with members agreeing that allowing a suspension to follow a student on their transcript is perhaps too harsh a punishment for teens who may make one bad decision.

The subject will be discussed further, but at the end of the meeting, a resident rose to speak to the board about the issue.

“I'm here as a grandparent of a sophomore suspended for a very poor decision,” she said. “She submitted to peer pressure at age 15. She's devastated. She's a shell of her former self. I was pleased to hear the conversations you were having. She was suspended for 10 days. She had a 4.0 average that's been severely impacted by the suspension. I agree that five days is more than enough to let a kid know they've done something wrong.”

Citing figures that 89 percent of the colleges in the nation will disqualify a student with a suspension on their transcripts, “that leaves 11 percent of colleges that will even consider looking at you,” she said. “And that is just a very tough battle to overcome. The greatest gift we can give a child is a good education. If a suspension stays on a record for a first-time infraction, what chance do they have? I hope that you will institute a policy that takes into account other opportunities, because a kid, at age 15, doesn't need to have their life torn apart. I would appreciate anything you can do to help my granddaughter and the other children who were suspended to achieve the quality of education and the college future that they are hoping for.”

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


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