U-CF School Board approves teacher contract
● By J. Chambless
By John Chambless
There were plenty of final decisions
made at the April 16 Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board meeting, but
one of the most intriguing points was brought up in discussion and
should garner plenty of public interest in the future.
Board president Jeff Hellrung commented about cellphone usage, particularly at Unionville High School. “We expect to be using Chromebooks in grades 6 to 12 next year, and that means that cellphones are no longer needed for academic purposes, because the Chromebooks will do that,” he said. “We've also, through our wellness initiatives, been made aware of some of the dangers of excessive cellphone use. We're certainly aware of the distraction that cellphones can pose in an educational setting. Our speaker [author Dr. Jean M. Twenge] last week went so far as to suggest banning cellphones in our high school. That suggestion was met with pretty strong approval by a group of about 100 residents who showed up for that presentation. However I don't think we're ready for a cellphone ban in our district.”
District superintendent John Sanville added, “We're not suggesting that we ban cellphones. But Jeff and others have raised some questions about our students and screen time – what is a healthy way to use their cellphones and other devices, and how we can strike a balance. As an administrative team, we will look at some of the things we do with kids to make sure that cellphone use in schools is appropriate.
“Clearly, at the K-8 level, students don't use their cellphones during the school day. Let's make sure at the high school level that we're encouraging students to use their phones and devices in the best way possible,” Sanville said. “We'll come back after we've done some work with the curriculum team on this.”
School Board vice-president Victor Dupuis said, “This is a subject where we should tread carefully. Whatever the process is to evaluate this, it should involve the parents and community members. It also involves our staff. When the time is right to have a conversation about this, it should incorporate the thoughts of all the stakeholders who are going to be impacted by this.”
Hellrung said a cellphone ban is in force at Salesianum High School in Wilmington, Del., but “a ban is not on the table here. It's not going to be proposed. What is going to be proposed is responsible use of cellphones in our educational setting. We're learning that the average student may be on their phone six to eight hours a day. … We're not going to solve the problem, or tell parents what to do, but I think it would be appropriate for us to model appropriate cellphone use in the educational setting.”
The board's student representative, Gavin Brezski, commented, “I very much believe that we do have an issue with cellphones at the high school. If you go down to the lunchroom, everybody's on their phones during lunch. Snapchat is the entirety of what students are doing during their lunches. The only conversation is about what's on other people's Snapchat.”
He said that phones “do pose a distraction to instruction, which is why I think something should be done. I look forward to hearing the discussion.”
At the beginning of the meeting, the board paid tribute to Curtis Barr, who is retiring after 40 years in the district. Barr taught for nine years at Patton Middle School, 12 years at Unionville Elementary School, three years at Hillendale Elementary School, and 16 years at Chadds Ford Elementary School.
The board voted unanimously to approve the collective bargaining agreement between the district and the Unionville Chadds Ford Education Association. The new teacher contract is a four-year extension, with a 2.99 percent increase in base salaries. Dupuis, who was the chairman of the bargaining committee, commented, “This was a very collegial and productive process. Both sides of the table worked cooperatively. It was a privilege to be part of it.”
The board voted to hire James Whitesel as the supervisor of buildings and grounds, replacing Rick Hostetler in that position, effective July 1. Hostetler announced his retirement several months ago.
The board approved the Special Education Comprehensive Plan for the district, the CCIU operating budget, as well as the Technology Integration Plan, which imposes a $50 technology fee per family.
Facilities improvements included approval of $19,586.19 for new carpeting at Unionville Elementary and Pocopson Elementary, and $45,966.20 for paving and seal coating throughout the district. The board also approved the purchase of two 77-passenger buses, one 48-passenger mini-bus, two nine-passenger transit vans, and one F-350 pickup truck with a snow plow, at a total cost of $344,235.
Among policies that were approved was Policy 218, the Code of Student Conduct, which has been discussed for several months. Wording was added to the policy to allow recision of a suspension for first-time offenders, under certain conditions. Previously, a student who violated some rules faced mandatory suspension and a mark on their transcript that could prevent them from being accepted at a university of their choosing. The vote for approval of the revised policy was 7-2.
More information about the board, and a link to videos of board meetings, are available at www.ucfsd.org.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.