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U-CF School Board approves proposed final budget

05/15/2018 12:09PM ● Published by J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board, during a marathon three-and-a-half hour meeting on May 14, ultimately approved the proposed final budget for 2018-19 by a vote of eight to one.

The board considered the budget option that was previously recommended by the administration, along with three other options that arose as a result of the relatively high tax increase proposed for Delaware County residents.

The second option was to use part of a surplus from reduced health-care spending to reduce the Delaware County millage increase to 6 percent. The third option was to use all of the surplus to reduce the Delaware County millage increase to 5.7 percent, and the fourth option was to defer the district's capital plan for one year, essentially “kicking the can down the road,” as board member Tom Day said.

In the end, the board agreed that any option besides the one presented by the administration opened the district up to too much risk, and while some on the board weren't entirely pleased with the options, the vote of eight to one was the conclusion.

Under the proposed final general fund budget, the millage rate in Chester County will be 28.51 mills, an increase of 0.35 percent; and in Delaware County, the millage rate will be 25.15 mills, an increase of 6.43 percent. The weighted average is a 1.56 percent increase. Final adoption of the budget and the levying of real estate taxes are scheduled at the June 18 School Board meeting.

The board also heard from administrators and student representatives about a proposed change to the daily schedule at Unionville High School. The change could be put in place for the 2019-2020 school year.

Tim Hoffman, the District Director of Curriculum and Instruction, said the recommendation for the high school will be seven periods during the school day, each one 45 minutes long. There will be a one-hour “lunch and learn” period instead of the three half-hour lunch periods that are currently in place. The schedule would eliminate the morning home room period, so the day would begin with the first period at 8 a.m., lunch would be from 10:27 to 11:27 a.m., and the day would end at 2:43 p.m.

The one-hour period would be “an opportunity for kids to decompress, to meet with their teachers and have conversations with each other,” Hoffman said. “It's also an opportunity for our staff to collaborate. Students would be allowed to go outside to the courtyard, for instance, or remain in the cafeteria, or possibly go to the library or other designated classrooms.”

The aim of the change is to allow students a chance to take a break, interact, catch up on work, and learn to use a bit of unscheduled time during the day. In the 2020-2021 school year, a rotating schedule of afternoon classes will be added to assure that students with after-school activities do not always miss the same instructional time.

There are no changes proposed for the middle school at this time, Hoffman said, but the scheduling committee will be focusing on programming over the next five years to increase peer-to-peer interaction, add advisory periods or make other changes to facilitate student-staff interactions.

During a discussion of upcoming facilities costs, Rick Hostetler, the Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, said that the barn on Doe Run Road is scheduled for demolition. “This will be an action item for next week,” Hostetler said. “The barn is reaching a point where it's going to be a safety concern.” A local company, Barnyard Boys, has offered to dismantle the barn, reuse the wood, and charge the district $4,500 for the labor. The school district will later have to pay to have the stone foundation removed.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board heard about three district employees who will be retiring, including Scott Litzenberg, who has been the director of the Unionville High School Marching Band for 20 years.

Litzenberg, sometimes choking back tears, told the board members, “I see four of you whose kids I had. I came here 20 years ago to make a distinct change in my life, and to gear down from teaching at Upper Darby High School. … This was a chance to come to a place that was struggling, to say the least. One of the reasons they decided to get a new band director that year was that the football parents went to the school board meeting before I was hired and asked that the band stop coming to football games,” Litzenberg said as the board members laughed. “I'm not kidding,” he added. “To say goodbye to the kids recently was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But I know I'm going to a good situation, to take care of some other kids. This wasn't the plan. The plan was at least one more year,” he said, referring to his new position at a Philadelphia-area school where he has been asked to help.

“I'm not moving – we're going to stay in the community,” he said, adding that “one of the best things about working in this district is that they allow you do your job. I thank all of you.”

Updated district information, and videos of School Board meetings, are available at www.ucfsd.org.


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

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