U-CF School Board reflects on facilities plan moving forward
● By J. Chambless
By John Chambless
The members of the Unionville-Chadds
Ford School Board had plenty of items to vote on during their Sept.
24 regular meeting, but much of their attention was on the plan laid
out last month for major projects at school athletic fields.
On Sept. 17, the board saw the results of a study by K&W Associates that outlined a long list of possible projects, ranging from relatively simple and inexpensive fixes to new buildings that would cost upwards of $1.5 million at the Unionville High School and Patton Middle School campuses. There has been some concern among residents that the board was green-lighting a $20 million project, but the board members emphasized that the study was merely an outline.
Board member John Murphy commented that, “We commissioned K&W to do a study and give us some options, and that's what they did. I thought it was money well spent. It was something we've been talking about for years. We have options before us. Some things we should do in the short term, some things maybe long term, and some things we should not do at all.”
In light of some comments that balls from one athletic field often stray onto other fields, Murphy said, “I think it's a good idea to not have baseballs and softballs flying onto Route 82, or onto track meets and lacrosse games. It's time to fix that. We're going to make decisions in a deliberate, thoughtful, transparent process, like we do with everything.”
Board member Gregg Lindner added, “It's been interesting to see some of the feeback we've gotten. Some people have asked us to do everything [on the plan], and other people have made other statements about it. The one thing that I get a little agitated about is the comments about use by outside groups such as the Kennett Athletic Association and the Southern Chester County Soccer Association. In the seven years I've been on the board, there were two occasions when we've done investigations of the in-kind contributions we receive from organizations such as these. During both investigations, we found we got at least as much, if not more, back than what we spent on the fields and preparation work. We're not bulding fields for anyone else. I wish some of the commentary that I've received – some from former board members -- would just stop. Stop picking on those groups. We'll make our decisions about how to move forward with the fields, but it won't be to build them for those groups.”
Board member Carolyn Daniels commented, “In our district, something like two-thirds of the stakeholders do not have children in school. I think it would be great to have their feedback [on the facilities plan]. As antiquated as it is, mail coming to someone's mailbox is best way to insure that information is delivered. And if they don't choose to respond, so be it. But at least, as a district, we can say that we tried to get it out to every single person.”
Board president Vic Dupuis responded, “Where do we draw the line when it comes to reaching out to everybody? We've got to start thinking about that.”
“To do something like a postcard mailer is probably $2,500,” Lindner said. “It strikes me that the people who complained about the $16,000 we paid to do the study would also complain about the cost of sending out the postcards. I understand theat there's a need to try to communicate with the community, but there's a lot that's already been done. If people want to know about the board meetings, they know about the website [www.ucfsd.org], they know about the live streaming of these meetings, and they can see what discussion has taken place at any time. Also, we don't have a final plan here. We just had a vision that was laid out.”
Changes to the district's policy on student discipline, Policy 218, are in the works, with two more meetings on the exact wording before adoption of the revised policy. The change came about after public outcry that student suspensions after incidents at a Unionville High School football game were too severe.
Board president Jeff Hellrung said, “I'd like to praise work of the committee on Policy 218. Our current system has been a routine and automatic assignment of punishment in regard to disciplinary offenses. We can do better. What I'm seeing in the recommendations that are coming from the committee are that it clarifies our values, communicates rights and reponsibilities, it's going to increase safety and security, it's going to reduce unintended disciplinary consequences, it's going to promote an atmosphere of mutual respect, and it calls for a comprehensive evaluation after the first year of running it. Most importantly, it turns student misbehavior into learning and growth opportunities.”
Updated district information is available at www.ucfsd.org.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.