U-CF budget and new press box approved
● By J. Chambless
By JP Phillips
The June 10 work session and June 17 Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board meetings were packed with approvals, discussion, and disagreements on process.
As expected, the board approved the $90,261,207 school budget for 2019-2020. This represents a tax increase of 2.28 percent for Chester County and 2.23 percent for Delaware County.
During the work session, Supervisor of Athletics Pat Crater presented a contract to sell a sign on a planned new stadium press box to Premier Orthopaedics at a cost of $4,200 per year, with the district retaining a one-year renewal option for four years. Many board members were not aware that this signage was for sale. Board member Gregg Lindner asked what type of research was done to determine a fair price for the advertising. Board member Bob Sage questioned whether other companies were approached. Crater responded that Premier came to the district with the offer. Sage also asked if there were any financial relationships with Premier, and Crater replied that one of the doctors is the U-CF paid team physician.
Crater explained that the new press box was not funded by the district, so parents and students were charged with raising the $40,000 expense. During public comments on June 17, Quarterback Booster Club parent and president Erica Burns explained the fundraising efforts done by the club, and said the new press box was really a community effort.
Board member Vic Dupuis spoke about the inadequacies of the current press box -- no heat, no air conditioning, too few electrical outlets and not enough space. Regarding any perceived endorsement by having advertising on the press box, he said that since there are so many advertisers currently associated with the football program, showing favoritism by having Premier signage on the press box is a “diluted risk.”
Board member Tom Day reminded the board that the district could re-evaluate the program at the end of 2020, and not renew the contract with Premier, so it really is a one-year arrangement. The motion to approve the sign passed 7-1, with President Jeff Hellrung voting no. Board member Gregg Lindner was out of the country and not present for any voting.
Based on questions raised by the board in May, Director of Pupil Services Leah Reider was back during the work session to give more details regarding an administration-proposed $25,000 contract with the University of Pennsylvania’s consortium on mental health.
Reider explained that the program would allow a team of five district personnel to work with Penn by attending targeted workshops, customized planning sessions and hosting on-site visits. Penn would provide 150 hours of this type of support. The five district personnel would then integrate the knowledge gained within the district.
“Basically, one in five students, ages 13 to 18, live with a mental health condition,” Reider said, and explained that the district wants to take a proactive versus a reactive stance in dealing with issues.
In response, board members on June 11 showed support for taking steps towards mental health education, but still did not feel that the administration provided enough information to them. Board member Steve Simonson asked about measures of success after one year. Tom Day wanted a more solid plan for how the information will disseminate from those five people to the rest of the school. Bob Sage thought that the district should at least look at other mental health programs to better judge the value of Penn’s program from a price and quality standpoint. However, the board approved the contract with a 7-1 vote on June 17. Jeff Hellrung voted no.
Speaking about the Penn consortium and the Premier sign on the press box, Hellrung expressed his disappointment with the administration’s process during the work session.
“Several things are coming before us without the kind of staff work I would look for,” he said. “Is this a competitive rate? Are there other alternatives? Have we already kind of, sort of, made a commitment and now it is before us? I’m not comfortable with it for many reasons.”
During the work session, Assistant Superintendent John Nolen explained a new approach to teaching math to third through fifth grades that will be piloted at Pocopson in 2019-2020. In all schools, children currently are split into two math levels (one being a faster paced, more in-depth enrichment class) based on their assessed math skills, and tend to stay in those groups for the whole year. Pocopson will add additional assessments at the beginning of each unit or chapter, so students could be reassigned based on their understanding of the upcoming material.
In a phone call, Nolen explained that depending on the grade, Pocopson students could be pre-assessed and regrouped five to eight times per year. He said the pilot program, if successful, will roll out to all schools.
“The thing that we don’t like, and we’ve never liked, is once you’re labeled as ‘You’re in enrichment’ or ‘You’re not in enrichment,’ that can tend to describe who you are as a math student,” he said. “The fact that they [Pocopson math teachers] are being much more nimble pre-assessing and moving students based on their skill and needs is a significant change, and an important change.”
Several new positions were approved by the board, including hiring Kendall Warren in a new position, Director of Special Education.