CCIU report backs Unionville admin. on residency issue

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Four-month independent study supports both policy and questions about a specific case

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
UCFLogoWebEAST MARLBOROUGH — The Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) said Tuesday its independent investigation of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District’s handling of residency issues revealed that the district acted in good faith and in a manner consistent with state law.

The outside review of the residency policy and its enforcement, following the resignation of board member Holly Manzone in October, 2013, after she claimed the district was not enforcing its own policy and allowing children who did not truly live in the district to attend district schools.

“The existing residency policy is sound,” concluded Dr. Joseph J. O’Brien, CCIU executive director, following a four-month review process that included cost data analysis, interviews with the superintendent and board members, including Manzone, and an examination of UCFSD’s and 14 other suburban school districts’ residency practices.

District officials thanked the CCIU for the independent review, which can be read here.

“The board wants to thank the CCIU for conducting this independent review,” said UCFSD Board of Education President Victor Dupuis Tuesday. “Our aim all along has been to make sure we follow the law and do the right thing for taxpayers and students. It is reassuring to hear that everyone acted in good faith and that we now have the right policies and procedures in place.”

Dupuis also said he felt the report vindicated the administration and majority of the board’s position that the matter had been handled properly.

“I want to underscore the point made in the report that our superintendent did everything right,” Dupuis said. “He followed policy, acted aggressively, fully investigated and took appropriate action. No deals were made with this superintendent or board. This should put to rest any uncertainty.”

UCFSD Superintendent Dr. John Sanville inherited the issue when he was became superintendent on Sept. 1, 2011 — an issue that had been ongoing through a number of administration teams dating back to 2004. The case involved a complicated issue with a family that owned property in the district and had established residency there, but also owned property in a neighboring community. students attending UCFSD schools.  Some alleged that Sanville had made a deal with the family in question, a charge he strongly denied at the time. Sources close to the district at the time suggested the matter was far from a cut and dried situation because of the residence in the district and the potential to create issues with numerous other families, especially those in divorced families with joint custody and one parent living in the district and one living outside of it.

After much public controversy — and comments on The Times’ comment boards — in Feb. 2014, Sanville asked the CCIU in February of 2014 to undertake an outside review of the review case, and UCFSD residency policies and practices as a whole.

Regarding the specific residency case, the investigation determined that Sanville had not made a deal with the family.

“There was no deal made by Dr. Sanville and/or the UCFSD Board with the family in question,” concluded Dr. O’Brien. “Dr. Sanville inherited this residency case from the previous administrative team – and he was the first superintendent to move on the family in question. He was motivated to do so by the good intentions of Dr. Manzone to bring this issue to the attention of the Board and administration.”

In terms of the broader residency policy, the CCIU report backed the current policy and current administrative guidelines, but suggested that the residency point person for such issues should be the district’s Director of Business and Operations, Robert Cochran, as it his job to, as the CCIU statement put it, “to protect and conserve the district’s resources.”

O’Brien praised the district and board for being willing to look closely at its policies in this area and update them as needed.

“The Unionville-Chadds Ford Board has undertaken a comprehensive review of their residency policies and procedures – making sound changes to the existing policies and procedures – and even implementing whole new policies to supersede the old policies,” said Dr. O’Brien.

The report also looked at the costs of residency investigations and found that UCFSD was in line, if not lower than neighboring districts.

Over a three-year period, the CCIU said, the district spent about $37,805 on student residency issues, while per pupil cost of services in UCFSD is more than $18,700. The CCIU compared that number with 14 other districts in Chester and Delaware counties, and the report concludes UCFSD spends an appropriate amount of money and time on student residency issues.

“The specific reputation of UCFSD is truly world class – and this is the school district of choice for many people,” O’Brien said. “Unfortunately, such a quality school district can become very attractive to non-residents who live in nearby areas, and the school district must assume the burden of ensuring that taxpayers of Unionville-Chadds Ford do not pay for the educational program of non-residents.”

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33 Comments on "CCIU report backs Unionville admin. on residency issue"

T Hewston
1 year 2 months ago

Having the review performed by the CCIU who has a business relationship with the UCFSD is a clear conflict of interest. It would have carried more weight if the District Attorneys Office was involved.

Kristin Hoover
1 year 2 months ago

TE Resident is correct that anger doesn’t make truth. It also doesn’t make the problem go away. Why would a Superintendent repeatedly send multi-page letters to a family who owned a business in the District over several months and even demand repayment of $24,000 in tuition and then suddenly turn into Gilda Radnor’s Rosenne Rodanadana character with a few sentence oh-never-mind letter? He even sets aside any reimbursement to the District and allows the children to attend on a we-trust-you basis. I could park any car anyplace and that hardly means that I live there, but the District chooses to assume that a parked car is evidence of residency. There was an earlier “deal” between the School District and the family and Keith Knauss himself even chose to use the word “deal” in his April 24, 2014 e-mail to Joe O’Brien. The father of the children tells Dr. Manzone he has a “deal” (using that word) with Dr. Sanville. Moreover, Sanville even goes so far as to revise the residency policy in an attempt to codify his sleeping 4 nights a week idea. There is nothing in PA code about 4 nights a week (during the school year one assumes)! The “4 nights/wk” scenario was all Sanville. Forget electing legislators or court decisions because UCFSD has Sanville making it up! Given the lost tuition, the amount spent on this case and the amount spent on the solicitor (another secret that would take an RTK request that Sanville would likely turn down given his record) to redo the residency policy, the amount of money this ONE family has cost the taxpayers of the district is well over a 100K dollars. Let me see, based on the average assessment, how many taxpayers does it take to educate the children of this ONE family? You get the idea…..

Here is another idea for anybody outside of UCFSD who wants to send their kids there. Go rent or buy the smallest, cheapest place you can find and call it your business or your residence as it doesn’t actually matter. Even if you buy something, have no fear telling your mortgage company that another location is your primary residence as that won’t carry any weight with the District. Go enroll your kids in UCFSD and occasionally keep a vehicle parked overnight at that location during the school year at least. Have no fear about having any lights on in the evenings or any other evidence of habitation. Congratulations as you will now meet the UCFSD residency policy!

Ah….now an even better idea occurs to me…..real estate is expensive in UCFSD….so why don’t multiple families go together and rent/buy a place in the District? They could take turns keeping something parked there….ah who cares if the car even runs since it is basically a prop? They all go down and enroll in UCFSD and if asked (which they won’t be) they all pledge to follow the Sanville 4 night/week rule. The more kids the better since it only takes one business property. There are so many under-performing school districts locally. Chester Upland has had it’s troubles and if you give a child a good education they have a chance. Yes….I must stop what I am doing here and spread the word!

TE Resident
1 year 2 months ago

Anger does not make truth, yet it is a remarkably used technique used by public officials in many school Districts.I guess because it is a natural human tendency and also because it works. Body language, mean stern stares for no reason other than to intimidate: Great recipe to keep citizens from asking questions and giving opinions.

1 year 2 months ago

So Knauss’ comments aren’t “protected free speech” but some suggesting that an official is corrupt just because “it must be true” with no facts, evidence or frankly anything beyond you wanting it to be true is protected speech?


TE Resident
1 year 2 months ago

A reasonable person understands that resorting to mock and ridicule is cowardly.

When public officials resort to ridicule, their arguments have no merit and should be ignored until the next election day when voters can replace them with a representative who understands basic rules of civility.