CCIU report backs Unionville admin. on residency issue

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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Tags: board of education, chester county intermediate unit, residency, Unionville-Chadds Ford School District
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33 Responses

  1. Their report turns out to be exactly what we predicted…a vindication of Sanville by a group that could ill afford to tick off their UCFSD representative. CCIU is dependent on funding from each District so it can hardly be claimed to independent. If anybody doubts the existence of a cover up by the Board, Sanville and now Joe O’Brien by the CCIU, then read the chronology and letters in the report and ask yourself what happened between July 18th 2012 and August 10, 2012 letters or ask yourself why the investigation reports were never disclosed (even to Board members).

  2. Oh boy, here we go with the conspiracy crowd…

    • They are trolling so I will keep my comments brief. They get all worked up by the truth!

      • I don’t know what that means.

      • As the old saying goes, “you learn something new every day.” I googled “trolling internet” and this is the Wikipedia definition:

        In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people,[1] by posting inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[4]

        Are you familiar with this term because this is what you do? Might seem like it to me.

  3. Reminds of me when Governor Christy had those around him investigate him. The outcome was the same. When you’re investigating yourself, there’s only one outcome.

  4. So good to know that Ms. Hoover still has nothing better to do. That is a relief. Her hatred is beyond the scope of normal. She really needs to focus on CCIU now. Glad she is in California…no problems there….

    • I don’t find her opinion inappropriate. She’s talking about CCIU because they were the investigative agency. I wouldn’t characterize that as “focusing on CCIU now” Please don’t overstate something to make it sound more than it really is. Are you the one with the anger issues?

      • “Open Eyses” is only protecting his buddies on the Board because it is in his own best interest.

  5. Name calling and making me the issue don’t take away from the fact that the tide (as evidenced by comments on this report in other newspapers) are not on the Board or Sanville’s. Mike is clearly pro-Sanville/Board because he believes it to be in his best interest.

    • I’m reluctant to engage you on this issue because it is not likely to lead to rational discussion, but how on earth can you reach that conclusion? Let me summarize the facts: (1) the family has two homes, one in district and one out of district. (2) in 2004, a residency issue was raised. (3) the then-Superintendent told the family that if they maintained voter registration and driver’s license addresses at the in-district home, that would be fine (this was not legally correct but the family was told it). (4) this situation continued for years until 2011 when Sanville became Superintendent. (5) Holly Manzone raises the residency issue to Sanville when he starts as Superintendent (6) Sanville consult the District’s solicitor who says that the children can only attend where the actually live, i.e., spend most nights sleeping. (7) Sanville gets surveillance done by a PI proving the family lives out-of-district (8) Sanville tells family “you don’t live here, you are dis-enrolled” (9) family meets with Sanville, says “what does it mean to “live in the district” Sanville says “sleep in the in-district home four nights per week” (10) family says “fine that’s what we will do” (11) Family’s children stay enrolled, District does surveillance to prove where family is living but the surveillance is not definitive as to where the children sleep most nights – but they are sleeping some nights in the in-District home (12) Dr. Manzone does her own “surveillance” of the out-of-district home which leads to State Police involvement.

      Pray tell, what did Dr. Sanville do wrong here?

      • What did Sanville do wrong? Ah….let me count the ways! Using your style: 1) failed to release the investigation reports to members of the board or the public or the CCIU; 2) failed to understand that he represented the taxpayers and residents of the UCFSD when he provided the family with advice on how to beat the system with the court cases (even though they aren’t even applicable) and then, if that is not enough, he even went beyond the law and Court decisions by telling the family it would be fine if the children spent four nights a week at the business; 3) failed to be open and transparent about any aspect of this case even with UCFSD School Directors necessitating Dr. Manzone’s actions and subsequent resignation; 4) Made a “deal” with the father (father’s own word) on continuation of the children in the district such that he “set aside” the 24K demand and allowed non-resident children to stay in the District thus making a mockery of the residency issue for the entire district and wasting 37K of taxpayer money used in this process. How can UCFSD go after anybody else if they allow this family to attend and have since at least 2004? 5) Failed to explain to members of the Board or the public why he suddenly changed his mind on residency for this family although he has repeatedly denied the existence of a “deal.” 6) Failed to even demand the full amount of tuition that was due for al the prior years for each child, 7) put CCIU in a bad position that is outside of their scope by requesting a review of this matter. Finally, 8) there is the matter of why it was beneficial to him or his family or the District to do a complete “180” on the residency issue….there are some pretty strong rumors circulating on what that was and who or what group stood to benefit. It clearly wasn’t beneficial to the District to educate multiple children from one family each year for multiple years!

        That family does not have two residences (one in UCFSD and the other in Octarora). It has a professional business practice in Pennsbury Township and a home in Octarora. Mortgage papers show what they consider their primary residence to be which is at variance with Sanville’s opinion.

        • 1) what “investigation reports? The surveillance reports that supported the notion the children don’t live in the district which prompted him to act? 2) wrong – read the cases. If the kids have two houses and spend half their time in the one in district they are entitled to attend UCFSD. There are NO FACTS stating that this idea was FROM Sanville rather than him memorializing the discussions. If the kids spent four nights a week in UCFSD, they would be entitled to attend schools here. 3)huh? where does that come from? Every director except Manzone supports Sanville 4 and 6) nonsense. Sanville inherited an unwinnable situation where the children had been unlawfully permitted to attend UCFSD expressly by permission of the district. How can the District sue the family when the District allowed the family to attend with full knowledge of their situation? 5) There is no indication that Sanville “changed his mind” about anything. He said “you need to live here to attend school here.” 7) huh? How is this outside the scope of CCIU’s involvement and why would they not say so if they thought so? 8) this is disgraceful “tinfoil hat” conspiracy talk and for you to imply that Sanville may have benefited financially from this is borderline defamatory.

          Finally, “mortgage papers” prove nothing about which home people live in. People can, and do, have multiple residences.

  6. Might I note that making unsubstantiated comments based on alleged rumors, that do strongly appear to be libelous are in violation of our terms of service. So, stop.

    And even thought I will undoubtedly be pilloried as “selling out to the man” for saying this — while I certainly have disagreed with (and continue to disagree) with Dr. Sanville on some issues, never once have I ever had any sense that he was acting in any way contrary to what he felt were the best interests of the district and the larger community.

    I have encountered administrators and school board members in other districts (and other states) that I could not say this about.

    This was, at best, a complicated situation. I know everyone involved and do not think for one second there was an intent to defraud or deceive and, as the report points out, everything appears to have been done in good faith.

    Let’s cool the extreme rhetoric and charges and move on.

  7. It is our right to challenge government strongly and it’s not as if we’re picking on anyone who does not have an extreme amount of power and has chosen to put themselves out there.

    By legal definition, government officials have chosen to open themselves up to criticism by becoming public officials. They have a lot of power over our lives from how much they tax us to taking our freedom away.

    Any and all public officials have legally opened themselves up to statements that can be callous or rude or insensitive, even mean spirited. They have legally opened themselves up to personal attacks, like it or not.

    It is constitutionally protected, thank God and God Bless America, that citizens are protected from the government censoring them.

    Politicians need to have a think skin. If you can’t take it, then you better get out.

    Mike, you can censor me and this comment if you want to. You’re the editor, but as a citizen of this country, you scare me.

    • TE Resident,
      You misunderstand the limits of free speech. You have legal a guarantee to say [almost] whatever you want in public. But you confuse the definition of “public” with regards to free speech. You can’t go into a business (e.g. a restaurant or a theater) and say whatever you want. Likewise, this is Mike’s business and he gets to set the rules of who can comment and what appears on his blog. To Mike’s credit he sets the rules loosely so all points of view [however inane and uninformed] are heard.

      • Keith,

        You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t misunderstand anything. His “business” is a newspaper of which he is the editor. He has tremendous power. Just like public officials like you who have extreme power.

        The Supreme Court has ruled that a citizen gets to say pretty much whatever they want about public officials.

        I was just reading the comment section on Chaddsford Live. Clearly, Rich doesn’t feel the same way as Mike and you about citizens posting about public officials.

        • Sigh…

        • Uh, actually, the guiding case for such matters is New York Times v. Sullivan, which I think is the ruling you claim to cite. And while it does raise the bar for comment on public figures — and yes, I’d grant Dr. Sanville falls into that category — the Supreme Court ruling held that “reckless disregard” for the facts and/or malicious intent were grounds for libel judgment. I would argue that both of those factors come into play here, and arguably could constitute libel.

          On the basis of some 30 years in the business and almost 17 years of moderating online forums, I’m pretty good at letting people express themselves as freely as possible without endangering my business or unfairly damaging the reputation of public figures. Obviously, other companies are free to operate as they see fit.

          Beyond legal liability, though, the bigger issue is fairness. I don’t see it as fair to make unsubstantiated and vague charges of corruption against a public official, just because you have a personal axe to grind. If you have specific evidence of wrong doing, bring it to me, or District Attorney Tom Hogan, and it will get investigated.

  8. Well, you can sigh all you want……..Your sighs don’t change the fact that it’s virtually impossible for a public official to win a defamation lawsuit. Private citizens do have rights to privacy that government officials do not, in their private life. Private citizens have a much greater recourse in regards to defamation. This is the price public officials pay so citizens have their free speech rights protected overall when giving their opinion on government actions.

    So let’s be clear Mike and Keith, I have a constitutional right to question local public officials for their actions in just about any way I want . And newspapers and their editors are protected too, but no worries here on that front.

    • So….I explained the settled case law to you, which has been a legal standard for more than a generation and you decide “this doesn’t apply to me?”

      I’m a little at a loss, here.

  9. “Unfairly damaging the reputation of public officials.” Keith, Vic and Jeff publicly diagnose a sitting Board Member as engaging in erratic behavior, they blast citizens in print, viciously attacking them for their opinions and questions and you and the School Board Directors who are supposed to look out for our interests, IMO of course, you certainly are under no obligation to do so as a “business” owner, sit silently by without uttering a word, but the second a tax paying citizen has a thing to say about questioning a public official, you cry foul.

  10. Wow, protection as a newspaper owner and editor doesn’t apply to you because you don’t strongly go against public officials so protection for you isn’t necessary.

  11. Geez, TE, hitting the bottom shelf scotch a little early this morning, aren’t we?

    I’d like to know what right, exactly, is being trampled of yours here. No one is preventing you from starting your own site and expressing your views. Nobody will read your Ted Kaczynski-like rantings, but what the heck.

    What you’re doing here is like walking into someone’s home and taking a dump on the living room carpet and then acting offended when they don’t hold a parade in your honor. Get over yourself.

    • Turk: a bit much, yes? Again — can we just cool it a bit here?

      The sun is shining, it’s lovely outside — might not this be a great time to step away from the computer and enjoy some non-virtual life?

  12. If you pull out TE Resident’s dictionary, you will see that libel involves statements that are false. Where is the false statement here? I believe there was a quid pro quo underlying the decision for the abrupt about face on the residency question for this family. Whether or not this occurred has not been addressed by Sanville. Given the information void and lack of transparency so characteristic of the Board/Sanville, I am left to believe rumors.

    The Sullivan Supreme Court case is an interesting one for many reasons and the part that I remember is about how important it is for citizens to be able to speak out about public officials. If TE Resident and I were fans of Sanville and the Board, people without legal degrees wouldn’t be trying to explain legal decisions and principles. We’re not too dumb to get it; we disagree and we care enough to say it.

    I, like TE Resident, am scared by you, Mike. I’m scared by you in the say way I am frightened by Fox News; MSNBC and the amount of bias that I see in media. When the system is rigged as is apparent in school boards who fail to exercise the proper oversight over Superintendents or the Penn State Board of Regents as noted in the Freeh Report, the media is the last hope for justice. There is no limit to corruption when the checks and balances of a governmental system breakdown. Without justice there is no democracy. Corruption exists in the face of unchecked power.

    I find it particularly distasteful when a word like “libel” is thrown out against those who disagree. I am a private citizen who posts under her own name and there is no concern on the part of the post author or this publication about what is said about me or my reputation. Yet, I routinely read comments that indicate that I must not have a life, that I have anger issues or a vendetta or even imply I might not be mentally stable for being concerned about injustice in UCFSD. If you are going to take the high road on libel issues, then why are my rights not important to protect? Oh, yes….I am the one you don’t like because I don’t agree so anything goes where I am concerned.

    It also goes where Dr. Manzone is concerned. The Board/Sanville sold Holly Manzone down the river the minute she disagreed. They continue to perpetuate nasty and blatantly untrue lies about high speed chases, unsafe conditions, etc. We would never had heard about this residency case if Dr. Manzone hadn’t cared enough to resign in protest. She is a hero in UCFSD and we ought to be thanking her for demanding accountability and for exercising her oversight duty and representing the people who elected her. It is, indeed, a very sad state of affairs in UCFSD.

    • You are “afraid” of Mike? Does this mean you are done posting comments here? Perhaps you and TE Resident can start your own website that I can avoid at all costs.

    • I see Kristin has added a newspaper editor to the list of co-conspirators (3 former school board members, 9 current school board members, 2 attorneys, one CCIU superintendent, several administrators) colluding together in the supposed residency cover-up. Thank goodness this valiant crusader from California continues to provide us with entertainment.

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

    Fascinating.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

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