UCF appoints Anderson to board

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Board votes to reject hiring additional teacher for Hillendale

By Karen Cresta, Staff Writer, The Times

AnersonTakesOath

Elise Anderson takes the oath of office during Monday night’s Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education meeting.

EAST MARLBOROUGH – The Unionville Chadds Ford School District (UCFSD) Board of Education held its regular meeting last night that went past 11:00 p.m. as much more debate was held regarding adding a new .4 language arts teacher to the third grade at Hillendale based on class size. Newly elected board member Elise Anderson, retired member Keith Knauss’ replacement, cast her vote against adding the additional teacher as her first order of business on the board.

Anderson won the final vote with the five necessary for the appointment over candidates Al Iococca (two votes) and Jeanne Best (three votes). Board president Vic Dupuis swore in Anderson and welcomed her to a seat at the table.

During the fourth week of public and board comment and debate regarding classroom size, the board finally voted on the issue of adding a .4 teacher (and not about adding a third section). The vote occurred after a lengthy presentation by board member Robert Sage about each elementary school’s 3-5th grade class sizes, Pocopson being a larger school but also at its max in some classrooms, and that the circumstances at Hillendale are not unusual. He went over PSSA data, although limited, and it did not indicate class size made any difference in student outcomes. Sage also concluded that the administration consistently and fairly administered class size guidelines and made exceptions under narrow circumstances in the best interest of all students in all schools.

Do responded to the presentation by stating, “The class experience is in my mind the priority…While I appreciate the time that you spent with the study and you obviously spent a lot of time on it, I’m not sure you addressed that issue and I know that is the issue the parents are most concerned.”

Dupuis addressed the Hillendale parents in the audience by saying, “It’s been suggested that this advocacy group deserves a vote. I respectfully disagree. You deserve a decision, not a vote. Sometimes votes are necessary but when we already know the outcome, they are merely points of inflammation that add no value to the continuing discussion. I personally do not think this deserves a vote. As to the issue at hand and specifically the proposal to force the administration to add a section, I have to say we have still not heard any tangible, documented, irrefutable reason from any board member as to why this is necessary.”

“Perhaps more frustrating to me is this..,” Dupuis continued, “none of the board members proposing the change have visited, monitored, or observed the actual classes in action for extended periods of time, in some cases, none at all… Finally, none acknowledged, when pressed on their concerns, the parents of this advocacy group representing these classrooms aren’t advocating that class sizes be reduced by one or two students. They are advocating the reduction of four, five, or six students… That’s not a solution were prepared to deal with as a board, particularly tonight. It requires more study.”

Dupuis concluded that the only ones who have studied the class sizes in depth throughout the school district is the district administrators and that their judgement is best and should not be questioned toward a “vote of no confidence.” Dupuis mentioned his greatest fear of creating a wedge between parents and teachers, teachers and administrators, the district and the community and ended by saying, “Responsible board governance demands better behavior from us.”

Along with newly elected Anderson, board members who also voted against adding the .4 position at Hillendale was Sage, Dupuis, Jeff Hellrung and Steve Simonson. (Do, Gregg Lindner, Michael Rock and Carolyn Daniels voted for the additional position.)

The motion did not carry and moving forward, the board honored Do and recognized the mark she made as a board member over the last four years.

“You should be proud of the legacy you are leaving behind,” Superintendent of Schools John Sanville stated.

“You taught me how to be a better board member… You’re going to be sorely missed,” said Rock.

Daniels added as she presented flowers to Do, “You are passionate and you are just excellent in everything you do.”

“Your message has been heard. You made a difference,” said Hellrung.

Do wiped tears as Lindner spoke, “We went on this path together and once we were on the board, Kathy taught me things that I didn’t know existed within the school system…I couldn’t have done what I did without Kathy doing what she did…I’ve made a friend for life and to me there is nothing that could replace that.”

Dupuis echoed what the board already said and added that Do was an active listener and “will continue to advocate.”

Do received a standing ovation, made her last curriculum report, and read her prepared statement that thanked the board, administrators and principals, teachers and students. She cried when she addressed the students by saying, “Challenge yourselves to be the best you can be. Do not ever be intimated by fear you cannot keep up with the next student. Above all – be kind. Care about each other. Stand up for each other. I will never stop rooting for you and the wonderful adults you will become. If you want to dance, then dance.”

Do got up to leave the room during her second standing ovation and gave hugs to board members. She left with her family members as the board went back to business.

The principals of each of the six schools in the district provided the UCFSD Growth and Achievement Report. Each principal, Shawn Dutkiewicz (Chadds Ford Elementary), Steve Dissinger (Hillendale), Clif Beaver (Pocopson), acting principal John Nolen (Unionville Elementary), Tim Hoffman (Patton Middle School) and Jim Conley (Unionville High School), took turns presenting their respective school’s points of pride, standardized testing results, and goals for improving in opportunity areas.

Even though the meeting reached past the 10:00 hour, Rock made a lengthy prepared statement disparaging all the weight put on the PSSAs.

“Given the fads in education, this too shall pass. I want to applaud our teachers and our administrators for making the best of a very bad situation.  I doubt these test have any long running effects but we’re stuck with them,” Rock said.

“My fear is that we do less of the latter, that is, engage kids in creative stuff then we would otherwise do because we’re trapped in a testing system that really pushes us in a direction to do things that was never designed for us and it takes up an enormous amount of energy. My hope is that we, the school board, can take the same kind of time and energy that we did this evening to explore and learn about the great things that our students and teachers do that don’t have a damn thing to do with standardized tests. I’d much rather spend my time doing that than listening to this although I know your trapped in it and you’ve got my condolences,” Rock concluded.

Hellrung agreed with most of Rock’s comments but mentioned that it’s only a test taken once a year that the district learns and grows from the results. 

All board documents can be referenced on the district website at www.ucfsd.org. The reorganization meeting will be the only meeting held on December 7, in the district office. The proposed preliminary budget will be voted on at that time.

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10 Comments

  1. TE Resident says:

    Pretty sure this is really the last comment:

    Newly elected board member Elise Anderson, retired member Keith Knauss’ replacement, cast her vote———– against———– adding the additional teacher as her first order of business on the board.

    Is there one citizen in Keith and Jeff’s district who thinks differently than they do? Just wondering, maybe someone should find them.

    • Sandy Beach says:

      I believe in small class size. However,in this case, Elise and others made the right call. The vote was not for adding an additional teacher (1.0 position) but a .4 LA position. That was done at another school two years ago. It ended up not being favorably received by anyone…teachers, students, and parents, so let’s learn from previous mistakes. There are many reasons for the negative reviews of this option for trying to solve larger class sizes that I won’t go into in this comment, but suffice it to say, they are legitimate and came about from those who lived it. Had the vote been to decrease class size by adding a full-time third grade teacher, then I applaud anyone votes yes. However, many positions would then need to be added in other grades and schools, too. It’s a good decision to globally look at class size in the district as a whole rather than “band-aid” this particular situation in 3rd grade at HES.

      • TE Resident says:

        Thanks for the information Sandy Beach. What is a .4 LA position? I have never heard of it and I would like to know why it wasn’t favorably received by anyone………..teachers students and parents at another school 2 years ago. If the reasons you have for negative reviews are valid and shared by all segments —parents, teachers and students–then why did 4 Board Members vote for it? Carolyn Daniels has children in the district, is very involved and so I’m assuming knows what she voted for when she voted for a .4LA position.

        It’s a good decision to globally look at what’s best for students first and tax payers second in all districts rather than treating both groups like after thoughts in a system that has become about everything and everyone but said groups.

        • Sandy Beach says:

          .4 means that a teacher would be hired just for an additional LA class. Additional staffing for math and/or LA makes for smaller class sizes for those subjects but then the remainder of the day and subjects, the class sizes would be larger. Depending on how the students are divided can result in students having 3 teachers instead of 1 or 2 (since they are grouped for math already) and can limit the seamless nature of an elementary class. There can be no flexibility to complete math or LA work later in the day if you have a different teacher. The additional teacher may not be available during 3rd grade lunch/recess for extra help. The students can feel fragmented and not part of any class. They may be subjected to 3 different teaching styles, and it’s hard to develop a classroom community when you are with the students for minimal time. Materials management can be very problematic. Collaboration with 2-3 teachers about shared students and grading is difficult enough in the course of a day, but when one of the teachers is part-time, it’s even more challenging. And the list goes on…. I’m guessing Board members who voted yes were voting for the concept of smaller class sizes and felt they were listening to the voices of concerned parents. The remaining Board members voted to follow the administration’s professional recommendation, which was probably based on their knowledge, as well as a more global viewpoint about class size throughout the district.

          • TE Resident says:

            Thanks Sandy but I don’t find your reasons valid justifications for this decision.

            1.) The seamless nature of the class will be limited?

            2.) “Can be” no flexibility to complete assignments later in the day?

            3.) The teacher “may not” be available later in the day?

            4.) The students “can feel” fragmented?

            And the list goes on. Come Sandy, these are all things “that could be” happening now.

            Anytime extra support is added by adding a teacher in any capacity, logic dictates, is a good thing.

  2. TE Resident says:

    This is probably my last comment on the matter. To parents and tax payers:

    Vic was a shoe in for the position because he ran unopposed. That is on us folks. Very very sad. Leaders for the tax payer and students better step up in the next election.

  3. TE Resident says:

    Oh, and the parents, we lose too. We’re so marginalized, I forgot about us too. Shame on me.

  4. TE Resident says:

    Sad day. School Budgets are high and grow higher every year. Education has become about everything and everyone but the students, How long did it take to O.K. the new office space and raises and bonuses for those who occupy them? Did you conduct a study? My guess would be no. Who recommended them? My guess would be those that benefit from them. Sad and disappointing day. As usual the tax payer and the students lose.

    Thanks Kathleen Do. I will miss you, and your passion for the students. Move to TE. We need you.

    • Kathleen Do says:

      Thanks, TE, but Unionville-Chadds Ford will always be first in my heart. Thank you, also, for the kind things you have said about me over the years. It’s always good to know that someone is listening.

      • TE Resident says:

        Thanks Kathleen you’re welcome here anytime. I’m not a Dem but we’ve got some good ones and I know they would love you.

        Sage says:

        He went over PSSA data, although limited, and it did not indicate class size made any difference in student outcomes. Sage also concluded that the administration consistently and fairly administered class size guidelines and made exceptions under narrow circumstances in the best interest of all students in all schools.

        I know that studies, reported by NPR say that Administrators make no difference in students outcomes either, yet every district I know continues to grant them outlandish raises and bonuses, because they simply ask for it and as Keith stated when justifying the Assistant supt.’s 8%, $15,000, per year raise, they “deserve it.” Don’t the students deserve the best? Don’t he parents? And how about the tax payers, who pay for all this but make way less than Administrators and many teachers and who will not get anywhere near in retirement that either segment gets.

        http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/09/04/345503073/the-myth-of-the-superstar-superintendent

        But do they really matter when it comes to student success?

        “We just don’t see a whole lot of difference in student achievement that correlates with who the superintendent happens to be,” says Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. He’s a co-author of what’s likely the first broad study to examine the link between superintendents and student achievement.

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