Unionville Board of Ed. candidate wants to make sure quality education isn’t lost in fiscally-conscious era
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH — Times seem to be changing, according to Victor DuPuis, candidate for Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Board of Education, but he says he’s not entirely sure that change is going to be a good thing for education.
Whereas in the past, school board members were comfortable with leaving the details to school administrators while setting broad policy for the school district, DuPuis said that board members are now increasingly involved in the day-to-day details of the district’s operation.
“I have some concerns about that,” he said. “The other night (Monday night) you had (board president) Timotha Trigg criticizing (assistant superintendent) Ken Batchelor on how textbooks were being rolled out. That’s a big change in leadership style and I think it’s difficult for administrators accustomed to dealing with more of a board of directors.
“It’s going to have fall out, because it’s going to impact who wants to work here.”
DuPuis is facing Robert MacPherson for the Region A seat being vacated by the retiring Corrine Sweeney in the May 17 primary. As both are cross-filed, it is possible that each candidate could win either the Democratic or Republican nomination, meaning the seat will not be settled until the fall election.
He said he remains a bit troubled by the overly public negotiations between the district and its teachers’s union — and whether outside bodies, such as the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association are using the district to fight a bigger battle at the expense of local teachers, students and residents.
“There has to be a resolution,” he said. “but when you negotiate with outsiders, there’s no accountability. Is this a PSEA and PSBA negotiation, or is this a Unionville negotiation?”
He said he also favors looking not just at cost-cutting to keep taxes under control, but embracing public-private ventures to add on to the revenue side of the ledger.
“Why is is such a big deal to call the high school’s science wing the ‘DuPont Science Wing’ or something similar?” he asked. “We need to be able to think outside the box.”
Another specific area DuPuis says he thinks that the district can leverage facilities for the greater good of the community and the bottom line is the new high school auditorium. Whether he gets elected or not, he said that he hopes to form a non-profit group to help turn the 1,400-seat venue into something of a performing arts center for the Unionville area — taxpayers would benefit two ways: being able to get personal use of the facility and potentially rental fees to the district that would generate money at times when otherwise the building would sit empty.
Another big priority is improving the district’s communication with both parents and the larger community.
“Part of the problem is that there’s no effective system to get word out,” he said. “How do you deliver it? If you had a local newspaper covering everything, it might be easier, but we really haven’t had that.”
He said he’s like to see the district get rid of some of the more basic computer classes, such as ones that merely teach the basic of Microsoft Windows and replace them with a technology publication class, and allow students to both learn and help to tell some of the stories of the district.
DuPuis said he thinks highly of his opponent, MacPherson, noting that “the board will be well-served by either of us.”
Where he draws a difference between himself and his opponent is that he feels he and his MacPherson come at school issues from slightly different perspectives.
“I think our main difference is that fiscal constraint is his top priority, versus the experience of the kids, which is mine,” he said. “It’s a subtle difference.”
Still, DuPuis, who ran in 2009 and lost to Keith Knauss and Jeff Hellrung, said he knows there are some people who tie him to the failed high school renovation bond referendums.
“Two years ago, I was painted as the Darth Vader of taxes,” DuPuis said. “And there were two guys running as Luke Sykwalker and Han Solo. We’re two years further away from a bad referendum and I think there’s less anger, time softens people’s perceptions.
“And frankly, I never was as pro-spending as I was portrayed,” he said, noting that while did back the referendum, his background as a financial planner makes him fairly conservative, especially when it comes to spending.