URA to donate funds to pay for new Unionville scoreboards

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By JP Phillips, Staff Writer, The Times

A rendering of a proposed new scoreboard for Unionville High School’s baseball field. The Unionville Recreation Association has agreed to donate funds to pay for new scoreboards for the schools baseball and softball fields.

The three-plus hour Unionville Chadds-Ford School Board work session Monday night was jammed packed with both good news and difficult issues.

The Unionville Recreation Association (URA), a long-time friend of the Unionville Chadds-Ford School District and user of its many fields and gyms, is donating $46,570 to the school district so it can replace aging softball and baseball scoreboards.   The donation will be formally accepted during the Feb. 26 school board meeting.

Updates to the administration-recommended suspension policy draft concerning a second-chance for  first-time offenders  was debated, getting it ready for a formal “first read” at the Feb. 26 board meeting.  With the exception of eliminating level A offenses from the list, it remained virtually unchanged from what was presented at the January 16th work session. Should the new draft be satisfactory, the board will vote on the new policy during the March school board meeting.

To be clear, this proposal does not address the level A through F incident description or remove the penalties (levels E and F result in suspensions).  According to the policy, it only offers a way for one suspension to be removed from a student’s record, provided no other level B or higher incidents occurs.

The Common Application, used by almost 700 colleges, requires that a student declare whether or not he/she has been suspended.  Many contend that admitting to a suspension would affect a student’s chance of being accepted into the college of his/her choice.

The proposed process states, “The student’s request shall state why the discipline should be rescinded and may include, but is not limited to: the circumstances that resulted in the discipline; regret for the occurrence; what, if anything, the student learned from such discipline; the commitment to remain free of any discipline throughout High School if rescission were granted.”

“The Superintendent will not hold a hearing, but will consider the request on the basis of the documentary record, the seriousness of the offense, and such further investigation as he deems appropriate. At his discretion, he may request a meeting with the student and his or her parents or guardian. The Superintendent shall issue a written decision to the student, granting or denying the request. Such decision shall be final.”

While other board members appear to be in agreement with the draft, Vic Dupuis and Steve Simonson voiced concerns.

“What we’re talking about is granting a value to students, and there isn’t a commensurate of value that has been granted to the 99% of the students who haven’t had these issues,” Dupuis said.

In order to be fair to the 99%, he suggested a community service or other behavioral component be added to the student’s list of items to consider when presenting a case for rescission.  This would make it clear that it is not just good behavior, but exemplary behavior that is expected from students that apply.

Dupuis also stated, “In my mind, the issue is not rescission. The issue is college applications. This all revolves around whether or not a student or the district has to declare a suspension on their college application.”  He questioned, “Does a student have to declare a suspension that has been rescinded? Are we putting them in a position to make a declaration on an application that is not, in fact, a truthful declaration?”

He further stated from a philosophical standpoint, “The issue is that college applications probably shouldn’t even be asking this question to begin with.  From a libertarian standpoint, this is not a question that students should be required to answer, that we should not have to answer on behalf of our students. I’m just questioning whether this is a fix or just transferring the problem.”

Superintendent John Sanville replied, “From a Common App perspective, I agree with you 100%. I think the Common Application is overreaching.  The goal of that from my understanding… is to make college campuses safer.  But really, the research is showing that it hasn’t made any difference in making college campuses safer. And in fact, that process of requiring students to report suspensions may actually be discriminatory.”

Regarding demanding change from the Common Application, “It’s a growing movement nationwide in school districts, but it’s not going to happen any time soon.” That’s why the administration is recommending this policy addition.

Sanville understands that he could be put in difficult situations when determining rescindment.

“I’m going to say yes to some, going to say no to some, and there’s going to be blowback, no doubt about it,” he said. “That comes with the territory of the seat that I have…I’m OK with that, I know in my heart that I’m going to be fair.”

Simonson said he feels the classification levels and punishments laid out in the policy need to be revised.

“Suspensions should be only for those situations where (students) would be disruptive to the class, a danger to themselves or classmates,” he said. “I don’t understand how taking them out of the classroom helps educate them.  And for the kinds of behaviors that are egregious enough to take them out, I am not sure community service is enough to expunge them.”

Simonson continued, “We should look seriously at the offenses that would take a student out of the classroom and we should apply other forms of discipline to those that are short of disruption or danger, and those would not be called suspensions.  But if you do perform an egregious act, I’m having a lot of trouble making it go away because of a community service project that may be of substance but may not.”

At a prior meeting, Sanville stated that the whole policy, including offense levels and punishments, will be reviewed, but not this year.

During the residents’ comments part of the meeting, one Birmingham township resident wanted confirmation that being late to school is a level B offense (in fact, three lateness occurrences in one semester is considered a level B).  “It really is up to the teacher whether they want to report or not,” she said.  “My son, who was a senior last year, had a homeroom teacher that did not care at all. My daughter, unfortunately, has a teacher that, as she says, is ‘neurotic’ about lateness.”

Though not discussed, this brings up the topic of teacher discretion in reporting infractions that could jeopardize a student’s ability to apply for a rescission of a major incident, due to a minor one.  As board member Bob Sage mentioned during a previous public meeting, this new policy could put extra pressure on teachers not to report.

In other news, the district’s Transportation Supervisor Marie Wickersham provided a review of transportation operations.   Though staffing is still a problem, there is some early improvement due to extra driver incentives recently approved by the board.  An analysis shows an estimated $500,000 in savings keeping transportation in-house versus contracting out.

Board member Elise Anderson presented the proposed 2018-19 school calendar, to be voted on at this month’s board meeting.  Included is a priority list of planned snow/inclement weather days, should the district need them.  In addition to the listed holidays, board member Carolyn Daniels confirmed with Sanville that any other culturally-significant days for residents would be excused absences.

The Communications team, led by Dave Listman, is developing a new district website.  It will be more user-friendly with a vastly improved search function.  Plans are for a late March roll-out, just after Spring Break.

Next up: Board Meeting February 26th at 7:30 in room 14 at the District Office, adjacent to the High School.  It will be broadcasted live on the UCFSD web site.

All board meetings are open to the public.  They are broadcasted live (and archived) on the UCFSD web site.

Board documents related to the work session:  http://www.boarddocs.com/pa/uncf/Board.nsf/public

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