Chadds Ford principal out after PSSA questions

Reputedly allowed extra time for some students on March tests

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


Mark Ransford

PENNSBURY —  Chadds Ford Elementary School principal Mark Ransford was placed on administrative leave and will retire, following an investigation into issues regarding the recent PSSA tests administered at the school last month — reportedly he allowed some students to get extra time to complete the tests.

Unionville-Chadds Ford Superintendent of Schools John Sanville announced the move during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting — which also saw the resignation of board member Eileen Bushelow, effective at the end of May. The board voted 9-0 to approve Ransford’s retirement.

The revelation comes just a week after Unionville-Chadds Ford School District was named the top school district in Pennsylvania by The Pittsburgh Business Times — a ranked based on the district’s PSSA and Keystone test scores.

Ransford will remain on leave until his retirement takes place on July 1. In the interim, district Director of Curriculum John Nolen (a former elementary school principal) and Hillendale Elementary School Principal Steve Dissinger will oversee school operations for the remainder of the school year.

Sanville read a prepared statement on what happened leading to Ransford’s departure during the meeting.

“During the week of March 31 PSSA testing was taking place,” Sanville said. “While administering state testing there are certain protocols that must be strictly followed – to ensure uniformity across the commonwealth.  Strict adherence to the rules is an important part of a school’s academic integrity.

“Mr. Ransford, Chadds Ford Elementary School principal, provided 12 students with the opportunity to finish certain sections of the PSSA after testing had concluded. This violation of PSSA testing protocols was reported to the District Office by Chadds Ford Elementary School staff. At that time we contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Education and launched an investigation.

“Our inquiry concluded that irregular testing procedures had occurred. All information from our investigation has been sent to Harrisburg.”

Ransford was placed on administrative leave and chose to retire, Sanville said.

“Mr. Ransford has decided to retire. Mr. Ransford’s decision is personal,” Sanville said. “The Board has accepted and approved his retirement request.”

Sanville said that the district could make no further public comment on the matter.

Ransford, who became principal at the school at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year, was a well-liked building administrator. Under his watch, Chadds Ford Elementary became the first school in the district to be honored as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009.

Meanwhile, Bushelow’s resignation will open a spot in the Region B area (Newlin, Pocopson and Birmingham). She stressed her decision was strictly related to personal and family issues and in no way related to issues with the board or the district.

Bushelow was first appointed to the board to replace Curt Baker in 2010. She won reelection from Region B and served as board president for two years. Her resignation takes effect on May 28.

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  1. Len says:

    There are no winners here. I am not a resident of Unionville, but I know many of the teachers and administrators in the District and I applaud them for the results they have achieved. I also know many of the kids and they are exceptional students, but even more important, exceptional human beings. The Principal made a mistake, owned up to it and retired. I am not sure why anyone would not think that being publicly embarrassed, leaving your job that you truly love and having your integrity questioned, is not punishment enough. I think we all need a reality check and try to remember to do the right thing, but when someone doesn’t, please do not be so quick to throw away years of good for one mistake. Also, I hope that the people who turned in this man, did it for the right reasons and not out of vengeance or spite.

  2. rocky says:

    I have two kids in the district and hear from them that students who do not have IEP accommodations are often allowed extra time on these tests. I also have friends who are teachers in the district and they all despise having to teach for a test, vice, teaching a broader curriculum to achieve the same or better results. I would vote to eliminate the elected school board, whose members sue the taxpayers, and consistently award too many consulting contracts to their cronies, as well as, boost the superintendents’ contract at every given opportunity. Moving to a non-elected board will avoid all the politics and cronyism. Many school districts across our great nation do not use elected school boards. To close, I feel for the young students who suddenly lost their school principle, that they looked up to and respected. I’m sure many of them are truly saddened.

  3. Observing says:

    This is laughably incorrect. However I know that no amount of discussion will change your hatred to John Sanville so I will not bother.

    • Open Eyes says:

      Correct. Ms. Hoover’s intense hatred of Dr. Sanville is evident because she always mentions him. She does not realize that the taxpayers & parents of current students are very happy with the administration. Wonder what she is so mad about….he’ll hath no fury…..?

  4. CFE Parent says:

    Truly those affected the most by Mark Ransford’s departure are the children at Chadds Ford Elementary, the staff and the parents. He is a large part of what always made CFE so special. If CFE is a family then Mark was its head. We have lost a great individual who did countless good things for the school. Because we have always seen him in action caring for the school and its students, until we hear from Mark himself there are those at Chadds Ford who will not judge him or reach conclusions. As everyone at the school attempts to put on a happy face for the sake of the children, the immediacy of Mark’s departure has left a void and it would have been nice if the District afforded Mark an opportunity to speak to the children and parents in some fashion like he has for numerous years . The bottom line is that CFE is a better school today because of Mark Ransford and he will be missed not only by parents and staff but by “his” kids.

  5. Kristin Hoover says:

    Mr. Ransford is the scapegoat in this situation. I’ve heard that there is a personal reason they wanted to get rid of him and that he did nothing that was not done by others. I wish him the best and feel sorry that he was forced out.

    • Observing says:

      Nonsense. First, Mr. Ransford was very well liked. Secondly, what he did with testing was a HUGE breach of protocol and every educator I have spoken to (in and out of district) was shocked to hear he allowed certain students additional time to complete the test. I understand that what he did was pull out certain children from the class who didn’t put a mark in an “answer bubble” for every question and had them “complete the test” that way. He wasn’t feeding them answers, but what he did was completely wrong under the protocols of the test.

      • Kristin Hoover says:

        Ransford did nothing different than is done at every other school. There is a personal issue between Ransford and Sanville that caused Sanville to take action against him. This personal issue has nothing to do with Ransford, but is entirely about Sanville. Chadds Ford has the lowest test schools of any of the elementary schools and you also have to ask about how much pressure was placed on Ransford under the circumstances. Sanville’s intense personal dislike for Ransford is at the heart of this one. The kids and parents will suffer and it all has to do with Sanville’s “never better” leadership which unfortunately never gets better.

        • Observing says:

          This is laughably incorrect. However I know that no amount of discussion will change your hatred to John Sanville so I will not bother.

  6. Liz says:

    From my understanding, students are permitted additional time, and can have their materials collected, while they move to a secondary location to finish testing. Many students with IEPs have additional time written into their modifications. Also, students who become ill during testing (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t be made ill by these tests?) are supposedly permitted to resume testing at a later make-up date. What is meant by “testing was concluded”?

    • Observing says:

      My understanding is that, after the time allotted for the test ended and the tests were turned in, Mr. Ransford looked at the tests (which he is allowed to do – teachers cannot look at the tests but Admins can). He saw that a dozen or so students didn’t put an answer down for every question. As students have been taught for decades on standardized testing – if you don’t know an answer just take a guess but don’t leave any question blank. Basically, Mr. Ransford pulled those dozen kids out of class and had them “complete” the test just by filling in the “c” bubble or whatever for any unanswered questions. He was NOT giving them the correct answers but what he did was a huge breach of test protocol which gets drummed into the head of every teacher and admin over and over again. There is no way he thought he was following the rules here.

  7. Michael Strews says:

    His legacy will be that the fostered the idea that “some are more equal than others”. Regardless of the reasons, the real losers are those students who did not get the extra time and those previous students who were under Ransford’s charge who questionable will be suspect.

  8. Pat DeBow says:

    My children graduated from Unionville some time ago, therefore, I am not familiar with Mr. Ransford. He may be a wonderful person and teacher. I don’t like the PSSA testing issue, but he broke the rules….and I am upset with the fact they they allowed him to retire without any type of punishment. What does that say to our children?

  9. Karen Grim says:

    Mark Ransford is a fine man with a BIG heart. The situation is very unfortunate. We have all made mistakes. It is a shame to lose a leader and educator of such fine character. Many, many improvements happened at CFE under his watch. The Blue Ribbon Award. The 5th grade hall mural by Judy Jarvis. The library entrance mosaic, a year of collaboration of parents and students. Chad the Charger Horse Mascot. Character Awards. School Gardens. Talent Shows. Elaborate Art Collections in the hallways. Geography & Spelling Bees. Activities too many to list. Fine, kind inspiring words to students. Close work with parents. Sincerely I hope to inspire other families to speak to the good of this fine, caring man.

  10. Melissa says:

    Thanks Kim I couldn’t have said it better! We all now must suffer the loss of a GREAT man with GREAT integrity because we have an administration who has fallen prey to test scores as a measure of excellence. When in fact Mr Ransford was the measure of excellence. It was Mr Ransford who stewarded the school to the blue ribbon award in the first place. I moved to this district hoping we would have an administration who would take a more wholeistic view of education. We found that in Mr. Ransford but it appears he was alone in his convictions. The story that needs to be written is about a fallen district who cares more about pssa scores than their students and dedicated staff.

    • Tom Arnold says:

      He helped children CHEAT on a test. That is the complete opposite of integrity and a terrible lesson to teach our children. He should be fired and have his pensioned removed.

  11. Kim Bowker says:

    Mr. Mark Ransford was one of the finest teachers my son ever had! He instilled the thrill to learn!! Education needs to stop!! I am a retired teacher and this test is the reason I left education!! It is ok to give some kids extra time but not others! Many administrators and teachers should be fired then! Our system is broken and in need of an overhaul!! They don’t want us to instill learning just teach to a test!! The kids are stressed! The parents are stressed! The teachers are stressed !! The administrators are stressed !! And the losers are our children!! Politicians are morons and need to visit our schools !! Stop coming up with new rules as you go !! These are lives you are playing with!! Losing good teachers and administrators stop the insanity!!!

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