UCF board OKs contract for school boundary study

Officials discuss 10-year renovation and repair plans

By Karen Cresta, Correspondent, The Times

UCFRedistrict-300x300EAST MARLBOROUGH — The Unionville-Chadds Ford (UCF) Board of Education took another step forward in its process to evaluate the need for redistricting the district’s four elementary schools, voting to approve a contract with a consulting firm to study current and likely future student population, Monday night.

The board, in a rare voting item during the monthly work session, approved an agreement with McKissick Associates, which will provide an attendance boundary study, costing $21,600. The board unanimously approved going with McKissick even though they were “slightly more expensive” than other companies that responded to the request for proposal.

Superintendent of Schools John Sanville mentioned the high marks the company received having just completed similar work in Downingtown.

“It became clear that McKissick had experience working with districts in Pennsylvania,” he said. In making the recommendation, he said that the administration “felt they would give us a better product in the end.”

In a busy agenda, the board also tackled discussions on the 10-year building maintenance and renovation plan as well as allocations to each building for various supplies and items, issued on a per pupil basis, among other issues.

The district’s Director of Business and Operations Robert Cochran outlined the finances of the building repair plan — which calls for three phases of repairs and updates to the district’s six buildings, ranging from new heating and air conditioning systems to revised and more secure entry areas at some of the schools.

Although it is expected that a future bond issue of some sort will be needed to fund the entire decade long project, the district, Cochran said, has some funds set aside to continue the plan, now in its second year. A number of projects were completed this past summer, including lighting upgrades at Patton Middle School, paid for out of funds the district had set aside.

Sanville summarized the findings of the audit that should be completed next week.

“In essence we have a ten-year plan that the board saw last fall,” Sanville said. “We are into the second year of that ten-year plan but we are able to invest roughly, and {Director of Buildings and Grounds} Rick [Hosteltler] will have numbers, a million and a half in the first year of that project.  We have funds available to continue our ten-year plan without having to incur debt.”

Next month, Hostetler will review what has been completed and still needs to be completed.

The board agreed to approve a transfer of the estimated $1.5 million to the capital projects’ fund.  The final numbers will be reported, and if necessary modified, after the audit results and will be discussed on Oct. 20 at the regular school board meeting.

On other facilities issues, board member Greg Lindner updated the board on the ribbon cutting ceremony for the solar panel at Patton Middle School, Oct. 24.  The new panels — in the school’s front parking lot — will power the greenhouses. A local company, Tri-M, donated the solar system which is expected to begin running mid-Nov.

Continuing finance discussions, Cochran moved on to discuss the per-pupil building allocations. Currently for the 2014-2015 school year, $191.66 per pupil is allocated for each school building for needs such as teacher supplies, furniture and photo copying.  For next year’s budget, three scenerios were used to calculate the per-pupil allocation.  The first is applying a 1.9 percent increase per Act 1.  This would increase the calculation to $195.30 per pupil for a total of approximately $7,500 more than the current school year.  The second is to apply the consumer price index.  This would result in an increase to $194.92 per pupil.  The third is to leave it at zero.

Cochran’s recommendation to the board was to freeze it once again for the 2015-2016 school year based on the history of allocations.  Sanville mentioned that building principals should plan on a 20 percent carryover.  There was some discussion to reduce the amount by 2-3 percent but since all is not being spent and the principals are doing a good job budgeting, the board concluded there is “enough to do what is needed” and to keep the amount per-pupil the same for next school year’s budget.

Lindner ended the finance discussion on per-pupil building allocations by stating that he is comfortable with keeping it the same since there are mechanisms in place to sweep the money back.  He stated he would be uncomfortable if the money was unlimited.

Board member and finance committee chair Keith Knauss said he agreed, “we have a system that seems to work.”

Other topics included board member Carolyn Daniels inviting the rest of the board to a PTO advisory committee meeting on Oct. 23. PTO presidents from all the schools will be in attendance, as well as the president of the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Foundation.  They were solicited for suggestions on topics.  One letter mentioned addressing the topic on the amount of stress students feel and experience scholastically and competitively and, of course, the topic of redistricting.  Sanville said he will bring his “redistricting roadshow” to the meeting.

Sanville was asked by Daniels to elaborate on the creation of a monthly dashboard.  Its purpose is to provide real-time metrics and to eliminate lag time on data given to the board and community.  Sanville explained that the dashboard would provide a broad glance to see how things are going such as attendance of staff and students, or number of bullying referrals, or current class sizes.  Sanville emphasized “that we can look at that as we kind of develop a baseline of what is normal and what is not.”

The regular board meeting will be held on Monday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m. at Unionville Elementary School in the auditorium.  A special Policy Committee meeting will be held prior to the board meeting at 6:15 p.m. in the SGI room.

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