UCF bond refinance could save $1 mil.

Comprehensive plan OKd; strategic plan, length of school year discussed

By Karen Cresta, Correspondent, The Times

UCFLogoWebEAST MARLBOROUGH – The Unionville-Chadds Ford (UCF) Board of Education met on Tuesday night at a combined work session and regular meeting – last week’s work session was cancelled due to icy conditions and last night’s meeting was held despite the cancellation of school that day due to snow.

In a busy session, the board approved many items including the refinancing of bonds to save the district over one million dollars.

Members of Public Financial Management, Inc. (PFM) attended the board meeting last month indicating a savings of approximately $800,000 if low interest rates could be locked in quickly.  It was reported to the board on Tuesday night that better than expected interest rates (1.59%) coupled with the district’s outstanding credit rating (AA1) allowed for a savings of approximately $1 million for this year and another $56,000 in the next year.

With the help of Robert Cochran, Director of Business and Operations and his team, rates were locked in and better than expected results were achieved.  These savings could avoid borrowing and possibly fund the ten-year facilities improvement plan for the district.

Cochran said this savings will be key when talking about facilities’ improvement costs in March.

“Not this month, but next month we’ll talk about the disposition of that $1,056,000 and some change savings, when we talk about facilities,” he reminded the board and received many nods and chuckles from the board and attendees.

The board unanimously approved the motion for the authorization for the issuance of the new bonds in the amount of $19,800,000 for the purpose of refunding the outstanding general obligation bonds and to pay such costs associated with the refund.

In addition, the board approved the preliminary 2015-2016 General Fund Budget in the amount of $80,901,704.  Last month, the preliminary budget and timeline was presented to the board and was approved and it was adopted on Tuesday night.  The proposed budget will be presented in April and hearings will take place in early May.  The adoption of the final budget and levying of real estate taxes is scheduled for June 15.

Also unanimously approved was the UCF Comprehensive Plan that will take effect from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018.  The plan identifies student needs, develops action plans to address these needs, and evaluates the effectiveness.  Board member and chair of the Curriculum and Educational Technology Committee, Kathleen Do, emphasized the importance of insuring students are doing what they should and going above and beyond.

The mission statement of the district is “to empower each student to succeed in life and contribute to society” and its vision statement – “unlocking the power in all of us” – is listed on the plan along with the shared value of commitment to promote excellence through curriculum and instruction.

Board member Robert Sage continued discussions and presented ideas to build a new Strategic Plan that many top districts follow as long-term goals for progress.  This plan is separate from the Comprehensive Plan and will strategically plan around the identified gaps. His emphasis was on not spending too much time and resources into a plan that sits on a shelf in a binder. According to the board, the commitment is to a plan for real change that is proactive and not reactive and always thinking of how the district can be better.

“Where are the gaps?” Board President Victor Dupuis asked. “And let’s strategically plan around those gap areas.”

“I think we can go a lot further,” Do concurred.

Sanville urged the board to take a step back and consider the conversation on moving forward with a Strategic Plan.

“It speaks well to this board and this district and community that by many measures we are one of the best school districts in the commonwealth and by many measures one of the best school districts in the nation and we are sitting here having a conversation about how we can be better,” he said.

The board agreed that the scope of the creation of the plan needs to be specific and not too broad to avoid wasting district resources. Dupuis, will be scheduling a retreat in April/May and other board members will chose a facilitator to help develop a Strategic Plan that is proactive and focuses on identifying the appropriate resources and budget to do so.

Possibly a discussion item to include in the Strategic Plan is the question that Sanville posed to the board by the Calendar Review Committee regarding why there are 182 student days – as the district policy states the school year needs to consist of – versus the 180 mandated by the state.  (Other districts range from 180 to 185 student days.)

Last school year, two snow days were forgiven as an exception to the policy.  The current school year is now extended one day to June 11, because of Tuesday’s snow day.  The board recommended remaining flexible if needed but that having fewer school days is not perceived as good.

“We should be going up, not down,” Keith Knauss added.

Sanville noted that UCF school days are one of the shortest in the state by 15 minutes.  He wanted to bring forward the question of the two extra days above the state mandate to honor the hard work of the committee but it was mentioned that the perception of going 182 days as the only district to do so was incorrect.

In other “good news,” the board announced proudly that Unionville High School (UHS) ranked the sixth highest in SAT scores in the state.  Samantha Seidenberger, UHS senior, presented the Student Representative Report and gave proud mention that 18 seniors were named as National Merit finalist, the highest academic achievement.   Kudos to fellow UHS senior, Shashwat Kishore, were given as he was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer as a finalist in the Intel Science talent search for his mathematical Representation Theory.

In addition, the UHS and Patton Robotics Team won the Engineering Design Award and qualified for the state championship at Millersville at the end of the month.  Dupuis announced that some exciting news will be shared regarding the Family Consumer Science Program at the March 9 work session.

The Counseling Center is hosting a college planning night on Thursday, February 19, at UHS from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

In health news, Steve Simonson asked Sanville if he knew the percentage of students not immunized against the measles. Sanville needed to verify the exact number and percentage but it was approximately 5-6% of the student population in the elementary schools and less in the middle and high school.

“Measles are coming this way,” he added.

He informed the board that a letter is drafted to send out to the community and a case of the measles was reported in Harrisburg.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers one confirmed case an outbreak. According to Sanville, the district knows exactly who in each school is not immunized against the measles and those individuals can be held out of school.  Details will be forthcoming.

The board sent its condolences on the death of UHS graduate Karlie Hall and wanted to take a moment to honor her life and acknowledge what happened to her and the necessity to protect our children.

All board documents can be found on ucfsd.org.

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