Hillendale parents concerned about class size

Board discusses Knauss resignation, update on Patton project

By Karen Cresta, Staff Writer, The Times


Third grade parents at Hillendale Elementary School in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District expressed concern about class sizes during Monday night’s word session.

EAST MARLBOROUGH – Although there were no voting items at Monday night’s Unionville Chadds-Ford School District (UCFSD) Board of Education work session, there wasn’t an empty seat in the audience.

The room was packed with parents from Hillendale Elementary there to ask the board for smaller class sizes for third graders and students (many took seats on the floor) from Unionville High School (UHS) in the Advanced Placement (AP) Government class, who were there to fulfill their class requirements.

One seat in the room was  empty –  that of Board Director Keith Knauss. Knauss recently resigned from his position on the school board.

During the comment portion of the meeting, two Hillendale parents spoke regarding the third grade class sizes at the maximum of 26 as being too large and urged the board to re-examine the guidelines that could lead to revisions that would benefit the demanding curriculum and focus on the writing program and instructional needs. The district revised class size guidelines upward in 2010, as part of a budget cutting process when the financial crisis sapped tax revenue for the district.

The parents who spoke were concerned for the language arts program and are requesting that the board look at adding a language arts teacher.

“We feel that our kids are at a disadvantage heading into their first experience with the PSSA tests. We recognize the logistical and financial challenges of adding another full-time teacher but we are asking you to consider adding a third language arts teacher, and to re-examine class size guidelines going forward,” stated a Hillendale parent.

Board members took turns agreeing that they were thankful that the research and issue was brought to the board and that a conversation with John Nolen, Director of Curriculum, and Steve Dissinger, Principal of Hillendale, was the next step.

Superintendent of schools John Sanville said, “I’m hearing that there’s one instant issue which is the language arts section. The longer-term view is to consider guidelines we have in place.”

Of course, as board president Victor Dupuis brought up, less is better and the board would need to discuss the two big questions of whether or not it is affordable and doing it while avoiding redistricting. The board agreed to take some time to discuss this important issue.

The board also took time at last night’s meeting to address Knass’ resignation that was recently announced and will take the opportunity to thank him at next week’s meeting. Knauss served as a board member for most of two terms recently — winning election in 2009 and reelection in 2013 after serving a term almost a decade earlier, for a total of 10 years, as a director from Region A (East Marlborough/West Marlborough).

In his note to the board, Knauss explained his resignation, “I am resigning from the school board. There are a number of changes in my family life over the next year that will require the time of my wife, Mary Pat and I – not the least of which is the upcoming birth of our first grandchild.”

Knauss also wrote, “Some may wonder whether the recent teacher contract was a factor. Yes it was, but probably not for the reason one might think. I ran again for office two years ago specifically to participate in negotiating another union contract. A settled four-year contract signals that my work is done.”

Knauss’ opening will be advertised on the district website on Oct. 27 and will be sent out to the public. Applications will be accepted up until November 6, interviews conducted on Nov. 9, and the vote on a new member will take place on Nov. 16. According to law, the replacement must be done within 30 days of the resignation.

The supervisor of buildings and grounds, Rick Hostetler, discussed in detail the spending projections in the 10-year facilities plan with focus on Charles F. Patton Middle School (CFPMS) and Hillendale Elementary.

The district spent $3.1 million in 2015, which according to Hostetler was in-line with projections and looking at $3,150,500 in 2016 expenditures. He recommended that the middle school auditorium be the next significant project instead of renovations to the science classrooms since the curriculum and needs are being reviewed.

Hostetler said, regarding the middle school renovations — including the reworking of the front entrance t0 create a more secure entry, “I’m not going to beat around the bush, it’s a very frustrating project but it’s coming along.”

Hostetler said he is still anticipating a December completion date but the work is about one week behind schedule.

The district’s Director of Business and Operations, Bob Cochran, informed the board of the $3.3 million that is available for year three of the 10-year plan and going forward. According to him, it will be in the spring of 2017 when additional funding through a bond issue will be needed to keep the plan going.

In other district news, the board welcomed Paul Redman (Executive Director) and Marnie Conley (Director of Marketing) of Longwood Gardens to speak about strategic planning. Sanville invited them to the board meeting to review their current strategic plan in light of the district’s own planning that is underway.

In addition, Marie Wickersham, the district’s Supervisor of Transportation, presented the transportation report to the board in order to get authorization to seek new bus bids. Wickersham and her team provided statistical information including the number of pick-up locations, the amount of students requiring transportation, the number of runs per day and percentage of capacity, the total number of miles traveled each day, the average ride time per student and the age of the buses. In November, four new mid-size buses and two vans will be requested for purchase in the amount of $350,000 in the budget.

David Listman presented to the board the new free mobile app and provided an overview with the purpose to better inform members of the district. The new app can be found under UCF School District in the app store. It was designed as a user-friendly application all under one roof. Announcements, notifications, school directory, athletics, facebook and twitter are among some of the icons that are all within the app.

Sanville stated, “This is all about reaching people where they’re at. It doesn’t do any good to have a website that nobody goes to the website. We’re finding that to push out the message in a way that’s user-friendly is the way to go.”

The next regular meeting for the board is scheduled for Monday, October 26, at 7:30 p.m., at Unionville Elementary. All board documents can be found on www.ucfsd.org.

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  1. Carolyn Daniels says:

    Thank you to the Hillendale parents for coming out to our work session last Monday evening. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to make an excellent presentation that helped educate all of us so we can make the best decision for all involved.

    • TE Resident says:

      Yes, and the right decision for all involved is for the Board to get more teachers in there and get those classes sizes down. Students and tax payers should not be after thoughts, they should not be “last in line” when doling out resources. And let’s be honest, your district is highly ranked and well thought of because of the high performance by the students who’s parents (tax payers) send them to school well fed, well clothed,and taught to live by high stands with even higher expectations for excellent performance which will get them into a good college which will set them up for a great life. Academics should be the last place Board Directors go to “save money” IT shouldn’t even be considered. No matter what!

      Raising class sizes in the #1 ranked district, is like a corporation sabotaging their cash cow. Why would you do that? Look at the budget. See where the money goes.

  2. TE Resident says:

    “The district revised class size guidelines upward in 2010, as part of a budget cutting process when the financial crisis sapped tax revenue for the district.”

    This is a demonstration of my never ending and will never end point that the money does not go for the children!!!!!!

    Wake up people!!!!!!!! Look where the money goes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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