UCF Superintendent rejects hate as school year opens

By JP Phillips, Correspondent, The Times

The entrance at Unionville High School is ready for the start of the 2017-18 school year.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Superintendent John Sanville opened Monday’s school board meeting with this prepared statement celebrating respect and inclusion:

“As we prepare to welcome 4,000 students, 700 employees and 3,500 families to a new school year, I want everyone to know that we will be opening our arms — as wide as we can — to embrace and include EVERYONE in UCFSD,” Sanville said. “In a year when so many Americans are divided, I am thankful to be part of the UCF community that accepts differences and focuses on common goals. I appreciate knowing that UCF is a thoughtful, respectful, and caring place.  A place that has not–and will not– tolerate harassment, intimidation or hate of any kind. A place where every person can and should feel safe and be respected. As we return for a new school year, we celebrate our diverse backgrounds and diverse gifts that make UCF such a special place.”

The board moved onto other topics without additional comment, including a growing disagreement in the educational community about the PSSA tests.

PSSA testing time for students in grades 3 through 8 will be reduced by 20% starting this year. According to the Gov. Tom Wolf’s official website, this is accomplished by removing 48 minutes from Math, 43 minutes from English, and 22 minutes from the Science tests. This new plan, announced earlier this month by the governor has drawn criticism from many sides, including state Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-19), Democratic Chair of the Senate Education Committee, who felt the changes did not go far enough to relieve the burden of testing on schools and students.

Board member Jeff Hellrung expressed his personal displeasure with this decision and read a prepared statement. He claims that only .5% of an elementary student’s time is spent taking the PSSAs. He feels that the information gained from the tests fuels curriculum adjustments, customization of student instruction, and provides “meaningful accountability” for schools. In Hellrung’s view, if schools spend excessive time for test preparation, the school’s curriculum is not integrated properly with the state standards.

Board member Gregg Lindner expressed his disagreement with Hellrung’s remarks.

Otherwise, Monday’s meeting was largely routine with all motions approved unanimously, including Hillendale Elementary’s $133,800 HVAC installation for next summer.

The only motion that sparked discussion was the field trip list submitted by teachers for the upcoming school year. Lindner reiterated his concern expressed at last week’s work session regarding the student cost of some trips. He wanted to ensure that board approval of the current list would not preclude substituting replacement trips for those that may pose a financial hardship for Unionville families. For example, attending the theater in Philadelphia or Wilmington instead of New York would save in the transportation and ticket costs borne by the students. He feels that, so long as the trip is of comparable quality, every effort should be made to keep costs down for Unionville families. Assistant Superintendent John Nolen wholeheartedly agreed and assured Lindner that trip approval now will not mean trips couldn’t be substituted at a later date.

Sanville provided an update to the 250 Unionville students that as of last week, did not meet the new state immunization requirements, and cannot by law attend school. Every affected family was personally contacted, and that number has been cut in half to 125 students. He urged that families unsure about their student’s immunization record should call their school this week. Contact information as well as immunization requirements is posted on the district’s website; a link can be accessed at the bottom of this article.

The district is preparing for the start of the school year with all teachers having reported to work on Tuesday, August 22, in advance of the first day of student attendance on Monday, August 28th. The high school auditorium construction is winding down. Even the Route 926 Pocopson bridge is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1, a welcomed relief for those that live on the east side of the district.

Next Up: Curriculum/Educational Technology Meeting on Monday, September 11th at 4:30, and then the Work Session at 7:30. Both meetings take place in room 14 at the District Office, adjacent to the High School. They will be broadcasted live on the UCFSD web site.

Immunization Requirements and Nurse Contact Information: http://ucfsd-community-news.blogspot.com/2017/05/2017-2018-school-vaccination.html


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