UCF board elects officers, talks test scores, building experiences

By JP Phillips, Staff Writer, The Times

Tom Day and Elise Anderson take the oath of office at Monday night’s Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education meeting.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Returning board members Elise Anderson, Tom Day, Jeff Hellrung, and Steve Simonson were sworn in at the December 4, 2017 Unionville Chadds-Ford School Board organization and special meeting.

Hellrung and Vic Dupuis were elected president and vice president.  Then each principal presented their annual review highlighting their building’s student experience, academics and points of pride. 

It was clear that education meant more than just test scores.

High school principal James Conley talked about the theme of kindness.  He spoke about the positive experience of partnering with Hardin-Jefferson school district in Sour Lake, Tx, that was devastated by Hurricane Harvey.   Fundraising efforts have already raised $50,000.

Patton middle school principal Steve Dissinger discussed the goal of “creating a school that teaches kids to love school.” He explained how innovation and problem-solving is encouraged through their Maker Space program, an area in the library where students can work together or individually at their own pace to explore topics of interest not necessarily curriculum-related.  He also discussed the successful use of Chromebooks, and how the technology team ensures that websites accessed enhance the student experience.

The principals of the six Unionville-Chadds Ford School District schools spoke Monday night about their buildings. From left, back row, Unionville High School Principal Jimmy Conley, Hillendale principal Michael Audevard, Chadds-Ford principal Shawn Dutkiewicz and front row from left, Unionville Elementary Principal Michelle Lafferty, Pocopson Principal Clif Beaver and Patton Middle School Principal Steve Dissinger.

Unionville elementary principal Michelle Lafferty stressed the “UE Way—Be safe, be open, be present.”  She highlighted a treasure-hunt-style example that fosters problem solving and perseverance. She also discussed the annual Veteran’s Day celebration, where the youngest students experienced gratitude as they lined the hallways waving flags and thanking our local heroes as they passed on their way to the cafeteria.

Hillendale principal Michael Audevard gave examples of student empathy.  He highlighed the Funky Waffle, a donated RV that was repaired and loaded with food, water, clothing and toys for a family that lost everything in Hurricane Harvey.  Their Martin Luther King event brought students and the community together to prepare soup and sandwiches for those in need.  Audevard also spotlighted wellness efforts like the before-school running club, where at times a third of the school walks/runs the Hillendale Trail for some exercise before school.

Pocopson principal Clif Beaver talked about problem-solving and innovation via their Maker Space program, their fourth-grade vegetable garden, and the trout project.  Students raise trout from egg to fish release, while learning about water conditions and handling unexpected developments.

Kindness was demonstrated when they partnered with Sour Lake elementary to provide $1,700 for gym equipment destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.  The third grade “blessings in a backpack” program collected items for needy families.  And 700 voices sang “happy birthday” to a 100-year-old Normandy hero at their Veteran’s Day celebration.

Chadds-Ford principal Shawn Dutkiewicz showed their school’s genorosity by partnering with Mitchell Elementary in West Philadelphia, resulting in sending basic life items like food, toothpaste, and clothes.  Additionally, $2,500 in books were purchased, one for every child in grades three to five (for some, the first book they ever owned).

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Tim Hoffman gave an aggregate of the district’s test scores, that fairly accurately followed the results of each school.

In grades three through six, the Pennsylvania State School Assessment (PSSA) is the primary measure for students.  In general, English Language Arts (ELA) and Science results are strong throughout.  Mathematics, while above state and Chester County school average, are areas for improvement for the middle, and three of the four elementary schools. However, 18 additional middle school students successfully took the Algebra Keystone exam.

In her presentation, Lafferty explained how “guided math” (differentiating instruction to an individual’s level) is being used to improve future results.  Dutkiewicz credits Chadds-Ford’s improvement this year mostly to the professional development received on guided math.

Dupuis asked Assistant Superintendent John Nolen if he felt the math curriculum should be changed.  Nolen called the PSSA an “interesting test,” stating that some students that passed the algebra Keystone did not pass the PSSA.  Some students are also in above-grade-level classes, and could have forgotten some of the specific concepts needed to score well on the PSSA.  “We don’t want to chase the test,” he stated, noting that they are not considering a new curriculum.

High school academics are measured differently.  Conley advised that scores are strong, with 94% of students attending college.  SAT scores are well above the state average (based on a total score of 1600, Unionville averaged 1246 in the first year of the “new” SAT that incorporated the writing section into the Language Arts piece).  ACT scores are also well above state average (26.2 versus 23.7 state, 21 US).  449 students took at least one Advance Placement (AP) courses, resulting in over 1,000 administered tests.

Hellrung summed up academic performance by noting that “the board and administration is in sync,” adding that everyone seems to “understand the uses and limits of data.”

Many board members expressed appreciation to the principals for their efforts in modeling the importance of community, perseverance, and kindness to the students.

Day noted that scores matter, but “character is equally important.”

To see the overview and principals’ presentation, click here.

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