UCF honors retirees; suspension rescission policy again debated

By JP Phillips, Staff Writer, The Times

From top left, clockwise, Elaine McQullin, Gail McQuiston, Jewel Thacher and Grave Vinci, were among retiring Unionville-Chadds Ford School District employees honored Monday night.

Monday night’s board meeting of the Unionville Chadds-Ford School District began with a packed house as more than 50 attendees celebrated the retirement of six employees from Unionville and Pocopson Elementary School, Patton Middle School, and the Transportation department.  For each retiree, the building principal/department supervisor spoke of their character and dedication to the students they serve (more details below).

Other discussions focused mainly on the proposed Unionville High School suspension rescission policy.

In large part, the board was considering the policy because the Common Application, used by many colleges, required both the district and student to list any suspensions.  Many students and families believe that answering “yes” limits college acceptances.

Discussions during the February 12th work session made it crystal clear that the policy, debated since November, is filled with unresolved issues and unintended consequences.

Monday night, the administration recommended a new, simpler option—to change board policy to state that disciplinary issues will not be reported to colleges.

Referring to comments from the board and residents during the past few months, Superintendent John Sanville stated, “It really highlights the complexity of a rescission policy.”  He added, “I think this is a cleaner way for the board to go…We are not breaking new ground, this is an accepted practice by the Common Application to allow the district to make a decision to not disclose student disciplinary records.  So I think we are on solid footing from a legal and precedent standpoint.”

In support of Sanville’s position, board member John Murphy added, “A lot of studies had to do with minority students being adversely suspended and the answers for a lot of those districts was just to not report to college or on the common app what the discipline imposed within the school was, because that caused more harm than help.”

Even though the school district may have a policy to not report suspensions to colleges, students are still asked whether or not they’ve been suspended on the Common Application.

Board member Bob Sage raised the point on many minds. “…It seems to put families in the ethical quandary…They’d like to get the outcome of not having the suspension reported.  The school isn’t going to do it.  And so if the parents don’t think the suspension was justified–or in this case, maybe had the board changed its policy sooner, it would not have been a suspension in the first place–it leaves the families the only option to clear their student’s record is to lie.”

Sage concluded, “I think it’s easier for us as a district.  I’m not sure it makes it easier for our families.”

Sage noted that during the incident in September, some students were suspended because they told the truth when confronted with the offense.  Those that pleaded innocence–even though some were guilty–did not have to face consequences.

Board member Tom Day agreed with much of Sage’s comments, and spoke of the positives of the rescission option.  “It provided a carrot for students to try to do better, for good behavior. As a district we would be teaching students to learn from their mistakes…and if they make good progress with their academic and behavioral career for the remainder of their term, they have the opportunity to have their suspension rescinded…I think that’s a very positive thing for our students and it gives us the opportunity to model that people make mistakes and you can take a bad and make it a good.”  He was also concerned that not reporting may take away student accountability for their action.

Anderson agreed with both Sage and Day, “It’s not the right path to put them in this ethical position…I think it reverses our goal of accountability.  Not sure.”

Board member Steve Simonson said that, “I think honesty and integrity are pretty important character traits.”

Board member Carolyn Daniels lamented, “My true regret is that we didn’t take a closer look at this (whole disciplinary) policy before we had to rely on it.”

Sanville explained at a previous public meeting that revising the entire policy, including infraction levels and suitable consequences, required significant research and benchmarking, and will be reviewed next year.

Board member Gregg Lindner added, “There is no easy solution.  I think that any way you go is fraught with different issues…I’d vote for rescission policy because I think we have to move the ball forward, but I prefer the policy of not reporting.”

In response to Day’s question, Sanville stated that 59 students of the 1,400 currently at the high school have been suspended at one time during their high school career. It is a first offense for 20 of them.

This means that 20 students could be affected by whichever policy the board decides.

Instead of a first read with a vote in March, the policy will be further debated during March’s work session, with a first read at the March board meeting.  Whichever policy version is put forth will be voted on in April.

The board encouraged residents to contact their board members with their thoughts.

Less complicated — and more lighthearted — was honoring six employees who plan to retire at the end of the school year.

As has become the tradition, the employee’s supervisor spoke a bit about their service to the district and thanked them for their time, effort and passion.

Elaine McQuillin, UE Art Teacher: “She is positive, clever–a very kind individual.  Her love for teaching and inspiring artwork and creativity in the kids is awe-inspiring.”  Michelle Lafferty, UE principal.

Gail McQuiston, UE Office Manager: “She wears many hats, every single day.  She knows the answer to every question.” Lafferty said.

Paul Kendt, UE Nighttime Janitor: “We get into wonderful conversations about anything and everything, and he’s my company when I have to stay late.  And I will miss him.”  Lafferty said.

Jewel Thacher, Patton Middle School Counselor: Talking about Thacher’s approach to her daughters and her students: …”Supporting them… understanding that they were going to fall and make mistakes and bounce right back up again.  Jewel is the master at that. ” Steve Dissinger, Patton principal said.

Grace Vinci, Pocopson Instructional Support Teacher: “Always cheerful and enthusiastic.”  “Soft-spoken and seems to have the patience of a saint.”  “The Queen of hospitality.”  Clif Beaver, principal, quoting staff, said.

Logene Matson, van driver: “The smile that she has on her face is the smile we see all day.  Your kids see that when she picks them up in the morning and drops them off in the afternoon,” Marie Wickersham, Supervisor of Transportation said.

All board meetings are open to the public.  They are broadcast live (and archived) on the UCFSD web site.

Next up: Board Work Session on March 12 at 7:30 in room 14 at the District Office, adjacent to the High School.  It will be broadcast live on the UCFSD web site.

Board documents related to the meeting:  https://www.boarddocs.com/pa/uncf/Board.nsf/public#tab-meetings

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