Sanville named new Unionville schools’ chief

New superintendent promoted from role supervising middle and high school, will take over formally from Sharon Parker Sept. 1

By Mike McGann, Editor,

Dr. John Sanville, the new Superintendent of Schools for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.

PENNSBURY — And so, a new era begins for the Unionville-Chads Ford School District.

The Board of Education hired Dr. John Sanville as the new Superintendent of Schools, clearing the way for the retiring Sharon Parker to depart on Aug. 31, Monday night at its meeting at Chadds Ford Elementary School.

Sanville, who had been the district’s Director of Secondary Education, overseeing Unionville High School and Patton Middle School, was given a three-year contract to take over for Parker. He was the pick from roughly 20 candidates in a search process facilitated by Dr. Joseph O’Brien from the Chester County Intermediate Unit.

Sanville’s appointment — a note of continuity during what has been a challenging period for the district, with an ongoing teachers’ contract dispute as well as serious cuts in local and state revenue — was met by overwhelming approval from the nearly packed house in the school gym, including a pair of standing ovations for the new schools’ chief.

Newly named Unionville-Chadds Ford Superintendent of Schools John Sanville (second from left) looks a little shocked by an impromptu standing ovation he received during Monday night's Board of Education meeting.

But despite the board’s familiarity with Sanville, multiple board members made it clear that he did not have an easy route to winning the job.

“This was not a slam dunk,” member Holly Manzone said, adding that she felt that there were a number of excellent candidates.

Praise for Sanville was unanimous among board members.

“How do I feel about the future of the school district?” asked member Corrine Sweeney. “Never better.”

Praise for his three-year contract, which runs through 2014, wasn’t quite as universal, however.

Paul Price, while making it clear he felt Sanville was an excellent choice, took issue with the terms of his contract.

“I’m very enthused (about Sanville),” Price said. “He will make a fine leader. But I have issue with the contract terms.” Price’s full statement will appear tomorrow as an Op-Ed on these pages.

Sanville graciously thanked the board — as well as Parker, who brought him to the district in 2008.

“In the past three years, I’ve been fortunate to work with an outstanding team,” he said. “I will continue to do so, just from different seat.”

Dr. John Sanville, the new Unionville Superintendent of Schools, accepts congraulations from various members of the community following last night's Board of Education meeting.

Understandably, much of the evening’s focus was on the departing Parker, who despite running the schools during a turbulent time, won many devoted fans, if not a few passionate detractors, during her time in Unionville.

Board member Keith Knauss — once a vocal opponent of the outgoing superintendent, described his transformation since rejoining the board in early 2010.

“I’m happy to say that I’ve gone from being one of your biggest critics to being one of your strongest supporters,” he told Parker during the meeting.

Praise for Parker, who will be honored at a special community breakfast Sept. 17, was a consistent theme throughout the night as both board members and community residents expressed thanks for her efforts on behalf of the students of the district.

A particularly moving exchange came between Michael Walter Dillon, a fourth-grade student at Chadds Ford Elementary, who was saluted earlier in the evening for his role in organizing a drive for used baseball equipment for players in underdeveloped countries. Dillon recounted his meeting Parker as a kindergarten student at a Dr. Seuss  reading event and remembered a dragonfly pin the superintendent was wearing. Dillon’s tribute brought the outgoing superintendent to the brink, or possibly— she allowed — beyond, of tears.

Parker’s final day will be Aug 31, and while she plans to spend more time with her children and grandchildren in retirement, she made it clear that she has further educational missions in her future. Specifically, she plans to work with other retired superintendents to lead educational efforts on various south Pacific islands, both by collecting used educational materials and spending time on the islands, working to improve the local educational infrastructure and curriculum.

Sanville officially takes charge Sept. 1, the fourth day of the new school year. In addition to managing the various issues facing the school district, including the teachers’ contract and the ongoing renovation of Unionville High School, he will need to find a replacement for himself.

Sanville joined the Unionville school district in 2008 from Marple Newtown School District where he was principal of Marple Newtown High School.

Previously, working in Pennsylvania, and before that, Virginia, he was a social studies teacher, a guidance counselor, served as dean of students, assistant principal, and was part of the leadership team for the Fairfax County (Va.) Federation of Teachers.

He has a doctorate in School Leadership from the University of Virginia, a masters degree in School Counseling from Virginia Tech and his bachelors in Secondary Education from George Washington University.

He currently serves on the boards of the Longwood Rotary and the Kennett YMCA. He is a golfer, runner and triathlete, and with his wife Debbie, he actively fosters and finds homes for abandoned dogs.

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  1. steve says:

    Kristin, I know the board looked at, and choose the best fit, but I think killing 2 birds (hiring a Supt and eliminating the Dir of Sec Ed) had to figure in their choice. Luckily, Dr. Sanville stands on his own merits, and eliminating the position would be an extra benefit. Even though I don’t have children in the district anymore, I enjoyed running into and talking to Supt. Parker around town and in restaurants over the years. I hope Dr. Sanville will also be as visible outside school hours

  2. Kristin Hoover says:

    I’d like to welcome Dr. Sanville and commend the School Directors on their decision. He will be an excellent choice. I can only hope that the position he now holds as Director of Secondary Education can be eliminated. With only one high school in the District, this seems like an extravagance we can no longer afford.

  3. DeeDee Richards says:

    Terrific choice!

    • Great Choice! says:

      John Sanville has come across in any meeting I witnessed him in as an intelligent, respectful man. He listens to those who have questions and comments and responds accordingly. He has a tough act to follow but I think he is up for the challenge. Welcome Superintendent Sanville!

  4. Observing says:

    Kudos to the Board for hiring Dr. Sanville. He’s an excellent choice and will continue to serve the district well.

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