U-CF district ready to welcome back students

Candice Monhollan - The Kennett PaperUnionville-Chadds Ford school board President Victor Dupuis accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and dumped the frigid water on his head after the board meeting Aug. 18.

Kennett Square >> Things were a little bit chilly at the end of the Unionville-Chadds Ford school board meeting Aug. 18.

Well, chilly for one person — board President Victor Dupuis.

After the board breezed through the first meeting of the 2014-15 school year, Dupuis headed out to the front of Unionville High School to accept Superintendent John Sanville’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

“This is for a good cause and I’ll be donating ($100) as well,” he said before dumping the cooler of ice water on his head.

In return, Dupuis called out fellow school board members Kathleen Do, Gregg Lindner and Ken Batchelor.

But before all that took place, the board did meet in preparation of the opening of school.

With everything ready to begin Aug. 25, Sanville expressed his excitement to the board.

“I love the start of the year,” he said. “(And) the hope and the desire that comes with the kids that come to our building starting a week from today (with) 4,100 kids that are excited to learn.”

Some minor details were straightened out before the year gets underway, most specifically the overcrowding concern at Pocopson Elementary School.

“(We discussed) the likelihood that we will surpass our teacher to student ratio guidelines in first grade at that school,” Do said. “The administration has recommended we hire an additional first grade teacher.”

The board approved unanimously the hiring of Colleen Dougherty to help alleviate the large first-grade class.

Two pilot programs will be implemented at the start of the year as well.

The first is an after-school bus, which will run for the fall season for a fee.

The bus will run twice a day, Monday through Thursday, for both the high and middle school.

Pick-up times are 4:45 p.m. at Charles F. Patton and 5:50 p.m. at Unionville.

“When you have a district that is as big as this, in order to get kids to be able to have the ability to participate in activities, this type of bus — if it works — could really afford more kids to take advantage of the different programs,” Lindner said.

For a full-season pass, the cost per student is $145. Ten-day passes are $60 and a single-day pass is $8.

If a full-season pass is needed for more than one child, the cost will only be $90 per after the first season pass is purchased.

The second pilot program will focus on teachers and differential evaluations, which could become a part of the professional review process.

The program, designed by a committee of teachers and administrators, will be for a maximum of two to five teachers per building to be evaluated based on their performance in a specific area of interest the teacher has selected in consultation with the building administrator.

“Focused topics the teacher can choose from include, but are not limited to, peer partnering, technology portfolio, video journal and presenting at a conference,” Do said.

Over the year, the specific teachers will provide written, personal assessments regarding what they have learned over that time and how it has impacted their professional growth.

The teachers who participate in the pilot program are exempt from observation evaluations, which are currently required in the schools.

If the program works, the hope is to implement the program throughout the district and become a three-year cycle, where one year will feature the traditional observations and the other two years will use the differentiated focus model.

The cycle will rotate with teachers so that way only 1/3 of the staff per year has observations.

No new teachers will be permitted to participate in the pilot program.

For the Class of 2017, who are the incoming sophomores, graduation requirements have changed.

Students must now pass Keystone exams in Algebra I, Biology and Literature or related project-based assessments instead of the culminating project.

“All of these exams are currently offered between the eighth and 10th grades,” Do said. “Students who are unsuccessful in achieving proficiency will be given multiple opportunities to retake the exam along with the necessary remedial support.”

If a student fails to achieve proficiency after at least two exam retakes, they have the option to complete an approved project in the subject matter as an alternative.

All other requirements will remain unchanged.

Finally, the board approved an agreement with the Brandywine New Media, LLC, to provide a quarterly magazine to all households in the district and not just the parents who have children attending the schools.

The magazine will be of no cost to the district.

Contact Candice Monhollan at 610-235-2652.

About the Author

Candice Monhollan

Candice Monhollan is a 2012 Temple University graduate. She loves to cover sports, especially hockey. She enjoys marching with the Reading Buccaneers Drum & Bugle Corps and has a love of U.S. military history, which includes reenacting. Reach the author at cmonhollan@dailylocal.com .