Hoffman promoted, Sanville criticized

Unionville-Chadds Ford School District directors voted unanimously to promote CF Patton Middle School Principal Tim Hoffman to the position of district director of curriculum and instruction for grades K-12. Shortly after that, Superintendent John Sanville was criticized for being a bully.

Hoffman replaces John Nolen as curriculum director. Nolen was promoted to assistant superintendent after Ken Batchelor was hired as superintendent for the Radnor Township School District.

Sanville said Hoffman stood out above all others who applied for the position, more than 50 applicants in total from both in and outside the district. There were four levels of interviews and, Sanville said, Hoffman was clearly the best choice.

“At every step of the way, Tim was the leader in the clubhouse. You often hear that cream rises to the top, and that was the case here,” Sanville said.

Hoffman will continue to serve as the principal at Patton through the rest of the current school year. His new position comes with a salary of $155,000.

Board Vice President Jeff Hellrung said Hoffman’s promotion, along with the new contracts for Sanville and Nolen, and for the need to hire a new middle school principal, will not add to the expenditures for the next district budget.

“The net effect in salaries for those four positions, will be within 1 percent, once we fill that position, compared to what we had before,” Hellrung said. “Because we’re going to have a gap because we’re not going to fill that position [of principal] until summer, we expect to have a reduction in expenditures.”

The tone of the meeting changed shortly after Hellrung’s remarks when former Director Holly Manzone addressed the board during the public comment period.

Manzone, who resigned from the board in October 2013 after alleging improprieties on Sanville’s part for allowing out of district students to attend U-CF schools, brought up the issue again and also said Sanville has acted as a bully.

Manzone opened her comments quoting a Sanville statement in honor of School Directors’ Month. “Dr. Sanville, you said, ‘I’ve been working with the district since 2007 and, with very few exceptions, I can tell you that the folks who’ve sat around this table have been really honest, hardworking, dedicated people.’”

“I would like to know,” Manzone continued, “which school directors have been less than really honest or hardworking, and on what basis do you impugn those individuals.”

She then said Sanville’s tenure has been filled with complaints about bullying, and challenged his understanding of the problem. She said he should look at the district’s own Olweus anti-bullying program for that understanding.

Manzone said there is not just physical bullying, but also verbal and social bullying, which include leaving people out of things, spreading rumors about people or embarrassing someone in public.

“Your comment about school directors falls into this category,” she said, “but it’s not an isolated incident. There are plenty of examples. Maybe your comments were not intended to be hurtful. Maybe they were just a thoughtless choice of words. As the leader of this fine school district, you are in a position of power. If it’s OK for you to say hurtful things, then why should our kids be held to a higher standard?”

Manzone continued saying bullying is about power, that information is power and that Sanville controls what information the school board receives. She said directors vote on information they get from Sanville and will jump to his defense when he’s criticized.

“I won’t be surprised if, during the course of this evening, one or more school directors speak in your defense against my comments, and that will only prove my case,” she said.

Manzone added that the district can solve the bullying problem, but only if the district shows “bullying will not be tolerated or practiced by the highest levels of the administration.”

One director, Vic Dupuis who took part in the meeting via telephone, did respond to Manzone’s comments, and referred to her own actions regarding the out of district student issue by saying, “Bullying does come in many forms. In some cases it can be board members who camp out at residents’ houses and pretend they think they know better about residency rules and harass them to the point where they actually have to involve the police.”

He went on to say that sometimes the bullying takes the form of people talking without knowing all the facts because they haven’t spoken with those who actually know.

“I think Dr. Sanville and his team have done a marvelous job addressing this issue and will continue. I would encourage Dr. Manzone to come forward and discover what’s being done and perhaps enlighten the board members and administration about how Olweus and other programs like diversity training can be improved,” Dupuis said.

Other business

The board decided to hold off on voting on a resolution opposing SB 76, a bill in the state Senate that would eliminate school property taxes, but increase sales and income taxes.

Hellrung said there is a feeling among many school districts that such a move would result in local boards not being able to raise enough money, and that they would lose control of education to Harrisburg, “which some of us think has not been the most responsible in supporting and funding education.”

He said holding off on the vote until March would give the public the chance to study the matter. The proposed resolution, as well as similar resolutions from other districts would be posted on the U-CF website.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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