East Penn Press

Monday, June 1, 2020

EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT Superintendent discusses first day of school bussing

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 by PETER MCCONNELL Special to The Press in Local News

On the first day of the school year, East Penn Board of Directors held a brief meeting to discuss student bussing, refinancing of bonds, the approval of a new graduation policy and other business.

The district's new transportation company, Student Transportation of America, Inc., created new routes from scratch this year; on Aug. 25 alone 9,077 students were bussed. For the most part all students were picked up and transported as planned but there were a few situations caused by errors in planning.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Schilder reported his primary concern is increasing the number of staff at STA focused on fielding phone calls.

In the space of a few days, staff answered hundreds of calls, including requests to change routes and bus stops. Schilder says they underestimated the number of calls to be expected and the office was undermanned.

The superintendent has requested additional phone lines as well as an increase in personnel beginning Aug. 26.

"What's very important to me right now is that we're able to get back in touch with parents right away," Schilder said, "[give] that personal contact, to try to address their questions or concerns."

Issues included delays in the morning and afternoon, which Schilder attributed to routes being new, as well as last minute route changes as a result of requests. But none of these errors caused significant repercussions.

One student was believed to be missing through a miscommunication between the parent and the central office, Schilder reported. But the child had been safely accompanied by his parent the whole time.

One third-grader arrived at a stop early and boarded a middle school bus, only to be safely intercepted by waiting faculty at Lower Macungie Middle School and within 10 minutes transported to the correct building.

It is estimated about 20 students were not picked up due to mistakes in address listings and late registrations.

Schilder believes many of the problems on the first day have been remedied and the remainder of the week would see further improvements; he also expressed his confidence in STA's abilities and performance on the job.

Current enrollment in the district is reported at 8,079, about 100 higher than at the end of June.

Schilder also reported an expected demographic report from the Pennsylvania Economy League would not be forthcoming until the board's meeting in October. Due to some discrepancies in figures, PEL recommended waiting until Oct. 1 when all districts will file with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This means the numbers will be all the more accurate and an improved report ready for board review at the end of the month.

The board unanimously passed a resolution discussed at the last meeting to approve bond refinancing through Public Financial Management. The district's Series A bonds of 2005 were retired and refunded by the bid auction process, with the lowest bidder out of 48 bids being Janney Montgomery Scott, according to Scott Shearer of PFM.

This transaction saved the district $474,000. Shearer reported PFM has saved the district $12.66 million in debt service over the last 12 years.

In addition, the board approved a new policy on graduation requirements after the requisite three readings and public notice. The policy brings the district current with state regulations. Changes to the policy will be distributed to students and parents or guardians.

Resident Chris Donatelli took issue with the board's recent vote to approve the teachers' contract a move Donatelli described as a failure to provide transparency to the public. Donatelli suggested in his public statement the board rescind the motion and a new vote take place, with certain board members abstaining based on alleged conflicts of interest. There was no further action taken on his comment.

Board member Lynn Donches attempted to raise a motion but was told it would have to be submitted for inclusion on the next agenda per district practice. Donches said she wished to make a point by presenting her motion as an addendum because the contract negotiations had been presented in a similar manner at the last board meeting.

Board President Alan Earnshaw would not permit Donches to speak her motion, insisting it be presented to the board for prior consideration on the next agenda.

Though Donches's motion has not been reviewed by the solicitor, she informed The Press it involves the creation of a committed fund balance line item for early debt retirement, allowing for proceeds of refinancing bonds to be deposited there and accumulated with the intention of being used to pay down other debt.