EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT
In a motion proposed by School Director Carol Allen, “That the Board of School Directors of East Penn School District agree not to participate in the Pennsylvania Youth Survey for the 2017-18 school year,” six board members – President Alan Earnshaw, Vice President Ken Bacher, Charles Ballard, Paul Champagne, Ziad Munson and Rev. Waldemar Vinovskis voted “no.” Chris Donatelli abstained, while Allen voted “aye,” at the school board meeting Oct. 9. The survey will be administered as planned.
Carol Allen had raised concerns at the Sept. 25 meeting about the district participating in the PAYS which is conducted by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency every two years.
Two residents and a representative of the Penn State Cooperative Extension addressed the board on the issue prior to the vote.
Barbara Tantaros, of Emmaus, requested the district not be part of the youth survey. “After reading them, wow, what an invasion of privacy!” she said of the more than 200 questions. Tantaros suggested some of the questions, like one asking if the student, a sibling or friends were drug users, possibly violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability laws.
Emmaus resident Andrea Tessier, the parent of an East Penn student, voiced support of PAYS with, “It’s a proven survey administered across Pennsylvania.” She said schools can target grants for programs from the data collected from the survey.
Denise Continenza from the Penn State Cooperative Extension urged the school district to administer the survey, citing the data is not only necessary in targeting community needs, but can also “celebrate what we are doing well.” A past survey alerted them to a hunger problem in the Whitehall-Coplay School District, according to Continenza, “Which enabled us to target that issue in that community.”
She assured the board the surveys are anonymous and confidential. No individual student information can be obtained from the data set. Students are allowed to skip questions and parents can have their child opt out entirely. Continenza also said there are five filters built into the questionnaire to weed out fictitious data.
School Superintendent Dr. Michael Schilder said he is cautious with the many survey requests he receives, saying, “I want to protect instructional time.” Schilder had declined participation in PAYS in 2015. With the current opioid crisis in this country, Shilder said, “The need is there.”
“If you are to solve problems, you need to know what the problems are,” Ballard said in support of PAYS.
Bacher agreed, “I’m convinced this is a good thing for the district to do.”
In other business, Schilder informed the board that another issue raised at the previous meeting by a resident has been addressed. In an effort to keep students safer from the increased truck traffic around and in Ancient Oaks West, pick up times were changed for seven routes in the development.
Champagne proudly announced the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute was featured on the recent CBS News report, “A new blueprint for America’s construction trades.” Highlighted in the piece was Jody Ann Young, a high school senior studying to become a plumber.
Champagne and others on the board agreed not everyone has to go to college. LCTI teaches 41 different trades, with starting salaries for some of them at $60,000 a year.
Resident Lynn Donchez addressed the directors with a request to defer a vote until the next board meeting on budget transfers post-audit for June 30. She questioned the line listing, “$1,466,000 capital project transfers capital reserve.”
When the item came up for a discussion and vote later, it was explained that the sale of Lower Macungie Elementary School contributed to the surplus. Business Administrator Robert Saul described how the process works, with Earnshaw adding they try to be conservative in budgeting. A surplus, “gives us the flexibility to cover unexpected needs,” the board president said. The directors approved the post audit budget transfers.
The board unanimously voted to accept a donation of $2,500 from the East Penn Instrumental Musicians Club toward the purchase of a sousaphone for the Emmaus High School music department.
The school board held a “clean second reading” of school district operations policy series 900 – Community: Part 1 of 2, policies 901 to 912. No changes or corrections were suggested.
There still was no progress in Harrisburg on funding the state budget, Ballard reported. With the stalemate in the state legislature, he said Governor Tom Wolf recently announced he was seeking a $1.2 billion loan from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to keep the state solvent.
No executive session was scheduled.
The East Penn Board of School Directors meet regularly 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month. The next meeting will be held Oct. 23 in the board room of the administration building.