EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT
The East Penn Board of School Directors observed a moment of silence at the beginning of the Feb. 26 meeting in memory of the victims of the most recent school shooting.
During a request to address the board, three residents discussed their concerns about school safety in light of the massacre of 17 students and faculty in Parkland, Fla.
Emmaus High School junior Tanaya Mukherjee asked, “How are you planning to make sure that we are safe and we feel safe and nothing like Parkland will ever happen at Emmaus High School?”
Suchi Mukherjee, Tanaya’s mother, inquired if the district was thinking about long-term safety measures, “versus just a topic to talk about when things are hot?”
Jennifer Price, the mother of a fifth grader at Macungie Elementary School, suggested installing bullet-proof doors. She proposed a “One Door at a Time” fundraiser to finance the replacement of classroom doors to keep students and staff safe without increasing the district’s budget.
In response, School Superintendent Dr. Michael Schilder referred to a letter he had recently sent out and posted on the district’s website addressing school safety concerns. Among the steps already in place, he listed the full-time armed police officer trained as a school resource officer at EHS, the partnership the district has established with the Emmaus Police Department, Alburtis Police Department and the state police, continued staff training and student drills and the anonymous tip line at 610-966-8400 where callers can report potential dangers. Communities in Schools at EHS is a new referral service for assisting students suffering from mental health issues.
Schilder announced officers from each area police department will begin daily exterior patrols and walkthroughs, including lunch with students on a regular basis, at district schools.
Schilder emphasized maintaining a positive school climate and assurances that student voices will be heard is another way the district addresses safety issues.
The superintendent described a forum about school safety held at the high school Feb. 22 with administrators, staff and more than 160 students he and EHS principal Dr. Kate Kieres attended. “It was respectful and candid,” Shilder said, noting they will continue to hold these sessions every Thursday after school until further notice.
He said the middle school principals plan on holding similar meetings with their students.
“I think the conversations we’re having right now and some of the ideas and suggestions for improving our safety and security are valid. I plan on moving forward with as many of them as I can,” Schilder said.
The district’s summer school eLearn 21 program was recognized by Pennsylvania Excellence in eLearning Forum Model Schools for doubling in size and achieving a passing rate that rose from 41 percent to 82 percent with a completion rate of 99.6 percent, Schilder announced. He praised the EHS Stinger staff for winning several 2018 Student Keystone Press Awards.
Assistant Superintendent Kristen Campbell presented the color coded 2018-2019 East Penn School District Student/Teacher Calendar with 184 student days beginning Aug. 27 and ending June 11, 2019. There are two inclement weather days built in and three additional make-up days Feb. 15, April 18 and 22, 2019. Any school days missed beyond those would be made up June 12, 13, 14 and 17, 2019. She said two Act 80 days for student early dismissals were added to the calendar to provide additional training opportunities for teachers.
Director Charles Ballard asked if the process of using inclement weather days was clearly explained on the calendar. Campbell felt it was, but invited the community to contact her office to weigh in on the wording if they found it confusing.
Director Ziad Munson pointed out, “the enormous number of days in red, which are the days that indicate standardized testing and how instructional time is being taken over by standardized tests.”
EHS’ Student Government Association representative Alex Comfort also described the Feb. 22 school safety forum where an activism Twitter account was set up for students. He said he plans to join his fellow classmates on the upcoming National School Walkout day of protest. Comfort said although the administration neither encourages nor discourages student walkouts, he was assured students will not be punished for participating.
Comfort also reported on the school’s musical extracurricular activities including the upcoming musical “West Side Story.”
SGA representative Sophie Pickering brought the board up to date on the latest EHS boys basketball team win and the high school swim team’s successful season.
Director Carol Allen agreed to a new three-year term beginning July 1 serving as the district’s representative on the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit Board of Directors. Allen was unanimously reappointed to the post.
President Alan Earnshaw asked for suggestions for possible candidates to fill a Trustee At-Large seat on the Lehigh Carbon Community College board of trustees.
A proposal to secure a quote from Pennsylvania School Boards Association for an onsite customized workshop on setting board goals by Adam Smith was unanimously approved.
Ballard’s proposal for the East Penn School Board to adopt a resolution opposing Education Savings Account Voucher Programs (Senate Bill 2) easily passed with all in favor.
The school board held a second reading of current board policy updates including school meals. Alisa Bowman mentioned “lunch shaming” was happening often at the middle school because many parents avoid adding money to a student’s meal account online because of the service fees.
Schilder told Bowman, after meeting with food service director Paul Vlasics, students will no longer have to leave the line to return an item they couldn’t afford. They just leave it with the cashier.
An executive session on personnel matters was held Feb. 22.
The next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 12 in the board room of the administration building.