EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT
The East Penn Board of School Directors unanimously approved the district’s 2018-2019 school year calendar at the March 12 meeting. Assistant Superintendent Kristen Campbell incorporated the board’s suggestions from the previous meeting, as well as public input into two new calendar proposals. Both addressed concerns over inclement weather makeup days creating an unpredictable spring break schedule.
The calendar the administration and board favored allows for 185 student days with 191 teacher days beginning Aug. 27 and ending June 11, 2019.
There are three inclement weather days built into the schedule including Feb. 15, 2019 of Presidents Day weekend. April 18, 2019 will be a makeup day and April 22, 2019 will be preserved as spring break. June 12, 13, 14, 17 and 18, 2019 are slated to be makeup days, if needed. If fewer than three inclement weather days are used, the last day of school will shift back to June 10, 2019.
School Director Alisa Bowman requested the administration look into instructional time instead of all-day study hall for Lehigh Career and Technical Institute students who may be in school when LTCI is not in session.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Schilder updated the directors on progress with the technology plan. The infrastructure for all 10 buildings has been overhauled,” he said, “That work, for all intents and purposes, is completed.”
“We are ready to proceed with iPads,” Schilder said. He informed the board the technology committee changed their thinking on device distribution. They have now decided to distribute iPads to students in kindergarten through grade five with Chromebooks for the upper grades. Starting this year, iPads will go to kindergarten, first and second grade with 15 devices per classroom to be shared. Third graders will enjoy a device ratio of one to one.
Schilder said they were ready to begin purchasing Chromebooks for grade six. Phase 1 of the tech plan is all within budget.
Once next year’s budget is approved, Schilder continued, it will be time for Phase 2. Fourth graders will be learning with iPads, while Chromebooks will be distributed to students in grades seven, nine and 10.
Schilder expressed gratitude for the donation of space on three billboards owned by Adams Outdoor Advertising to promote Emmaus’ musical “West Side Story.” He credited Jeff Chandler, the parent of a student, for helping make the arrangements.
Business administrator Robert Saul provided an early look at his long range fiscal and capital plan. Saul’s stated goal is to maintain the quality of educational programs and improve them as needed. Another is to keep the buildings and grounds in a well-maintained condition to avoid unplanned repairs. Also factored in, is providing for a 3 percent to 5 percent budgetary reserve while limiting any proposed tax increases at or below the state mandated index of 2.8 percent.
“This plan should be viewed as a dynamic planning tool and not as a final or absolute fiscal plan,” Saul said.
The directors accepted the resignation of Emmaus High School Assistant Principal Mark Covelle, effective April 27. Covelle will be the new academic principal at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute. Schilder described Covelle as “a go-to person and always could be counted on.” He wished him well at his new position.
A professional assignment for Jennifer Layton as a special education teacher at EHS was approved by the board. Layton is to replace Danielle Graf, who previously resigned, effective May 14.
Four from the audience made requests to address the board.
Macungie Township resident Paul McGoldrick asked the board to consider higher pay for substitute teachers. He pointed out that the Parkland School District, which pays a higher rate for substitutes, quickly fills vacancies while East Penn struggles to fill their slots. “I do the same job that we hire I.A.’s [instructional assistants] for and they get paid an hourly rate of $14.80 per hour. Whereas our subs start at $9.75 or $11.20.”
Emmaus resident Lynn Donches promoted an upcoming Concerned East Penn Taxpayers Association State Republican Primary candidate debate for the 131st legislative district March 20.
Roy Anders, of Emmaus, thanked the district on behalf of the Emmaus Youth Association for the use of the facilities at East Penn schools for their basketball games.
Emmaus resident Barbara Tantaros said, “It came to my attention to be a nationwide walkout by public school students on March 14 and that East Penn school district has endorsed this and allowed this walk-out to take place on March 14.” She scolded the administration saying, “The walkout is really a violation of state law. It prohibits the use of public school time to promote partisan political events.” Tantaros asked the school board to “not allow this to take place.”
Later during the meeting, Schilder reassured the board, “We are not encouraging or discouraging” students to participate in the 17-minute long national student walkout March 14. “We are making sure that whatever the students do, it’s going to be done in a safe way.” March 14 is the one month anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
School Director Ziad Munson supported the administration’s handling of the situation. School Director Carol Allen expressed understanding of the student’s cause, but said “It’s on school time and that is what bothers me.” Citing a website listing Emmaus as participating, she said “It’s becoming political.”
When later questioned if the district’s handling of the student walkout would violate the state constitution, school solicitor Marc Fisher answered “No.”
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 26 in the board room of the administration building.