EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT
With President Alan Earnshaw absent and Vice President Ken Bacher at the helm, the East Penn Board of School Directors graciously accepted the resignation of fellow director Chris Donatelli at the end of the May 14 meeting. Donatelli recently purchased a residence in Pennsburg to be closer to his place of employment. He is a plant manager at Performance Filtration Products.
The self-described small government, anti-establishment conservative said someday he will get back into public service “to fight for the people,” but will devote his energy to renovating his recently acquired property and possibly his vintage 1973 Fiat Spider first.
The board followed the recommendations of school solicitor Marc Fisher regarding the process to fill the seats vacated by both Donatelli and board President Alan Earnshaw.
Earnshaw, whose resignation is effective June 11, will be moving to the Richmond, Va. area where his job was transferred.
With a motion by Director Charles Ballard, the board agreed unanimously to advertise and interview for both positions, with swearing in each appointee as the seat becomes available.
At the board’s request, secretary Janine Allen will post the school director positions on the district’s website and contact the media May 15, with applications due June 4. The candidates would be interviewed 6 p.m. June 11 prior to the scheduled board meeting.
Requests to address the board were granted to Emmaus High School senior Miles Zakos and Emmaus resident John Donches.
Zakos urged the board to not cut the elementary planetarium trips from the district budget. He described how his earlier experience there influenced his desire to study astrophysics at Penn State in the fall.
Donches asked for a dollar amount from the tax increase which would go toward pensions and salaries. He again requested the board meetings be videotaped.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Schilder and Business Administrator Robert Saul presented the final budget update for discussion. The tax increase was reduced to 1.85 percent from 1.92 percent with an increased fund balance at 8.96 percent of the total budget, according to Schilder. Adding a tech integration specialist with a salary of $85,000 is also included in the changes made.
Schilder addressed the concerns earlier expressed by Zakos about the elementary planetarium trips with, “Nothing has been cut at this moment.” Schilder went on to say in order to meet an increased enrollment for science courses, the district will need to hire one or two more teachers, otherwise the planetarium teacher would be needed to be available to teach the additional students. New hires would preserve the elementary astronomy program while also making the labs less crowded and thus safer. Schilder suggested reducing the budget’s fund balance to pay for the additional faculty without affecting the tax increase.
Ballard expressed his preference that hiring additional teachers be based on there being enough revenue coming in to support them as ongoing expenses, without taking money from one-time expense funds.
Schilder promised to prune the budget elsewhere in order to provide funding for a new science teacher for the final budget proposal by June 11, when the board vote is scheduled.
Up for discussion only was a Lehigh Valley Health Network Sports Medicine Services agreement proposal which would bring synthetic turf and a new scoreboard to the high school stadium’s football field. This would be in exchange for continuing with LVHN as the sole provider for sports medicine services and for advertising space on the field and scoreboard. The marketing sponsorship would provide $1 million for the turf in payments of $100,000 per year for the next 10 years. LVHN would also waive the $400,000 in athletic services fees for 10 years to help finance the project. Currently the cost of these services has been $40,000 per year.
To sweeten the deal, the district has been offered an additional $50,000 as a bonus if the agreement is signed by June 30.
To avoid any penalties in the contract, the scoreboard must be built within the next two years and the turf installed within four years. Schilder said the projected cost of the new turf would be $1.3 million with an estimate of $150,000 for a state-of-the-art digital scoreboard. The total projected cost for the project would be $1,450,000 and the marketing sponsorship would cover all costs.
If the football field is covered with synthetic turf, the track and field teams would need to hold javelin practices and competitions on a nearby grass-covered practice field.
Director Carol Allen asked if that was enough money for the project and was assured the administration wouldn’t sign until an engineer thoroughly checked the site.
Director Adam Smith questioned if there were safeguards in the agreement to protect the district if LVHN were to be bought out by another health service provider.
Ballard suggested a bond issue to finance the upfront costs of the project to be paid off by the annual payments made by LVHN, instead of tapping into the capital reserve.
The board unanimously voted in favor of the proposed revisions to the K-12 science curriculum for 2018-2019 school year previously presented by Elementary Curriculum Supervisor Michele James and her panel of educators.
As part of the full-day kindergarten implementation for the next school year, the board approved the hiring of three new kindergarten teachers. Katherine Gonzalez will teach at Alburtis Elementary School, with Nicole Nappo at Willow Lane Elementary School and Kimberly Sicher at Shoemaker Elementary School effective Aug. 20.
Nicole Smale was also hired to teach fourth grade at Jefferson Elementary School effective Aug. 20 as a replacement for the retiring Jonas Ewing.
The directors accepted the retirement of Lower Macungie Middle School music teacher Anthony Simons, as well as EHS special education teacher Darlene Kale and math teacher Charles Sonon. All are retiring June 15.
The board also approved the retirement of EHS social studies teacher Michael Flynn who opted for the district’s early retirement incentive effective June 15.
On other personnel matters, the directors accepted the resignation of Lincoln Elementary School special education teacher Marybeth Long effective June 14.
Bacher announced the public and staff were given the opportunity to meet and question the two final candidates for the superintendent’s position May 9 and 10.
Schilder announced a seminar for parents of high school students on vaping 7 p.m. May 22 during his district update.
EHS Student Government Association representatives Sophie Pickering and Alex Comfort updated the board on recent sports successes and accomplishments in the academic arena and other extracurricular activities. With graduation June 10, this was the pair’s last school board meeting. Ballard, Bacher and Schilder all thanked them for their service.
The school board held a first reading of updates to current board policies. These included following a national trend to deemphasize class ranking by not listing it on a student’s transcript.
Director Paul Champagne reported much progress on plans for the new welding lab at Lehigh Career & Technical Institute.
Regarding any progress on the part of the Pennsylvania Legislature, Ballard said, “It’s absolute silence from Harrisburg on what the budget is going to look like.” He mentioned that Rep. House Bill 638, attributed to state Rep. Justin Simmons, R-131st, passed the House and is now before the Senate. This bill to designed eliminate a school director candidate’s ability to cross file. House Bill 638 and Senate Bill 1090, an “anti-hazing” bill are “examples of bad legislation,” Ballard said.
There was an executive session on personnel, legal and negotiation matters prior to the evening’s public meeting. Bacher mentioned executive sessions were held May 9 and 10 on personnel matters.
The East Penn Board of School Directors meet regularly 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month. Since May 28 is Memorial Day, the next meeting is scheduled for June 11 in the board room of the administration building.