EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT
An answer to a Request for Proposal for pupil transportation was test-driven through the East Penn School Board meeting Feb. 11. East Penn business administrator Robert Saul introduced Dr. Wayne McCullough as the consultant the administration had asked to evaluate the district’s transportation needs.
McCullough, the PA Association of School Business Officials’ director of leadership and development, presented his findings and recommendation to the board. He mentioned that out of six contractors who attended a pre-bid meeting, two submitted proposals.
When Vice President Paul Champagne questioned why there was a 20 percent increase over current transportation costs, McCullough cited the strong labor market in this area. Other districts across Pennsylvania are also dealing with rising costs, McCullough noted.
Based on factors such as, “a favorable cost proposal, a satisfactory safety record and a well-designed driver training program, STA of Pennsylvania will be the contractor that we recommend,” McCullough said.
The directors unanimously agreed to award the contract for service July 1 to June 30, 2024 to STA.
Principal and Senior Project Manager James Lynch from D’HUY Engineering updated the directors on the turf field project timeline for Emmaus High School. He explained the project not only involved replacing the existing natural grass with multi-sport synthetic turf, it included track resurfacing, relocation of jumps and throwing track venues, a new scoreboard and improved drainage.
One of the major factors behind the nearly two year timeline was the complicated permit process involving the Borough of Emmaus, Upper Milford Township and Lehigh County Conservation District. Lynch emphasized securing building and other permits could take around six months and cannot be rushed.
D’HUY Engineering looks to have those permits and other aspects of the project in hand by the end of 2019. Lynch said the goal is to have the project out for bid at the start of 2020, with construction completed in time for the first home game in September. He quipped that he had “a win over Parkland scheduled here.”
Superintendent Kristen Campbell brought another detailed look at the administration’s proposed 2019-2020 budget to the table. The focus this time was on the need for three additional personnel for EHS at a recurring cost of $90,000 each.
Campbell said with one certified school nurse at EHS to provide services to 2,764 students, there was a need to hire an additional certified school nurse to share the workload. She explained that a health room nurse is required to administer medical procedures only while under the direct guidance of a CSN. A CSN is also responsible for developing emergency care plans and individual care plans for students with chronic illnesses, among other duties. Currently the district is out of compliance with the Pennsylvania School Code that requires a ratio of one CSN to 1,500 students.
Academic Support Coordinator Tricia Gutman assisted Campbell with presenting the need to hire an English as a Second Language teacher. She explained an ESL teacher provides daily language instruction commensurate with a student’s proficiency level. Other responsibilities include working with individual students and their content teachers as well as other duties.
There are 50 English language learners enrolled in EHS with an additional 67 who have moved out of the program but are still being monitored. According to Gutman, hiring the additional instructor will likely bring the district into state code compliance.
A special education teacher is also needed, primarily for the emotional support program, reported Campbell. Currently there are 55 students at EHS identified with a social emotional disturbance. She said a special education teacher monitors each student’s individualized education program goals, provides individual instruction and collaborates with parents, the school psychologist and other members of the multidisciplinary team. Campbell reminded the board students in the special education program are able to remain in high school until the age of 21. She said the new hire would bring the district into compliance with Chapter 14 caseload requirements. This will also enable the district to return some of the students currently placed out of the district as part of a Pennsylvania Department of Education Special Education Audit corrective action plan.
Other district needs are to be discussed at subsequent meetings with a target date of June 10 for adoption of the final 2019-2020 budget.
In support of a proposal by Director Ziad Munson, the directors unanimously voted to instruct the administration to study and provide a report on the obstacles and potential solutions to implementing later start times for the school day at the high school and middle schools. Munson said, after reading reports by the Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, “It says now that sleep deprivation among adolescents and teenagers is a major problem. It’s a health and safety problem.” He also mentioned scientific evidence that support delaying the start times for the high school is beneficial academically and economically.
He said there is plenty of data available to study from other districts in Pennsylvania and across the country that have implemented later start times. Recognizing the impact on extracurricular activities, student employment, start times for other schools, transportation and other issues that would take awhile to be resolved, Munson said, “The time for this is right now,” to look into it.
Director Charles Ballard suggested the teacher’s union, child care providers and superintendents in area school districts be consulted during the administration’s research.
There were two requests to address the board by parents from Wescosville in favor of Munson’s motion. Carolyn Skekel described how a later start time at the high school level would benefit her 15-year-old son who is battling Crohn’s Disease. “To some kids that extra 30 minutes of sleep a day is a big deal,” she said. Her son also struggles with a morning honors math course because he is chronically tired.
Jenn Riedy, mother of six, said two of her children are Emmaus graduates and the youngest is in kindergarten. While supporting a later high school start time, she suggested, “It would make a lot more sense for the elementary kids to start first, so parents can get them on the bus before they go to work.” This would eliminate the need for them to be driven to daycare and then being transported again to school from there, she added.
With an incoming snowstorm about to hit the district that evening and all through the next day, Campbell announced schools would be closed Feb. 12. She also said, “April 18 would be a make-up day for all students.”
After being recognized by the superintendent, Oscar Felegy, Carter Henninger, Benjamin Fletcher and Ryan Boulrice from Lower Macungie Middle School, debuted a clever video they and other members of their student manufacturing club produced titled “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” It was filmed at the Mack Trucks facility in Macungie to encourage students to consider a career path in manufacturing and will be entered into an annual state contest. Felegy asked those present to go to the school’s website to vote on the video between Feb. 20-23. They were accompanied by Principal Suzanne Vincent.
In personnel matters, the directors accepted the resignation of second grade teacher Lisa Evans from her position at Wescosville Elementary School effective Feb. 21.
Vice President Paul Champagne mentioned his concern that three more instructional assistants were leaving the district. “How do we stem that pattern?” he asked.
The directors held a first reading on updated board policies regarding nondiscrimination in school, classroom and employment practices. Policies addressing harassment, hazing, bullying, cyberbullying and students with disabilities were also examined. Assistant Superintendent Douglas Povilaitis explained that most of the changes are in response to a recently passed state anti-hazing law.
School Board President Ken Bacher said there was no executive session prior to the public meeting. He announced all district schools and offices will be closed Feb. 18 for Presidents Day.
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 is scheduled for Feb. 25 in the board room of the administration building.