EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT
The East Penn Board of School Directors accepted the resignation of board member Seth Flanders at the April 8 meeting. The Emmaus resident and his family will relocate to Milwaukee, Wis., where he has a new job. Flanders had been appointed June 11, 2018 to fill the seat vacated by Chris Donatelli.
The board decided to pick two candidates they had previously interviewed for vacant seats for consideration to replace Flanders. One, Emmaus resident Naomi Winch, is currently running unopposed for a 2-year seat. The other, Jeff Jankowski, is running against several candidates for a 4-year term. Jankowski lives in Lower Macungie Township. The directors will hold a public vote at the next meeting to select the appointee to fill Flanders’ term, which expires in December.
In other business, Director of Special Education Linda Pekarik led the evening’s presentation on Communities in Schools. Assisting were Counseling Department Chair Jen Corolla from Emmaus High School and Tammy Patterson, the CIS site coordinator for EHS. CIS President and CEO Tim Mulligan and CIS Executive Vice President Mike McCorristin also attended.
Pekarik briefly described how CIS has partnered with the district since 2017 in dealing with an influx of mental health issues interfering with students’ ability to learn. She said those barriers to education included suicide ideation, self harm, anger, depression, anxiety, grief and loss, family issues and gender identification.
Patterson explained CIS is a national nonprofit agency that serves nearly 1.5 million students per year nationally. She said their mission statement is “To surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.” She cited a pupil with anxiety issues would be more likely to become chronically absent. As a result, the individual’s grades would suffer.
CIS employs a three-tier system, explained Patterson, with the first tier identifying and implementing school-wide goals. For EHS, these include improving social-emotional learning, reducing chronic absenteeism, and reducing student suspensions.
Tier 2 focuses on grouping students with similar needs together for support. One of the programs helping is the smoking cessation group facilitated by the Caron Treatment Center. Patterson said eight students have completed the program and an additional nine are currently participating. She explained students are given a choice of joining the group as an alternative to a one-day suspension when caught smoking or vaping.
Tier 3 provides intensive one-on-one services for students requiring individualized support. “As of April 1, 2019, 68 students are actively being served,” Patterson said, with 15 on a wait list.
Corolla produced charts showing an increase of reported incidents of anxiety, suicide ideation, family problems and depression among other issues at the high school.
Mulligan said for the first year in the partnership with East Penn, 2,600 students were served through school-wide supports. Of these, 68 are receiving case-managed supports. He cited a success rate of 96 percent for staying in school, 72 percent graduation rate, 84 percent promotion rate, 74 percent improved attendance, 60 percent in improved behavior and 59 percent with improved academics.
McCorristin presented the directors with a Challenge Schools Grant offered by the CIS national office to expand their services to both Eyer Middle School and Lower Macungie Middle School. The funding would cover 40 percent of the cost for three years for 2020, 2021 and 2022. He said the estimated $192,000 of financial assistance over three years would provide support for a greater number of students and provide opportunities for earlier intervention.
Directors Charles Ballard and Vice President Paul Champagne asked where the district’s funding for the program would come from especially after the first three years of the CIS subsidy. Ballard expressed concern about the district property taxpayers being asked to pay for treating a rise in community-wide mental health issues through the schools.
Superintendent Kristen Campbell said it is the district’s responsibility to create an environment where students are able to learn and dealing with their mental health issues fits within the school’s priorities.
With the expanded service becoming an agenda item for a May vote, Campbell admitted “the timing was not ideal” where it fell within the district budgeting schedule, but felt this recently-offered opportunity should be considered.
In other business, the directors all voted to adopt the 2019-2020 proposed final budget for the district and senior citizens real estate tax rebate program for the 2019-2020 school year. The proposed final amount of $158,602,694 would be funded by the following tax levies, including 18.5497 mills on the assessed valuation of real estate, 0.5 percent (0.005) Act 511 Earned Income Tax and 0.5 percent (0.005) Act 511 Real Estate Transfer Tax.
Business Administrator Robert Saul said the administration will work to update the budget to fit the CIS expansion in time for the May meeting. Final voting on the budget takes place June 10.
The directors passed a resolution that urges “elected officials to support legislation that corrects the tuition for regular and special education to cyber charter schools so that it is based on the actual costs of educating their students and relieves the financial burden on school districts and taxpayers.”
According to Ballard the “current funding formula for cyber charter schools is based on school district expenditures with no relationship to the actual instructional costs of the students attending the charter school.” East Penn paid out a total of $1,465,799.92 to cyber schools for both special education and regular education student tuition for fiscal year 2017-2018.
Directors also passed a resolution to support “Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 526 for School Districts Providing Their Own Cyber Learning Programs.” According to the document, the advantages to district-run cyber schooling include, “cyber education programs operated by school districts provide students with a smooth transition to and from the traditional school setting; and give students opportunities to participate in district instructional courses and resources; and students may choose to participate in extracurricular activities such as athletics, band, music, clubs and social activities such as homecoming and prom; and students may graduate in district ceremonies and receive a district diploma.” Another plus cited by the board is “significantly reduced costs.”
Both passed unanimously, with minor changes added by Champagne as a “friendly amendment.”
During her district update, Campbell announced 436 new students were recently registered for kindergarten for the 2019-2020 school year.
In personnel matters, the retirement of EHS math teacher Margaret Hoffert effective June 19 was approved.
EHS Student Government Association representatives Sajan Patel and Sydney Souliere reported on the events for seniors leading up to the June 9 graduation. These include an ice cream social, the senior ball and S.T.E.P. afterball party. School-sponsored travel opportunities for students were also highlighted.
The directors held a second reading of board policy updates.
Assistant Superintendent Douglas Povilaitis explained he made some changes in keeping with board recommendations from the previous meeting. These were focused on tobacco and nicotine delivery systems and policies regarding the use of school facilities and public attendance at school events.
There were no requests to address the board.
Board President Ken Bacher said there was an executive session prior to the public meeting on personnel.
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 May 13.
The public can access documents through BoardDocs via a link on the district website. There is free WiFi available for audience members during the meetings in the board room of the administration building.