EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT
The East Penn Board of School Directors sat through a Student Intern Teacher presentation and two other curriculum updates at the 3-hour-plus board meeting Oct. 14. An enthusiastic team of educational department chairs, teachers and administrators provided the board with a bold new vision of how they would like to deliver knowledge to the students in their charge.
Curriculum and Instruction Supervisor Mike Mihalik proposed a new Student Intern Teacher, or SIT, program which would provide interested Emmaus High School seniors with an opportunity to serve as assistant teachers in the high school classrooms. The student intern teacher would work alongside a volunteer mentor teacher with underclassmen. The student interns would be required to attend monthly seminars during Flex blocks for professional development, as well as attending the class with which they are paired.
As with the district’s existing Independent Study program, an agreement document would be in place. The student would be graded, but the grade would not be included in the student’s GPA and can earn up to one credit for the course of study.
Curriculum and Instruction Supervisor of Humanities Erin Murphy introduced the directors to the team’s work in revising the curricula for English and reading. She was joined by Erin Knecht, Denise Brosky, Justine Frantzen and Bridget Doklan to explain the new thinking behind what they described as a “student-centered” classroom.
Highlights from the new curriculum, explained Brosky, included a “workshop model” where reading and writing would occur in class with mini-lessons taught to the entire group, as well as small group instruction. Students would be given a choice in topics and would receive “project-based experiences” that would support East Penn’s “Portrait of a Graduate.”
At the middle school level, it is expected that students would be motivated to read and write more, their stamina and volume would increase, as well as their ability to take risks in what they read and discuss books analytically. Students would learn awareness and inclusion through a variety of authors and cultural works.
In high school, students would write for “authentic, real-world audiences.” Students would be actively engaging in independent reading. Performance would be measured on the Keystone exams and from student feedback surveys.
Social Studies course revisions for grades six through 12 developed by Mario Cunningham, Scott Ketcham, Michael Facchiano, Melissa Moxley, and Michael Carolla were described to the board as “inquiry-based” with content connected to the real world beyond school. Students would be encouraged to be “global citizens.”
Success in middle school would be measured on a student taking the eighth grade citizenship exam and various course performance tasks, writing assignments, as well as utilizing problem-solving skills and enhanced research skills. Students would be taught to tell the difference between fact and opinion and how to be respectful when discussing various issues and current events.
High school students would develop transferable skills and be able to connect with the world outside the classroom. Increased interest in history and current events would be nurtured through History Day and related club activities.
Technology education and business and computer applications would be upgraded, according to Mihalik and high school tech teacher John Dietrick. With a new courses like Mobile Apps, business and computer students would be creating apps or learning to enhance or personalize existing ones. This would build upon skills they have developed in middle school. If approved, the district would need to budget $2,200 for Android tablets to allow students to test their newly created apps.
Three other tech education courses were proposed, including Home Maintenance and Materials Technology, which would benefit anyone who would eventually become a homeowner in adult life. Students would learn electricity, plumbing, construction, landscaping and learn the difference between maintenance and repair.
Math teacher Jacob Gueiss described Project Lead the Way for Engineering Design and Development as a capstone course where students would design and develop a solution to a project through research and problem-solving skills. They can create an original invention or innovate an existing product. A first year price tag of $4,304 for materials and supplies would need to be added to the district budget.
Another design and development course would be offered for students to work on a project-based experience that connects with the community. Highlights include students making an improvement to an existing problem or building a product prototype. This would provide students with a personalized learning experience which they could present at a spring showcase.
Board members were receptive to the innovative ideas presented to them with the proposed revision to how the curriculum would be taught.
They were not fully ready to embrace a “School Within a School” approach as presented by Mihalik and Assistant Superintendent Laura Witman. Mihalik and Witman proposed setting up a pilot program with 32-48 students to be voted on by the board in a few weeks. Witman explained there were different models the district could adopt, including the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia which enjoys a partnership with the Franklin Institute.
Although the board praised the educators’ passion for the concept which is purported to be project-based, with a connection to the community, Vice President Paul Champagne reflected what many were thinking, that more information was needed before they could vote on the measure.
In her district update, School Superintendent Kristen Campbell praised East Penn School District Assistant Business Manager James Frank for recently achieving the respected status of “Pennsylvania Certified School Business Official” by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.
In personnel matters, the board accepted the resignation of Lower Macungie Middle School custodian Robert Supplee Jr. effective Jan. 1, 2020.
The directors also approved a 2019-2020 salary of $162,000 for Superintendent Kristen Campbell effective July 1, 2019.
Since there were no changes from the previous meeting, the directors quickly voted for adoption of board policy updates regarding school board membership, student admission and withdrawal, health screenings and food services.
There were no requests to address the board at the meeting.
President Ken Bacher said there was an executive session prior to the public forum where “personnel” was discussed.
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 Oct. 28.
The public can access documents through BoardDocs via a link on the district web site. There is free WiFi available for audience members during the meetings in the board room of the administration building.