The Northampton School Board meeting took place on April 11 in the Northampton Area High School auditorium.
During the 2022-2023 Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School (BAVTS) budget presentation, Executive Director Adam Lazarchak presented the board with Northampton Area High School’s involvement in the vo-tech school and proposed the budget for the upcoming school year.
According to Lazarchak’s presentation, NASD has a 3-year average of 301 students enrolled per school year at BAVTS, which has been steadily rising with each passing school year. Using a funding formula, the BAVTS upcoming school year proposed budget shows a 2.69% district contribution increase for NASD, which totals $275,981 due to the 40% increase in NAHS participation over the last 3 years.
Various board members had questions for Lazarchak regarding the programs available to students and enrollment trends at BAVTS. Lazarchak identified that the school offers vocational and technical instruction in 26 unique programs of study within seven career clusters in construction, creative arts, culinary arts, health, manufacturing, service and safety, and transportation.
Lavarchak stated, “Every program leads to viable occupations or careers out of high school, which can save them time and money as they move on to their career goals.”
Lazarchak also added that many programs at BAVTS are at capacity for enrollment, which could potentially lead to the vocational-technical school having to waitlist applications for students looking to enroll in certain programs during the a.m. session. However, Lavarchak addressed that BAVTS does not currently have a cap on the number of students able to enroll from each school district.
The next presentation was given by Chris Bamber from PFM Financial Advisors on PFM bond refunding. Bamber provided board members a packet of information on refinancing one of the board’s existing bonds.
Bamber expressed that each bond issue has an associated call date, which is the earliest date that these bonds can be refunded with tax exempt debt. Bamber stated that the board’s series A of 2014’s bond for $28,150,000 at a 4.6% interest rate becomes callable October 1, 2022. Bamber stated, “Based on a conservative estimate of where current conditions are, we can still estimate $1.1 million of net local resulting savings and replace higher existing interest rates with new lower rates.”
The proposal will provide the “head nod” to the financing team to draft parameters resolution at the board’s May meeting, which would enable PFM to price the bonds in early June, settle in early July, and puts PFM in a position to be able to call the bonds in October 2022.
Board member Robert Mentzell commented on the community council recent meeting, where the status of the Route 329/Seemsville Road school project was discussed.
Mentzell noted, “It was reported by the Allen Township representative that PennDOT has some preliminary plans in that area. Specifically, PennDOT is tentatively planning to redo the Howertown Road bridge near the Copper Penny, and it’s planned that it will be only one-way going north for a certain time period.”
Mentzell spoke about constituents concerned about the closing of Moore Elementary School.
Mentzell made the clarification, “Decisions about Moore Elementary never came up at the community council meeting.”
Mentzell continued, “I want to be clear to the public. No decision about Moore Elementary has been made by this board. The board has never debated, much less voted on this issue.”
Several members of the audience voiced their concerns during the appropriated public comments section of the meeting. Multiple parents and residents voiced concerns that they don’t feel heard by the board.
A few public comments also brought up the possibility of having more meetings that would allow the public to voice their opinions and concerns with the board.
One parent stated, “If public comment was important, you wouldn’t just sit here once a month, you would get public input and have open dialogue.”
Following, a resident questioned President James Chuss about what the school district is teaching the children about the biology of a woman. President Chuss identified the question was not on the agenda and asked the resident to sit down. The resident began shouting and yelling obscenities at Chuss and was escorted out by security officers.
In other business, 14 personnel voice vote items were unanimously approved, and 14 roll call vote items were also unanimously approved by the board. Following, one policy item on revised and new policies for adoption was unanimously approved, and one facilities item for a General Construction Change Order in the amount of $42,619.50 for the modifications along Blue Mountain Road required by PennDOT and the Electrical Construction Change Order in the amount of $45,000 (credit) for a portion of the unused allowances was also unanimously approved.
Next, seven finance items were approved including approval of the district’s portion of the CIU20 General Operating Budget for the amount of $43,894.88, the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit Non-Member School District and Charter Schools Special Education Services Agreement, the approval for the administration to work with PFM Financial Advisors in conjunction with the issuance of General Obligation Bonds, Series 22, with the proceeds of which being used to refund all or a portion of the outstanding 2014A Bonds, the Contract for Alternative Transportation Solutions to provide additional transportation options for students, bills for repayment, the Treasurer’s report, and the 60-month lease with Fraser Advanced Information Systems for 32 copiers to be located throughout the district at a cost of $7,300 per month.
Last, the board unanimously approved the miscellaneous items in the agenda, which included the creation of a Middle School Student Activity Account for the Northampton Area Middle School Video Game Club, and the nomination of Dr. Michael Baird to serve as the Northampton Area School District representative to the CIU 20 Board of Directors to serve a three-year term beginning July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2025.
Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik ended the meeting with a few words, stating that the school district has some challenging decisions coming up regarding the future of the district and how to prepare for upcoming changes.
Kovalchik added, “There will always be people that don’t agree with the decisions made, but our ultimate goal is still the same: Do what’s best for the students in the Northampton Area School District as well as the community.”
The NASD Board of School Directors will meet next on Monday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Northampton Area High School auditorium, located at 1619 Laubach Ave.