On Monday, June 13, the Northampton School Board met to discuss the Special Education Plan, the NASD revised Health and Safety Plan for the 2022-2023 school year, the upcoming community meeting for the Route 329/Seemsville Road elementary school, and took a recess to deescalate a situation in place of having a resident escorted from the premises.
NASD Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik expressed that the Northampton Area High School graduation on June 3 was a well-deserved evening for students and congratulated them for their hard work, especially over the past two years during the pandemic.
School board Vice President John Becker reported that the 329 Leadership Team meeting has met three times since their last board meeting where they reviewed details about the building such as PEX piping instead of copper piping, alternative producers of the chillers for the heating and air-conditioning system, alternative types of floor tiles, possible HVAC systems, back-up generators and where to put them on the property, utilities, water service coming from Bethlehem, sewer services coming from Allen Township and Northampton, natural gas provided through the JW Land Company, loading docks and placement for them, storage areas for maintenance equipment, increasing the size of the cafeteria, gymnasium size, display areas, parking areas and lighting, and tree placement for the 83 minimum trees that are required by the zoning ordinance.
During the unfinished business portion of the meeting, board member Doug Vaughn brought up that his straw vote/poll about whether board members were in favor of keeping Moore Elementary open or closing it was tabled at the May meeting for later discussion. Vaughn’s question was whether board members felt Northampton Area School District should invest in repairing Moore Elementary School with the intent of keeping the school open indefinitely.
Board President James Chuss asked if anyone on the board wished to give their opinion.
Board director David Gogel responded, “At this present time, I don’t think we have all the information.”
At the time, resident Adam Ash shouted, “You’ve had a month!”
President Chuss repeated “Point of order” to correct procedure and requested that security remove Ash for his disruptive behavior when he continued to yell. Director Kim Bretzik suggested the board take a recess instead of removing Ash from the meeting, and Chuss granted the recess to deescalate the situation.
After the recess, Vaughn moved to table the discussion to a later meeting since the community meeting to discuss the Route 329/Seemsville Road elementary school is scheduled this week.
Next, the Personnel Voice Vote items on the agenda were approved by the board unanimously to appoint Jason Williamson as Board Treasurer for 2022-2023; revising the list of professional and support staff transfers for the 2022-2023 school year; revising the Master District Volunteer List for the 2021-2022 school year; additions and deletions to the Substitute Listing for the 2021-2022 school year; three district staff retirements; two unpaid leave of absences; and six district staff resignations.
The Personnel Roll Call Votes for agenda items were also approved by the board unanimously for the revised listing for Community Education positions for fall and spring of the 2021-2022 school year; revised list of teachers and instructional assistants to provide Extended School Year (EESY) and Chapter 15/Section 504 Services for summer 2022; revised listing of NASD Summer Bridge lead teachers, teacher, guidance counselors, and nurses and their reimbursement in accordance with the appropriate Collective Bargaining Agreement from June 13, 2022 through Aug. 4, 2022; hiring Morgan Bear as TPE Mathematics Teacher at the middle school effective Aug. 22, 2022; Matthew Scholl as the Head Boys Basketball Coach effective for the 2022-2023 school year; the following substitute rates for the 2022-2023 school year effective July 1, 2022: Instructors – $125/day, Short-Term Substitute Teachers – $140/day (46-75 days) and $165/day (76-89 days), Substitute Nurse – $145/day, Secretaries – $12.15/hour, Instructional Assistants – $11.46/hour, Lunchroom and Hall Monitors – $11.46/hour, Substitute Custodians – $14/hour, and Security Guards – $13.55/hour, $16.94/hour for 46-90 days in a continuous assignment, and $19.19/hour for 90-180 days in a continuous assignment; hiring Melissa Laudenslager as PE Library Science Teacher at the high school effective Aug. 22, 2022; Student Summer Help, along with their compensation of $10/hour effective for summer 2022; Nicole Verret as Middle School Head Secretary effective July 25, 2022; Charles Hutterer as Long-Term Substitute Social Studies Teacher at the middle school effective for the first semester of the 2022-2023 school year; Alex Heckman as Long-Term Substitute Grade 4 Teacher at Lehigh Elementary School effective Aug. 22, 2022 through Feb. 27, 2023; voluntary transfer of Trisha Meleski from Reading Specialist at Lehigh Elementary to English Teacher at the middle school effective Aug. 22, 2022; Ian Luberti as Hall Monitor at NAHS effective Aug. 29, 2022; fall season head coaches and assistant coaches and their designated payments effective July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023; Attendance of Luke Shafnisky at the PA Educational Leadership Summit on Aug. 7-9, 2022; Trisha Nagle as Long-Term Substitute Grade 5 Teacher at Lehigh Elementary for the 2022-2023 school year; Megan Repsher as 12-Month Secretary at NAHS effective July 11, 2022; Kaitlynn McNally as the Assistant Principal at the Borough Elementary Schools effective July 1, 2022; and security guard and hall monitor employees to work at the high school and middle school during summer 2022.
Curriculum agenda items were also approved by the board unanimously to approve the Northampton Area High School Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (A-TSI) Plan to be implemented July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, and to approve the district’s Special Education Plan.
Superintendent Kovalchik addressed that the number of special education students has increased to 19%, which is approximately 1,000 students that identify as a special education student. The problem with that from a funding standpoint is that the district is responsible for picking up the slack and is responsible for the decrease in allocations from the state, Kovalchik explained.
Board member Dr. Michael Baird also pointed out that in 2008-2009, the state provided 32% of the costs for special education costs, which went down to 22% in 2019-2020. With the increase in special education students and the decrease in allocations from the state for students that identify as such, the district must pay for the remainder of the costs out of their own budget.
In other business, the board voted to unanimously approve the facilities agenda items for the Borough of Bath to install storm water pollution reduction on the George Wolf Elementary School property at no cost to the district and the replacement of chillers at Siegfried and George Wolf Elementary Schools by Trane Building Services at a cost of $505,520.
The school board also unanimously voted to approve finance agenda items that include: adopting the 2022-2023 final budget General Fund – $120,476,097, Food Service Fund – $2,450,035, and the Athletic Fund – $261,224; the General Fund Budget is supported by no tax increase and the Act 511 Local Tax Enabling Act tax levy Per Capita Tax – $5, Real Estate Transfer Tax – 0.5%, Earned Income Tax – 0.7%, and the Section 670 Pennsylvania School Code Per Capita Tax – $5, and Real Estate Tax – 55.71 mills; approve athletic ticket prices for the 2022-2023 school year as $3 for students, $5 for adults, and free for senior citizens 62+; authorize administration to pay final invoices applicable to the 2021-2022 fiscal year and to make necessary budget transfers to close the fiscal year in conjunction with Gorman and Associates, P.C.; adopt the 2022-2023 Northampton Community College (NCC) Budget in the amount of $67,645,750 with the district’s portion being $891,502; New Story Tuition Agreement at a cost not to exceed $10,395; lunch prices for the 2022-2023 school year as $2.60 for elementary students, $2.80 for secondary students, $2.50 for elementary and $2.60 for secondary student entrée only, $0.65 for student milk (1/2 pint), $3.95 for adult lunches, and $2.75-$3.75 for adult entrée only; A la Carte prices for the 2022-2023 school year; a one year agreement for trash removal/recycling services to Chrin Hauling, Inc. at a cost of $6,187.50 per month July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023; alternate method of billing and payment with NCC for the 2022-2023 school year; contract for Atlas Transportation Inc. on an “as needed” basis and provide additional transportation options for students for the 2022-2023 school year; addendum updating the fees Portnoff Law Associates, Ltd. Charges to collect the district’s delinquent real estate taxes; amendment to the Retirement Plan Compliance Administration Services Agreement with OMNI & TSA Consulting Group, Inc.; bills for payment; and Treasurer’s Report.
Last, the board voted unanimously to approve four miscellaneous agenda items that included: The 2022 Homestead and Farmstead real estate tax reduction amount of $143.26 with a 2022 Homestead and Farmstead real estate assessed value reduction of $2,572; the revised NASD Health and Safety Plan, which is required under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Since the plan may be subject to further revisions whether it be immediately or from time to time as required by changing circumstances or Federal or Commonwealth Orders and Guidance, the Superintendent of schools is hereby authorized to adjust the plan based on the approved Mitigation Chart and input from state and local health care advisors as described in the plan. All plan changes can be found on the NASD website and will be communicated to parents/guardians; appoint David Gogel and James Chuss as the voting delegates for the PSBA Headquarters in Mechanicsburg, PA or via a zoom connection; and approve Nele Fischer as a full-time foreign exchange student at NAHS for the 2022-2023 school year.
Bretzik proposed removing face coverings from the revised Health and Safety Plan, and although several board members also opposed future requirements of face coverings as outlined in the Mitigation Chart, the board was unsure whether this would affect ESSER funds and decided to not make any changes to the revised Health and Safety Plan at this time. Board solicitor Steve Miller pointed out that if there are any state or federal mask mandates in the future, the district will have to follow the mandates regardless of what is in the district’s plan. Superintendent Kovalchik added that the board could make amendments in the future if they feel inclined to do so after finding out whether removing face coverings from the plan would affect the ESSER fund.
During public comments, several residents asked the board to revisit the topic of virtual meetings again, since many individuals are unable to attend the monthly school board meetings. Residents stated that in the present times, practically everything is virtual, and that the public should not be denied the opportunity to view school board meetings at a later time.
NASD resident Maggie Kemp presented the school board with a list of questions regarding the Route 329/Seemsville Road elementary school and stated that she does not think the location is a safe spot for a school due to the increased current and projected warehouse tractor trailer and dump truck traffic. Kemp also had questions regarding what is going to happen to Moore Elementary School when the new school is built and whether parents can refuse to send their children to the new elementary school when it is built.
Superintendent Kovalchik tried to accurately answer as many of Kemp’s questions as he could and stated that the district allows elementary school parents to request to have their child attend a different school if they have a childcare issue, but only for elementary school students and childcare issues. Kovalchik also stated that the board has not made any final decisions about Moore Elementary, but the board will have to decide at some point in the coming months what they want to do since many of the borough’s elementary schools need renovations and adding another elementary school will create staffing problems.
The Northampton School Board will be holding a public meeting on Thursday, June 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the NAHS auditorium to discuss the proposed new elementary school and education center on the district owned Route 329 property. Superintendent Kovalchik noted there will be an hour-long presentation and then will open up to public comments.
The next Northampton School Board monthly meeting will be held on Monday, July 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the NAHS auditorium, located at 1619 Laubach Ave.