The Northampton School Board held its monthly meeting on Monday, July 18 where the board discussed school district goals, temporary emergency provisions, and PIAA bylaws.
Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik began with a presentation on the 2022-2023 district goals. The first goal is to implement classroom instructional strategies that promote collaborative learning to improve student growth in all academic areas. The second goal is to continue the development and plan for implementation of the District Comprehensive Plan and revised District Mission, Vision, and Profile of a Graduate focusing on elevating educational opportunities for all students. The third goal is to implement Year 1 of the District Special Education Plan to include professional development focusing on literacy and IEP development and a continued focus on improving our instructional services in the least restrictive environment. The fourth goal is to collaborate with outside agencies to develop partnerships to address mental health, counseling, and supports for students, staff, and families. The fifth goal is to review and enhance safety plans in collaboration with staff, students, community members, and first responders. The sixth goal is to finalize and communicate plans to address capital projects and student enrollment. The seventh goal is to develop a plan that addresses the hiring of quality staff members and the retention of staff members, and provides the necessary trainings and mentorship needed that offer support and enhance all areas of the district. Last, the eighth goal is to develop and implement plans to improve the IT and data security and disaster recovery plans.
During unfinished business, board member Doug Vaughn brought up his straw poll from the previous two meetings. Vaughn asked the board to update the community on their opinions in regards to the following statement: “NASD should invest in repairing Moore Elementary with the intention of keeping Moore Elementary School open indefinitely.”
Board member David Gogel stated the board should “wait until they have all the information that we need before continuing on with the process.” He also expressed that he did not agree with the language used in the statement regarding the word “indefinitely.”
Vaughn responded, “The public would like to know, and I think the administration would like to know the opinions of the board, so they have an idea of what we’re thinking at this time. It’s not a decision, it’s a straw poll that’s asking your opinion with the facts you have today.”
Board President James Chuss shared that he would like to see Moore Elementary remain open because of the growing population in the area, but that asking for a decision today is premature.
Board member Kim Bretzik proposed a resolution on future operations of Moore Elementary that would read: “Whereas the FutureThink Enrollment Study’s recommendation involved building a new elementary school on the district’s Route 329 property and closing Moore Elementary, whereas the future of Moore Elementary is inextricably linked to the Route 329 project resolved that the Northampton Area School Board will evaluate the ability to keep Moore Elementary in service before any future votes on the Route 329 project, and will inform residents of that evaluation before any future votes on the Route 329 project.”
Chuss responded that the board is not ready to make an educated decision yet regarding the outcome of Moore Elementary or the proposed Route 329 elementary school.
“I’d rather be cautious and gather all the facts before I make my decision,” said board member Dr. Michael Baird.
In other business, the board unanimously approved two unpaid leave of absences, two retirement resignations, three other resignations, and two half-year sabbaticals.
The board also unanimously approved a revised listing of individuals to oversee intramural programs and the weight room, a revised listing of NASD Summer Bridge teachers and staff, a revised listing of 2022-2023 Fall Season Head Coaches and Assistant Coaches, Daniele Bowman and Michael Missmer as assistants to the Athletic Director, Maggy Alexander-Michel as a 12-month Curriculum Secretary, rescinding the approval of Dayna Younis as School Psychologist Intern, Jamie Lasko as TPE Spanish Teach at NAHS, Meagan Sherry as TPE Family Consumer Science Teacher at NAHS, Alyssa Reynard as TPE English Teacher at NAHS, Diana Meckes as Special Education Instructional Assistant at the middle school, Joseph Winter as Special Education Instructional Assistant at NAHS, the continuation of the Community Education Program with Sandra Bischof as Coordinator of the program, the anticipated classes and roster of instructors of the anticipated Community Education Program, Lori Cassidy as Long-Term Substitute English Teacher at the middle school, Mary Frantz as Supervisor of Technical Support Services, Jeffrey Erschen as a maintenance employee, and Trina Williams as Supervisor of Psychological Services.
The school board also unanimously approved the Board Policy Adoption and Revisions for policy 605 – Tax Levy, 622 – GASB Statement 34, 626.1 – Travel Reimbursement Policy, 706.1 – Furniture and Equipment, and 827 – Conflict of Interest.
During discussion of agenda items, Vaughn asked the board for clarification on why the district is required to have temporary emergency provisions set in place for the curriculum agenda item.
Kovalchik responded that the state requires schools to complete 180 days of instruction or 990 hours, and if those requirements are not met, the district is fined up to $5,000 per day of missed instruction. Kovalchik also noted that if a school or a school district needs to close because of Covid situations, the temporary emergency provisions plan must be approved by the Board of Education and submitted to the state because if it is not approved, then remote learning will not count towards those 180 days and students would be required to make up any missed days of instruction at the end of the school year.
The Emergency Instructional Time Provisions under Section 520.1 of School Code 2022-2023 School Year was approved by all board members in attendance aside from Vaughn, who voted no on the temporary emergency provisions. With a 7-1 vote, the motion carried.
The board unanimously approved the finance agenda items which included a contract for a special education teacher to provide school-based special education services not to exceed $22,491; approve, ratify, and confirm the Agreement for the Transportation of Students entered between NASD and PASD for transportation of NASD students; the 2022 real estate tax exonerations for the three Route 329 parcels of land that the district owns in the amounts of $1,036.21, $11.14, and $105.85; the settlement of the real estate tax assessment appeal against BKWF Holdings LLC, which authorizes attorney Raymond Wendolowski to execute the settlement stipulation on behalf of the school district; the bills for payment; and the Treasurer’s Report.
After discussion, the board unanimously approved the items listed under miscellaneous for the Secondary and Elementary School Handbooks for the 2022-2023 school year, the contract with Behavioral Health Associates to provide education and behavioral services to district students, and the ABA Support Services contract for students with disabilities to be paid out of ACCESS funds.
During discussion, Vaughn voiced questions about how the secondary and elementary school handbooks state that the district will not discriminate based on race, color, national creed, age, sex, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, or disability, and how later in the document it states that the district will provide students with course offerings, counseling services, and extracurricular activities without any form of discrimination. “One of the big things you hear in the news today is transgender athletes competing against female athletes. I don’t necessarily agree with the equality of a transgender athlete competing against women, and I was wondering if that is taken into consideration in this language,” Vaughn said.
Kovalchik responded that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association governs how students participate in different athletic events.
During public comment, other residents also voiced their concern regarding the language of the handbook and transgender girls using female bathrooms and participating in female sports.
One resident stated, “I don’t think biological males should be able to compete in female sports.”
Kovalchik stated that he will be discussing this topic in the coming week with Athletic Director Shaun Murray and that he will share the PIAA’s exact language at the next meeting. Kovalchik also shared that NASD schools develop plans with principals, guidance counselors, parents, and transgender students that come to a collaborative agreement on an individual basis.
During public comments, livestreaming the school board meetings was brought up by residents again. Chuss responded that he is working on livestreaming audio of the meeting.
Resident Maggie Kemp also voiced her concern for the safety of students at the proposed Route 329 elementary school because she believes the designated spot is not safe, given the influx of tractor trailer traffic that will result from the warehouses being built in the area.
Chuss replied that PennDOT performed a traffic study at the site, which stated the warehouse traffic will only add 1.4 seconds to the drive on Seemsville Road, but residents expressed that they did not agree with these findings.
More information on the proposed Route 329 elementary school can be found on the district’s website, as well as a list of frequently asked questions and an email address where further questions can be sent.
The next Northampton School Board meeting will be Monday, August 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the NAHS auditorium, located at 1619 Laubach Ave.