The Northampton School Board met Monday, December 5 after their 2023 organization meeting with two split decisions on agenda items.
When President James Chuss asked whether the board had any questions on agenda items, Vice President John Becker expressed his concerns about the donation of the pocket-sized constitutions from the Moms for Liberty nonprofit organization.
“Northampton Area School District has in recent history encountered groups bearing political affiliations wishing to make book donations for our students. Concerns were raised over these affiliations and the topics of such books being donated. While the Constitution is clearly an instructional text used within our classrooms, the organization making the donation is politically motivated,” said Becker.
Becker cited the conservative political focus of the Moms for Liberty organization as the primary basis of his concern and made a motion for the board to remove the donation from the agenda.
Board member Robert Mentzell raised the question, “If we accept these, couldn’t someone interpret that as a tacit approval of the school district buying into the Moms for Liberty agenda?”
Mentzell added, “We need to maintain strict neutrality. We’re not playing politics here, we’re educating kids.”
Assistant Superintendent Michelle Schoeneberger shared that children are currently being taught about the constitution in several grades. Schoeneberger stated the Bill of Rights and the Preamble of the Constitution are taught in seventh grade, with more detail given in eighth grade.
“A copy of the Constitution is in the eighth grade textbook and then throughout most of the high school social studies courses the constitution is referenced, but primarily in the eleventh grade government class is where there’s more of a concentration of the study of the Constitution,” said Schoeneberger.
The motion was rescinded to allow the public to comment on the matter.
During public comment, several residents expressed their belief that the US Constitution should be taught to children much earlier in their educations and at greater length.
Next, in regards to the health and safety plan, board member Kim Bretzik proposed changing verbiage.
“I would like to propose that where it says universal and correct wearing of masks, that that simply states ‘face coverings are not required in district buildings or transportation’ and that everything else be removed under that section, and that also the accompanying factors to determine mitigation strategies be removed.”
“If we don’t intend to put face coverings back on our children, then there’s no reason to have that in the plan,” Bretzik added.
During new business under personnel/voice vote, the board unanimously approved the following: two leave of absences; additions/deletions to the substitute listing for the current school year; the revised Master District Volunteer List for the current school year; the resignation of Curtis Fisher, High School Custodian, for the purpose of retirement on Feb.3, 2023; and the hire of Jason Williamson as Open Records Officer for the district, effective December 6.
The board also unanimously approved the following agenda items under personnel/roll call vote: the revised listing for Extra-Curricular and Supplemental Positions for the current school year; the revised listing of Athletic Event Staff for the current school year; the hire of Terry Leh as Interim Business Administrator beginning Feb. 6, 2023 until the appointment of the permanent District Business Administrator at a rate of $540 per day with no benefits; for Jessica Pretopapa and one other high school teacher to accompany 30 National Honor Society students to New York City on Wednesday, April 19, 2023 at a cost to the district of $220; the hire of Robert Sloss as Custodian at Moore Elementary Tuesdays through Saturdays, effective December 20; the voluntary transfer of Jeremy Vernon from to Tuesday through Saturday Maintenance employee to Monday through Friday; the hire of Courtney Muick as Long-term Substitute Social Studies Teacher at the high school effective for the second semester of the current school year; the hire of Katie Haklar as 12-month Elementary Head Secretary at Siegfried Elementary effective Jan. 3, 2023; the Act 93 Administrative Compensation Plan, effective July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2028; the continuation of the Community Education Program with Sandra Bischof as Coordinator of the program and the list of anticipated Community Education classes and Roster of Instructors, all with respective stipends; and the hire of Craig Neiman as Business Administrator, effective April 3, 2023 through June 30, 2028 for an initial prorated salary of $160,000, subject to the terms and conditions contained in his contract for employment.
The board also unanimously approved the Northampton Area High School 2023-2024 Program of Studies, the Request for Proposal for legal services, and an expulsion hearing waiver.
Next, the board voted on the acceptance of the donation of pocket-sized U.S. Constitutions for students in eighth grade at the middle school, provided by the 917 Society and distributed by Moms for Liberty of Northampton County. The item failed in a split decision with Bretzik and Vaughn voting for the acceptance and Frantz, Makary, Gogel, Becker, Mentzell, Baird, and Chuss voting against the donation.
Last, the board voted on the revised NASD Health and Safety Plan, which is required under the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund with the Superintendent having authorization to adjust the plan based on the approved Mitigation Chart and input from state and local health care advisors, and with all plan changes being placed on the district website and communicated to parents/guardians. The item passed in a split decision with Bretzik and Vaughn voting against the plan provided there are no changes to the masking policies, and Frantz, Makary, Gogel, Becker, Mentzell, Baird, and Chuss voting to accept the plan.
The next Northampton School Board meeting will be held Monday, January 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the NAHS auditorium, located at 1619 Laubach Ave.