The Northampton School Board met Monday, September 11 during another lengthy meeting.
During personnel/voice vote, the board unanimously approved the revised list of professional and support staff transfers for the current school year, rescinding the offer of employment to an applicant for a hall monitor position, two resignations, two retirements, two leave of absences, the revised master district volunteer list for the current school year, additions and deletions to the substitute list and the professional status and tenure for the teachers who have completed three years of teaching and six satisfactory evaluations including Ashten Oswald, Rachel Olm, Kimberly Haupt and Matthew Durich.
The following personnel/roll call votes were also approved: the revised listing of building substitute teachers at a per diem rate of $187.84; the revised mentor/inductee list including mentor and stipend payments; the compensation for the department coordinators, district coordinators, middle school subject leaders and team leaders; the listing for extra-curricular and supplemental positions; the listing of traffic duty monitors and their hourly rates; the credit recovery monitor list including the teachers and pay rate; and the attendance of Nicolette Teles, Steffanie Breininger and Jennifer Getz at the Pa. Association of School Social Work Personnel Conference at a cost of $1,567.56 paid for by the American Rescue Plan’s Learning Loss Grant.
Director Kim Bretzik opposed the approval for the district social workers to attend the Pa. Association of School Social Work Personnel, but the motion passed by majority vote.
Additionally, the board unanimously approved the hires of the following personnel: Cory Buskirk as school crossing guard for the current school year; Trisha Norton as cafeteria monitor at Moore Elementary; Vincent Gonsalves as girls lacrosse head coach for the current school year; Alexander Skrapits as long term substitute chemistry teacher at the high school through Feb. 7, 2024; Nicholas Farnham as technology technician; and Jacqueline Fehnel as special education instructional assistant at the middle school.
Next, the board unanimously approved revised policies for adoption including Board Policy 830 – Security of Computerized Personal Information/Breach Notification; Board Policy 830.1 – Data Governance – Storage/Security and changing the policy number of current Policy 830 – Reporting Use of Force to Policy 830.2 – Reporting Use of Force.
Under facilities, the board unanimously approved a five-year service agreement to Lutron Services Co. to provide onsite/remote response time for troubleshooting, preventative maintenance, system optimization, reports and onsite training and support that includes 100% Lutron parts coverage of the middle school’s lighting system at an annual cost of $6,579.97 through Oct. 31, 2028, as well as the Trane U.S. Inc. to replace two chillers at the high school at a cost of $1,147,624.
Based on majority vote with Directors Kim Bretzik and Doug Vaughn opposing the votes, two items regarding the Route 329 elementary school project were approved, which included: authorization of the school board president to execute the indemnification agreement entered into between NASD and East Allen Township for the Route 329 elementary school and education center project, which permits the district to commence earth moving and related site improvements set forth in the agreement with the school board authorizing the district administration to carry out and implement all provisions of the agreement including but not limited to the payment of all fees and escrows required for the work; and the conditional land development approval for the Route 329 elementary school and education center and authorization for the administration and solicitor to proceed with review, revisions, execution and payment of fees associated with all other agreements and required to obtain final permits for the project with all fees being part of the Act 34 budget for the project and all agreements and fees being included in board meeting records for ratification at the subsequent meeting.
Vaughn raised questions about the indemnification agreement with East Allen Township being an open-ended escrow, which he stated is fiscally irresponsible and breeds corruption because the district has no control or oversight as to what East Allen Township is drawing funds from the escrow account for and because there is no cap on the limit of funds.
“It’s not appropriate to give East Allen Township a blank check,” said Vaughn.
Solicitor Avery Smith expressed that the agreement was thoroughly looked over by several solicitors and all parties involved in the agreement before approving it. Smith also stated that the district has the right to question any of the billings at any time and that the district reviews everything that is billed.
Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik added that the board can object to any payments during the process and President of D’Huy Engineering Inc., Arif Fazil, assured the board that this is standard procedure and that the district has entered into indemnification agreements for all projects.
Next, the board unanimously approved the following finance agenda items: a contract with substitute teacher services to provide instructors for homebound and instruction in home services; the contract revision with Aramark Educational Services to provide breakfast service for the current school year; the letter of agreement between NASD and CIU20 for the purpose of providing remedial instruction in reading and math to non-proficient students in qualifying public schools at a cost of $26,205 for instruction and $265 for parent involvement programming with a 3% of the total amount administrative service fee paid to CIU20, which is covered through the 2023-24 Title I grant; the settlement of the real estate tax assessment appeal filed by the district against 7378 Airport Road retroactively beginning July 1, 2021 pursuant to the settlement stipulation and PILOT agreement; the treasurer’s report; and the bills for payment totaling $7,719,098.34.
Under miscellaneous agenda items, the board unanimously approved the memorandum of understanding summarizing the partnership between NAHS and Special Olympics Pennsylvania and acceptance of the donation of fall/winter coats for students in need from St. Nicholas Knights of Columbia.
Last, under curriculum, the board approved the NASD Comprehensive Plan to be implemented through June 30, 2026 by a majority vote with Bretzik and Vaughn opposing the motion.
Bretzik expressed that she believes parents should be able to have access to course material before it is taught to students in case there are any objections.
During public comment, Maggie Kemp implored the board to keep Moore Elementary open and stated that the poll vote during the last meeting was just a “dog and pony show” because it “did not actually mean anything” given that the board voted otherwise for the Act 34 Hearing.
Board President James Chuss attempted to make a motion to keep Moore Elementary open, but Solicitor Smith stated that the motion was ill-advised, and instead, urged the board to place this on the agenda at the next meeting so that all board members are completely aware of what they’re voting for.
Bretzik questioned how the board can vote on something that they don’t even know they can afford due to the renovations Moore Elementary is in need of.
The next Northampton School Board meeting will be held on Monday, October 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Northampton Area High School auditorium, located at 1619 Laubach Ave.