The Northampton School Board met Monday, October 9 with several important discussions throughout the course of the meeting.
During personnel/voice vote, the board unanimously approved the revised list of professional and support staff transfers, the revised job description for the curriculum secretary (purchasing and operations), two leave of absences, one resignation, a half-year sabbatical, additions and deletions to the substitute listing and the revised master district volunteer list.
The board also approved the personnel/roll call items including: revised listings of substitute teachers, mentors/inductees, extra-curricular and supplemental positions, afterschool detention monitors, athletic event staff and their respective rates; for 23 AP world language students and three teachers to go to New York City; the attendance of three individuals from the business office to attend the PASBO Conference; one temporary transfer; and seven district hires.
Next, the board unanimously approved the revised Board Policy 918 – Title I Parent and Family Involvement for adoption.
Under finances, the board unanimously approved the following items: budget transfers; bids for supplies and services; bills for payment totaling $12,488,468.08; BerkOne to prepare/mail homestead applications at a cost of $0.4082 each; security camera system migration at a cost of $209,047.04; a parent transport agreement; memo of understanding for services between Valley Youth House and NASD to provide additional counseling; and the tax assessment appeals settlement stipulation, PILOT agreement and summary for JW Development Partners.
A motion passed by majority to authorize a $3,000,000 transfer from the general fund to the capital reserve for future capital improvements, to ratify the transfer of $2,000,000 from the general fund to the capital reserve that occurred last fiscal year, and to authorize $2,000,000 of assigned fund balance of the general fund to be designated as committed fund balance for the future renovations of Moore Elementary, with Director Kim Bretzik opposing the vote.
Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik explained that due to the previous board discussions about keeping Moore Elementary open as a school, the administration is recommending putting $2 million towards renovations that could possibly offset the millage impact to borrow those funds or to use it in some other capacity towards the building that would offset overall costs. The board can decommit that money at any time or they can keep it there and use it for the Moore Elementary renovations, which would ultimately be a board decision moving forward.
A team from D’Huy Engineering visited the site and will be preparing options for the board regarding the scope of the project renovations for the board to vote on.
Resident Maggie Kemp asked the board how they can commit $2 million to Moore Elementary when there has been no formal vote on whether Moore Elementary will remain open when the Act 34 booklet has not been changed, and how this will affect overall capacity of the school.
However, Act 34 only accounts for new construction (not renovations), and Solicitor Avery Smith identified that there is no legal requirement to hold a second hearing if the district decides to keep the school open.
Kovalchik added that no specific determination has been made regarding students being redistricted because the district will have to assess where they stand capacity wise for each school as new houses are built, but the district will try to spread the students out evenly to level out capacity levels.
In other business, the board approved the following miscellaneous items: 2024 PSBA officer elections; the donation of pocket Constitutions to the middle school from the VFW; three expulsion hearing waivers; new extra-curricular clubs (Tinker-Tank Club at Moore Elementary, Mythology Club at NAHS, Baking Club at NAHS, and Super Kids/Kindness Crew at NAHS); the listing of afterschool tutoring program teachers/assistants; and the memo of understanding for a dual enrollment programs between NASD and Lehigh University.
During public comment, Maggie Kemp raised concerns regarding the safety of the proposed Route 329 elementary school/education center, stating that East Allen Township no longer has its own EMS due to a recent decision to outsource services through Northampton Regional EMS, and added that pollution from warehouses and tractor trailers in addition to tractor trailer traffic make the location unsafe. Kemp also asked how taxpayers will be able to afford a new school in conjunction with renovations to Moore Elementary, although nothing has been formally decided yet.
Bretzik also brought up the sign that was placed outside of Moore Elementary by several school board members that says Moore Elementary will not close.
“Moore students have seen ‘the sign’ [that] says Moore Elementary will remain a school right outside the school. Those students are very excited that their school has been saved and I look forward to reviewing the plan to do that since the board doesn’t have one right now,” said Bretzik, adding that she hopes the board has a plan in place to accomplish the proposed projects because otherwise, the sign would be misinformative.
Director Robert Mentzell divulged: “I was one of the board members that advocated for the sign because the message wasn’t getting through to the public. The sign is purely informational to get the word out that Moore will stay open as an elementary school.”
Last, Bretzik made a motion to request that the policy committee review Policy 105 – Curriculum and potentially amend it to require board approval for all future PILOTS due to PILOTS being an experiment on students to find the best instructional method. The motion carried 6-2 with Directors David Gogel and Mentzell opposing the recommendation.
The next Northampton School Board meeting will be held Monday, November 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the NAHS auditorium, located at 1619 Laubach Ave. Board members may choose to vote on awarding bid contracts and authorizing PFM Financial Advisors to move forward with the proposed Route 329 elementary school/education center financial plan pending final land development approval from the East Allen Township Board of Supervisors.