Board names new member
By SARIT LASCHINSKY
Special to The Press
After interviewing candidates earlier in the day, Northwestern Lehigh school directors approved the appointment of Rosemarie Lister to fill the vacant board position during their Oct. 7 workshop.
Lister will fill the term of former board member Marci Piescienski, who announced her resignation in August, and would have served until Dec. 6, 2021.
Lister was sworn in by Solicitor Jessica Moyer in what board President Willard Dellicker called the school board’s first-ever virtual swearing-in ceremony.
“Thank you all very much for your support, and it’s an honor to serve the school board and the Northwestern Lehigh School District community,” Lister said, after taking the oath and being greeted with applause from board members meeting in person. “I’m happy to be here.”
Additionally, board member James Warfel asked for a moment of silence to acknowledge the recent passing of the Rev. Dr. Gene Handwerk.
“The Rev. Handwerk served this community in tremendous ways through his ministry, and in particular I’d like to honor his many years of service on the school board,” Warfel said.
Dellicker agreed with the gesture, saying Handwerk was “a friend, a school board member, and a stellar member of the community.”
He then sent the board’s heartfelt sympathies to Handwerk’s family after the moment of silence.
In other business, Assistant Superintendent Troy Sosnovik presented an overview of Northwestern Lehigh’s Future Ready Comprehensive Plan.
This is created every three years to establish the district’s road map and develop a plan of action which engages stakeholders to revalidate their mission, vision and shared values.
The plan uses the district’s recently-developed Portrait of a Graduate - which specified the skills and “habit of mind” which students need to navigate and thrive in the modern world - as a guidepost throughout its development process.
Sosnovik said the comprehensive plan and Portrait of a Graduate revolve around six shared values - shared responsibility, development of the whole child, continuous learning, individual potential, embracing of the community, and open and honest communication.
He noted the plan covers four district-level priorities which are set to be addressed over the next three years and will serve as a foundation for other goal-setting efforts.
The first challenge, Sosnovik said, was the district has yet to develop and institute a kindergarten through grade 12 Social Emotional Learning Plan to provide teachers and staff the necessary resources and skills to identify and provide support to students experiencing challenging and potentially educationally-impeding circumstances.
The second is the Portrait of a Graduate has yet to be integrated into all areas of the education practice.
The third priority is to fully institutionalize trauma-informed approaches throughout the district’s educational practices.
Lastly, Sosnovik said Northwestern Lehigh does not have interoperability between its applications and systems that would permit higher data quality and overall reductions in data management.
To address the first priority, Director of Student Services Andrea Edmonds said the issue of children’s mental health, and social and emotional needs was brought to the forefront during the COVID-19 closure.
She said the district would form a committee, provide professional development, assess practices and conduct a need assessment, and implement the kindergarten through grade 12 plan by June 2023.
She also said the district will evaluate and implement any identified changes regarding practices which create barriers for historically underperforming student groups by June 2023.
Regarding the Portrait of a Graduate, Director of Curriculum LeAnn Stitzel said the district will develop and publish the portrait’s scope and sequence by June 2022 and build capacity for teachers to enhance their understanding of the portrait by June 2023.
For the third priority, Sosnovik said Northwestern Lehigh will establish a threat assessment team by June 2021 based on evidence-based models for schools to use in a kindergarten through grade 12 environment, work to enhance educator knowledge and the ability to use trauma-informed practices, and implement a Handle with Care program by June 2022.
Finally, Sosnovik reported a Windows directory service will be implemented by June 2022 to increase data system interoperability, and the district will evaluate the need for a different Student Information System and complete the recommended actions by June 2023.
The plan’s next steps include a 28-day public review, adoption at the board’s Nov. 18 meeting and submission to the Department of Education, with implementation to begin Dec. 1.
Furthermore, Superintendent Jennifer Holman also provided an update on the district’s COVID-19 situation.
She noted information from a number of sources - including ZIP code, county, hospitalization and investigation data - is reviewed daily to make appropriate recommendations for instructional models and preventive measures.
Holman also said the district’s hybrid model, despite its difficulties for faculty and families, has been successful in terms of its student cohort organization.
This has allowed the district to successfully carry out tracing, isolation and virus containment.
She and the rest of the board also commended teachers for their work and effort to keep students educated through synchronous instruction for in-person and online groups and reported almost 400 students continue to learn online only.
Holman said the district has launched a tracker on its COVID-19 page, available at nwlehighsd.org/COVID-19, which backs up district notifications and tracks the positive cases across Northwestern Lehigh buildings by week.
Since the start of the school year, Holman said the district has conducted 83 different COVID-19-related investigations, although she noted not all investigations involved positive cases and could also include students or staff who were symptomatic, undergoing screenings or tests, or awaiting testing.
She said in total the district had 11 COVID-19 cases - two at the high school, one at the middle school and eight at Weisenberg Elementary.
The board also had discussions about the availability of substitute teachers, as well as teacher strategies and resources to help improve online, hybrid and synchronous learning.