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School board updated on graduation, charter school reform


Special to The Press

In addition to discussing the district’s return to in-person learning, Northwestern Lehigh School Board members also received an update on high school graduation plans and a new county initiative for charter school reform.

During her report, Superintendent Jennifer Holman said she and high school Principal Aileen Yadush were pleased to announce high school graduation would be held in-person for the Class of 2021.

The ceremony will take place in Tiger Stadium 7 p.m. June 4, with a rain date of June 5.

Holman said details will follow in the near future, along with announcements for parents.

“I think the most important part is obviously, our desire to have an in-person graduation, and bringing it home to Tiger Stadium,” Holman said.

She also noted middle school students will be returning to in-person instruction, four days per week, when the fourth marking period begins April 6.

She added, however, that due to several positive COVID-19 cases, a return for high school students is on hold at this time.

For some public relations news, Holman said at several previous meetings, the board took action on a charter school funding reform resolution.

She then showed board members a flyer and said districts in Lehigh County, including Northwestern Lehigh, had formed a campaign called Lehigh County Public School Proud.

The flyer’s information states county districts are paying $12,832 per student and $28,959 per special education student who attend a charter school.

They will spend $89 million in taxpayer money on charter school tuition for the 2020-21 year.

The flyer states the county’s schools offer in-house cyber education which averages between 20 percent to 30 percent less than paying for charter tuition.

Holman said Gov. Tom Wolf currently has a proposal on the table to support setting the per-student rate limit of $9,500 per cyber school student, which will save Lehigh County taxpayers across all districts around $2.8 million.

The flyer will be distributed to parents to keep them informed.

Holman called the included information a “necessity,” noting the board had asked for such news to be distributed to legislators and families in order to answer questions about fair funding, accountability and transparency.

Regarding the flyer, board President Willard Dellicker said several audience members had addressed the board regarding the Circle of Seasons Charter School, and had asked for the district to renew its charter.

“[The initiative] is not to eliminate charter schools,” he emphasized. “The issue is to develop a more equitable funding that will help out the taxpayers in our district for charter school students.”

Additionally, Holman said the district’s educators had gone through the first round of immunizations, which were provided through Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21.

She said the district had been allocated 143 vaccines out of the approximately 3,800 that CLIU 21 had received from the state.

Northwestern Lehigh, as well as other Lehigh County school districts, will need to undergo a second round of vaccinations in order to receive the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, as there was not sufficient vaccine stock to immunize all staff on the first go-round.

An anticipated time frame has not been set for a second vaccination round, but Holman said administration had communicated with staff and faculty about their interest in registering for an appointment.

She commended CLIU 21 for setting up a vaccination clinic for one week and quickly providing the information to district staff.

Under personnel matters, Human Resources Director Luann Matika made note of the retirement of lead food service worker Susan Fatzinger after 26 years of service, as well as the resignation of Weisenberg Elementary teacher Angela Rimm to pursue endeavors elsewhere after 19 years of service.

In other business, the board accepted the 2021-22 school and support staff calendars, and approved a motion to receive a proposal to implement the district’s Facilities Master Plan, which was vetted at the March workshop.

For finances, board members approved a Theatrical Rights Worldwide Licensing Agreement for the production of “How I Became a Pirate Younger” at the middle school for $470, as well as a previously-vetted proposal to have Gorman & Associates P.C. serve as the district auditor for school years 2020-23 in the amount of $24,000 per year, and additional services at a rate of $90 per hour.

Additionally, a district education agreement was approve with CLIU 21 for the 2021-22 school year at no cost to Northwestern Lehigh.

Business Administrator Leslie Frisbie reported 42 students participated in 2019-20, and 33 in 2020-21.

During the foundation report, Director of Curriculum and Innovation LeAnn Stitzel said the foundation’s annual Tiger Run and Fun Walk would take place May 29 and will have options to participate virtually or in-person at Ontelaunee Park.

The event will feature either a 5K, 10K or a 5K walk, with information available on the foundation’s website.

Under old business, the board chose to recommend a nominee for the vacant trustee-at-large position on the Lehigh Carbon Community College board of trustees.

Dellicker said two candidates had expressed interest - school board member Rachael Scheffler and Foundation President D.J. Wolbert.

Board members unanimously voted to nominate Scheffler for the position, and Dellicker thanked Wolbert for his interest.

“We had two excellent candidates, I wish you could both get on the board,” he said.

Under new business, board members approved a motion to reappoint James Warfel as the district’s representative to the CLIU board of directors for a three-year term from July 1 to June 30, 2024.

The next workshop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on April 7.

PRESS PHOTO BY SARIT LASCHINSKY During her March 17 report, Northwestern Lehigh Superintendent Jennifer Holman presented information on a new Lehigh County campaign called Lehigh County Public School Proud, which was organized by the county's districts. She listed the costs of charter school tuition, as well as strategies for moving forward.