Students study government
On June 1, eight Whitehall High School students shadowed 10 leaders of the Whitehall Township government.
Griffin Corteen met with Mayor Michael Harakal Jr., toured the Whitehall Township Municipal Building and participated in the mayor’s staff meeting.
Antoni Szlagiewicz met with Deputy Mayor Jack Meyers.
Alondra Ayala got an inside look at tax collecting from Tina J. Koren, tax collector.
Rachel Ganser discussed the process of legally making property changes and how zoning affects what can be built where with Lee Rackus, bureau chief of planning, zoning and development.
Nathan Mak inspected several township parks with Tony Cocca, bureau chief of parks and recreation.
Kyla Pascoe discussed the upkeep of township properties with Sheldon Christman, bureau chief of public works.
Janet Rivera met with Whitehall Police Department Chief Michael Marks.
Lucas Roncolato went on a fire call with Whitehall Fire Department Chief David Nelson and learned about some of the benefits and challenges of having a fully volunteer team of firefighters.
Students then adopted the roles of commissioners and, with the assistance of Commissioners Joe Marx and Randy Atiyeh, held a meeting to discuss a number of community interests they had identified.
Szlagiewicz brought up concerns about speeding on Presidential Avenue, and the “commissioners” discussed various options for addressing the problem and also the costs and potential liabilities involved. They “voted” to allocate money to perform a study of the situation.
Ayala raised concerns about the benefits and costs of collecting the per capita tax. After discussing the issues thoroughly, the “commissioners,” they decided to leave the tax in place.
Pascoe addressed community concerns about the status of the Wood Street Playground. With input from township officials, the “commissioners” understood a potential Pennsylvania Department of Transportation project was the cause of changes to the park. The students then “voted” to bring back the basketball hoops.
Finally, Rivera proposed increasing mental health training for township police. They discussed the benefits and costs of such a training program and debated the best way to implement it.
After a long day of investigating and debating issues affecting Whitehall Township, the students found a new excitement for careers in local government. Rivera said she found the debate over mental health training to be interesting and important. Roncolato learned about some of the regulations and risks local lawmakers have to be aware of when drafting new legislation.
Meyers complimented the students on their complex discussion, noting every municipality in the country is having the conversations the WHS students had during this government day.