School board OKs preliminary budget
BY SAMANTHA ANDERSON
At the May 9 Catasauqua Area School District Board of Education meeting, board members approved the preliminary 2023-24 budget.
The $41,219,769 budget balances anticipated revenues and expenditures with a tax rate of 20.7553 mills in Lehigh County and 56.1069 mills in Northampton County.
This is a change from last year’s rates of 20.8241 mills for Lehigh County and 53.7576 mills for Northampton County.
The 2023-24 budget includes $24,294,780 for instruction, $12,315,294 for support services, $891,744 for noninstructional services, $274,000 for facilities acquisition and construction and $3,443,951 for other expenditures.
The proposed budget will be made public, and the final adoption is expected at the June 13 board meeting.
In other business, Catasauqua resident Sean O’Boyle addressed the board about the absence of a school zone in regard to student safety. He noted vehicles are often seen speeding past Sheckler Elementary School and Catasauqua Middle School and the nearby construction zone causes “chaos,” he said. He added Pennsylvania Department of Transportation told him the school board is responsible for making a school zone.
Solicitor David Knerr said that was incorrect, and the application for a school zone needs to come from the borough. Superintendent Robert Spengler said they have been in contact with the borough with no real response. He noted the school district is in support of adding a school zone.
O’Boyle said he will continue to check in with the borough. He also said he spoke with police Chief Douglas Kish about needing appropriate enforcement in the area.
Board members approved a number of new hires, including Sarah Koberline, Sheckler Elementary assistant principal, at $88,000, effective July 1; Amanda Derr, elementary and middle school music teacher, at $71,306, effective Aug. 16; Corinne Ramunni, districtwide ESL and secondary English teacher, at $68,740, effective Aug. 16; and Savannah Packard, CMS fifth-grade teacher, at $60,927, effective Aug. 16. Andrew Brett, who had been serving as a substitute teacher and coach at CMS, was officially approved as an eighth-grade teacher, at $60,927, effective Aug. 16.
“I’m super excited and can’t wait to be part of this community,” Koberline said.
“I look forward to working with the students and building on their music education,” Derr said.
Brett noted he is “looking forward to getting started officially,” and Ramunni is ready to continue her teaching experience in the district.
To assist the new hires in the district, the board approved several mentor teachers to pair up with the new teachers. Brett will work with Jennifer Greig in eighth grade; Madison Higgins is partnered with Megan Murphy in kindergarten; Derr will work with art teacher Barbara Resto; Ramunni will be guided by ElizaRae Michaud; and Packard will be paired with her mother, Lisa Packard, who also teaches fifth grade.
The resignations of Lauren Bock, Sheckler noncertified instructional aide, and Sharon Seritsky, CMS secretary, were approved by the board. Additionally, the retirements of Patrick MacLaughlin, grounds leader, and Lisa Casciotti, noncertified instructional aide, were also approved.
Seven students were approved for summer employment in the district. Amberlynn Faust, Jonathan Cordon Pinto, Braden Bartholomew, Reece Lopez, Andrew Strohl and Keira Thomas will work with the custodians, and Bradshaw Henning will work with the maintenance crew.
Regarding curriculum, the final approval of several mathematics and social studies textbooks were approved for CMS.
In other business, board Secretary Donald Panto was elected to continue in the role.
Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority Sgt. Steve Gensits attended the meeting to present on the most recent Shop With a Cop event, held annually in December. CASD staff members identify students in need, and they are taken to Target to buy Christmas gifts for their families. After shopping, they return to Catasauqua Middle School to wrap the gifts.
He noted this event was the largest they’ve had in the past six years. The first year they held the event, there were 10 students.
Gensits thanked their sponsors, including Target, Wegmans, Home Depot, Phillipsburg-Easton Honda, Lehigh Valley Community Benefit and more, for helping make this event happen each year.
The first reading of policy 137, regarding in-home instruction, was approved. This policy aligns closely with the current home education program in the district but includes new updates required by the state. According to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Christina Lutz-Doemling, the district currently has 13 students doing in-home instruction.
“I’m thankful we’re firming up our policy,” Lutz-Doemling said. “We didn’t have a lot of specifics before, so it’ll give our families more guidance.”
Suburban North Family YMCA was approved to use two CASD school buses and drivers to camp field trips in exchange for high school and middle school students being allowed to use YMCA fitness rooms and the gym facility June through August. The YMCA will pay all driver and fuel expenses.
Other approvals included industry-recognized credentials including HeartSaver, Lifeguard with CPR/AED and Stop the Bleed; grant applications for the 2023-24 school year; an agreement with Naviance/PowerSchool; a lease agreement for the district’s Apple products; Title I services with Colonial Intermediate Unit 20; and authorization to go out for bid for the CMS boiler tube replacement and the districtwide security camera installation.
Spengler noted the district is at a transition with a number of the administration roles shifting. Many of the roles are being filled internally by moving personnel around to new roles and bringing new people in to fill the voids. He thanked the school board for helping make it happen and allowing the district to continue its forward momentum.
Spengler noted the district had been named a “Best Place to Work” before, during and after the pandemic, which demonstrates they are doing something right.
Board President Duane Deitrich said the administration makes it easy for the board to do its job since they “keep the students front and center” in all decisions.
The next school board meeting is 7 p.m. June 13 in the district administrative board room, 201 N. 14th St.