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Board of education hears parent concern

During the May 7 Catasauqua Area School District Board of Education meeting, a concerned parent spoke before the board about an incident involving her son. According to Shayla Morgan, her son, a student at Sheckler Elementary School, was called a racial slur on the school bus.

She noted a similar incident happened to her other son last year as well. During an emotional speech to the board, she noted these incidents have had a large impact on her family.

“What can be a moment for you can last a lifetime for my child,” Morgan said.

“School is supposed to be a safe place,” she said, adding it is causing anxiety for her children instead. She asked the board and administration to explore solutions to help support minority children.

In response to a question about next steps from Morgan’s friend Mary Ott, board President Dale Hein said they take these concerns very seriously and administration will look into the incident.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christina Lutz-Doemling said the district has a nondiscrimination policy, and they investigate issues when they are reported.

In other business, the board approved the proposed final budget for the 2024-25 school year. The proposed budget estimates general fund expenditures of $44,126,629 and balances the anticipated revenues and expenditures with anticipated real estate tax rates of 21.6836 mills, an approximate 4.48% increase, for Lehigh County and 61.3196, an increase of approximately 3.31%, in Northampton County.

The meeting opened with board members voting for a treasurer, secretary and assistant secretary.

The board unanimously approved Christy Cooper to serve as treasurer for a one-year term from July 1 to June 30, 2025. Jason Bashaw will retain his secretary position for a term of July 1-June 30, 2028, with Jeremy Smale serving as the assistant secretary.

Catasauqua Middle School Interim Principal Robert Steckel introduced the April and May Roughies of the Month. The honored students for April are Kieryn Cunningham, fifth grade; Ethan Zimmerman, sixth grade; James Carragher, seventh grade; Destiny Falk, eighth grade; and Nathan Lichtenwalner, related arts. The May students are Prudencia Ekuma, fifth grade; Ava Snyder, sixth grade; Javon Thomas, seventh grade; Lacey Biegley, eighth grade; and Sophia Deitzel, related arts.

Hillary Hahn, gifted support teacher, introduced CMS fifth-grade K’Nex team members Kaiden Keays, Jacob Bernini, Sophia Deitzel and Alistair Murray, who recently placed third in a regional competition. The task was to create farming equipment to help farmers, so the students spent two hours making the Scare-Bot to serve as a robotic scarecrow to help protect crops.

Lutz-Doemling proudly presented Catasauqua High School 11th-grader Gavin Dengler, who used his skills as a Lehigh Career and Technical Institute student to help make a new rooftop ladder. Lutz-Doemling noted they needed a safer and more secure ladder on the roof for the facilities team.

Gavin worked with LCTI Executive Director Dr. Lisa Greenawalt and LCTI welding instructor Bradley Brandmeir with input from Randy Tkach, Xavier Fryslin, Jack Schollenberger and Ian Hymans, of the district’s facilities team, to create a new, safer steel ladder. Gavin noted he had a lot of fun on the project.

“We truly appreciate your work on this project,” Lutz-Doemling said.

Assistant Superintendent Eric Dauberman reported they have been discussing the recent feasibility study done in the district. One topic has been the possibility of building a new middle school building. Additionally, the district is opting into the Community Eligibility Provision to provide meals to all district students.

Dauberman also reported background checks are being performed on possible new school resource officer candidates. He said he expects a candidate to be in front of the board for approval at the August meeting.

The athletics department report noted 21 girls expressed interest in joining a girls wrestling team if formed. Director of Student Activities Thomas Moll will reach out to other districts with teams and explore the logistics of adding a girls wrestling team.

A number of personnel items were approved, including student teachers. Emma Kalman, of Wilkes University, will work with Daniel Kotran in instructional technology May 13-Aug. 5. Kutztown University’s Kara Benfield will work with Jordan Schutter in fourth grade April 10-May 31.

Six student workers were approved to serve as summer custodians at $10, as of June 17. The students are Andrew Strohl, Jonathan Cordon Pinto, Arianna Stallworth, Reece Lopez, Jalyah Rosado and Keira Thomas.

The retirement of grounds worker Jack Shollenberger was approved, effective Oct. 4. It was reported he has worked in the district for 21 years.

“He will be missed,” Lutz-Doemling said.

Board members approved a number of resignations, including Jessica McNally, general kitchen help at Sheckler Elementary, effective at the end of the school year; Theresa Armbruster, CMS secretary, effective June 14; Tina Thomas, CMS noncertified instructional aide, effective May 10; and Joseph Stofko, assistant track coach and spring weight room monitor, effective May 2.

Dale Fink and Adam Landis were approved to serve as volunteer assistant football coaches.

Board members approved an official resolution for a Public School Facility Improvement Grant Program in the amount of $3,025,000 from the Commonwealth Financing Authority for the CHS roof repair. Additionally, the board gave its approval for grant applications and other programs for the 2024-25 school year.

Other board approvals included the first reading of changes to policy 251 regarding bullying and cyberbullying as required by state law; the YMCA to use school buses for summer camp field trips in return for student athletes using YMCA facilities and equipment; job descriptions for school counselor, CHS counselor administrative assistant and athletic director office clerk; the CASD K-12 guidance plan 2023-26; authorization to go out to bid for CHS weight room equipment upgrades and renovation; a three-year agreement with PowerSchool for the notification and report card delivery components; and a side-stop enforcement system agreement with both Catasauqua and North Catasauqua boroughs to enforce civil violations.

Board and administration members recognized teachers and nurses in light of both the teacher and nurse appreciation weeks.

“I am proud to share my experience with our amazing teachers,” Sheckler Principal Dr. Robert Kucharczuk said. “They are the lifeblood of what we do.”

“I want to share my heartfelt gratitude to educators and the school nursing team,” Lutz-Doemling added.

The CHS graduation ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 1 in the auditorium of CHS, 2500 W. Bullshead Road, Northampton.

The next school board meeting is set for 7 p.m. June 11 in the administration board room of the CASD office, 201 N. 14th St., Catasauqua.

PRESS PHOTO BY SAMANTHA ANDERSON The Catasauqua Middle School Roughies of the Month for April and May are honored at the May 7 Catasauqua Area School District Board of Education meeting. The honored students are Nathan Lichtenwalner, Ethan Zimmerman, James Carragher, Kieryn Cunningham, Sophia Deitzel, Lacey Biegley, Destiny Falk, Ava Snyder, Prudencia Ekuma and Javon Thomas.