Lehigh Valley

Innovative Arts teacher Liz Fox addresses the Catasauqua School Board

CATASAUQUA, Pa. - Two teachers from Catasauqua's Innovative Arts Charter School went before the Catasauqua School Board Tuesday hoping the board would listen to their plight and provide some answers, however, it isn't a simple feat to pull a school's charter.

School Board Solicitor David Knerr said although the district can investigate such things as safety and compliance issues, the latter raised by the teachers, the bulk of the matter must be referred to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). In addition, although the school district originally applied for Innovative's charter, any revocation may include a lengthy appeals process.

Special education teacher Ann Tarafas and Spanish teacher Elizabeth Fox, herself hired as a paraprofessional and lacking an emergency permit to teach a foreign language, rehashed their non-compliance stories now accompanied with a total lack of inclusion and acknowledgement from Innovative principal Douglas Taylor hired in April.

Both women said they have yet to receive any teaching contract whatsoever for the upcoming school year. They also said they were not invited to a June 14 open house at the charter school and Tarafas described her management by Taylor as "very shady".

Referring to inadequate special education department staffing (down from five to three), Tarafas declared, "We're not in compliance with state standards nor are we holding up to the contracts we signed with parents of special ed students on behalf of the school. There is a blatant disregard for what those kids need and that's been exhausting," she remarked.

School board president Penny Hahn commented, "I don't know what to say I'm speechless."

Board members agreed with superintendent Robert Spengler who said district administration should monitor the charter school more closely.

Spengler said the medical academy, also housed in the former district middle school building on Howertown Road cost district taxpayers $140,000 in pension payments after the school closed its doors in 2016.   

Spengler said it against PDE policy to hire uncertified or under-certified employees over current ones possessing valid certifications and other credentials.

Fox noted as a teacher and employee she said, "Our hands are tied by the current Innovative administration and we're very uncomfortable." She cited a tremendous lack of communication with Taylor.

Tarafas stated seven out of the last eight teachers Taylor hired are not properly certified by PA standards.

Spengler noted Taylor has achieved a first-level principal's certificate.

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