East Penn board learns about make-up days for Hurricane Sandy and two communications initiatives

Posted: 11:50 PM EST Nov 12, 2012

Students in the East Penn School District will have to make up two days of classes because of Hurricane Sandy.

The storm closed schools on Oct. 29, 30, 31 and Nov. 1.

On Monday night, East Penn Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger told the school board that two of those four days must be made up.

Seidenberger proposes classes be held Feb. 15, the Friday of  Presidents weekend, and March 28, the Thursday before spring break. He noted schools still will be closed Feb. 18 for the three-day weekend holiday.  

Seidenberger plans to recommend the school board take formal action on those two dates at its next meeting, “so our staff members and parents can change their plans if they have plans for those two dates.”   

Before that meeting, Seidenberger plans to review his plan “with some parent groups I’m meeting with” as well as administrators and the teachers association.

He said those two dates are the prevailing choice among local school district superintendents.

The district will retain three designated possible snow make-up dates-- June 11, 12 and 13 – if schools must be closed for more bad weather in the coming months.

Seidenberger said it’s highly unlikely the state will give school districts any relief because of Sandy, unless Pennsylvania has a terrible winter. He said some people hope that will happen, but he doesn’t think the state “will forgive us those days.”

Also during the board meeting, two new modes of strengthening communication with the East Penn community were announced.

One is that the district will begin doing short informational vignettes to shed light on program terminology that may be baffling to people who are not educators. Those vignettes will be posted on the East Penn web site.

Seidenberger said the first segments are being taped next week, with high school students interviewing key members of the staff, and will be posted before Thanksgiving.

The superintendent said parents and even staffers and board members may not be familiar with “what things are important to us…major initiatives that are going on.”

The first vignettes will explain RTII, STEM, instructional rounds, The Daily Five,   Keystone exams, the Common Core and the district’s autism program.

The other communications initiative explained to the school board involves The Stinger, the student newspaper at Emmaus High School, which now is on-line at iTunes.

Anyone interested can subscribe to the paper for free, said Michael Mohn, the district’s director of technology.

Mohn said students who write for The Stinger are excited about being on-line. One told him “this is going to make me a better writer” because people all over the world “could be reading my work.”

Mohn explained each issue of the newspaper automatically will come to subscribers. If the Stinger was just posted on the high school’s web site, he said, people would have to remember to go look for it.

Mohn said anyone interested in subscribing to The Stinger should go to iTunes, select iTunesU, K-12, East Penn School District and then click on the Stinger’s “subscribe” button.

Seidenberger announced East Penn’s total enrollment is 8,075 students, as of Nov. 8 --- 53 more students than one year ago. “The elementary level is showing the greatest increase, middle school somewhat and the high school – -still perplexing –-is dropping 20 some students from last year at this time.” He also said there’s a strong possibility an additional gifted teacher may have be added to next year’s budget.

As she promised to do last month, parent Pat Luftman of Emmaus again complained to the board about the “profound misbehavior” of children who ride Bus 37 to and from Lower Macungie Middle School.

“I have not heard back from anyone in the last three weeks in response to what solutions, if any, might be found,” she said.

She again complained of ethnic slurs, racial slurs and sexually provocative conversations. She indicated one student asked: “Hey, are there any Jews on this bus? If there are, I’m Hitler and I have an idea.”

She said the morning after she complained to the board three weeks ago, the bus driver detained his daughter and asked her to identify the students, one of whom also was on the bus at the same time. “I do not ever want my daughter put in this position again,” declared Luftman.

Also during the meeting, the board unanimously approved having Public Financial Management, its financial consultant, consolidate two bonds, which should save East Penn at least $250,000. Final action on that consolidation will be taken early next year by the board.