Medical charter school in danger of closing

Catasauqua superintendent says students not getting medical education

Author: , Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published: Jan 30 2013 03:37:42 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 10 2013 06:11:56 AM EST
Medical Academy charter school
CATASAUQUA, Pa. -

Just five months after it opened, a charter school in Lehigh County could already be on the way to closing. 

Catasauqua's school superintendent said the Medical Academy Charter School is not delivering the health care-based education it promised, and taxpayers are footing the bill.

The demand for medical workers was the idea behind the school.

"There really, truly are always jobs in the health care field," said school founder, Dr. Craig Haytmanek, a former Bethlehem school board member.

When we visited the Medical Academy in October, the future seemed bright. But now, the school's charter may be in jeopardy.

"There are obviously some lacking areas," said Robert Spengler, the Catasauqua superintendent.

According to Spengler, school leaders have provided no evidence that medical themes or activities are included in the academy's curriculum.

"Anything from a formal agreement with a local doctor's office providing some work experiences for children," he said. "Could be some medical practitioners coming in, speaking with students."

Several students agreed.

"It's not what we thought it would be," said one student who transferred from Parkland schools.  "We thought it was going to be more medical -- medical field.  It's more like a normal school."

Parent Patricia Saca said her daughter, who hopes to become a nurse, had not gotten specific medical education either.

"No, only the basic math and that's it," she said.

Haytmanek said Wednesday that he's in negotiations with medical providers but admitted the only commitments are support letters several companies wrote two-and-a-half years ago.

He said the school currently serves only 9th and 10th graders, and he wanted to wait until students were older to place them in job shadows.

"These are high school students," he said.  "These are kids who need a foundation first, in reading, writing, and arithmetic before they get out into the medical field."

Big money is at stake here.  The Medical Academy receives close to $1 million in taxpayer money, mainly from the cash-strapped Allentown School District.

At least one parent defended the school.

"[My daughter] likes the school," said Luis Santiago, of Allentown.  "She likes coming here and the teacher and everything." 

Haytmanek also admitted that none of his staff has a medical background.  The school has two months to address the Catatsauqua school board's concerns before the group moves to revoke the school's charter.