11/8/21 School Board Meeting Guide

Here’s a rundown on the main issues discussed at last night’s board meeting.

Revised High School Courses

The board reviewed proposed changes to the high school’s Program of Study, including two new courses that were introduced at the last meeting (Positive Well-Being and Red Cross Lifeguarding), an expanded Field School program that would provide internship-like experiences for students, and a variety of minor changes to a host of existing classes. Discussion of the changes centered on the nature of “inquiry-based” education and the role of prerequisites in courses that require previous knowledge. The proposed changes are available here and here; you can watch the presentation and discussion for yourself here.

Safety on Buses

Though not explicitly on the agenda, a number of board members expressed concerns of scattered reports of bullying on school buses, including from a parent who spoke at last night’s meeting. There was consensus that buses shouldn’t be so unruly that students are scared to ride them, and several board members asked district administrators to do more to reduce bullying on buses. You can watch the discussion here.

My own take on this: Every child deserves to feel safe while riding the school bus, of course. Superintendent Campbell noted that the district frequently reviews video from inside buses and takes disciplinary action against students caught bullying or violating student conduct rules in other ways. Perhaps there is more that should be done, including raising awareness of the issue among teachers and staff, and increasing the disciplinary consequences of rule violations. At the same time, it is worth remembering that our school district is not an island; the behavior of students in the district inevitably reflects the values and expectations of the larger community. When adults interact with others in public places using taunts, insults, and threats, kids will do the same thing. This bus issue comes in a larger environment in which such behavior is increasingly accepted by large numbers of the adults in our community. Steve Lynch, candidate for Northampton County executive, is well known for insulting and taunting those with whom he disagrees, and made national news for threatening physical violence against school board members here in the Lehigh Valley. Nonetheless, he received the vote of almost 30,000 county residents last week– 42% of the total. There is no excuse for bullying on district school buses, and the district should do everything in its power to eliminate it. But that power only goes so far; to solve the root of the problem, we’re also going to need to solve the problem of the adult role models our kids have.

Last Meeting for Bacher, Winch, and Yours Truly

The meeting was the last for board president Ken Bacher, Naomi Winch, and myself. Dr. Bacher is resigning effective December 5th, Ms. Winch did not win a seat in last week’s school board election, and I chose not to run for a third term. Newcomers Bill Whitney and Michael Felegy (no public website) will be sworn in as new board members next month, and the board will appoint an additional new member to fill out the remainder of Dr. Bacher’s term.

Many fellow board members, administrators, and members of the public thanked the three of us for our service to the district and to the community. I will offer my thanks to Dr. Bacher and Ms. Winch as well. Dr. Bacher has been an outstanding leader during an unprecedented crisis for our schools. His thoughtfulness, kindness, and fairness has always shown through. Ms. Winch has been an outspoken advocate for parents and kids throughout her time on the board. And she shared her views without pretense. I very much appreciate the time, effort, expertise, experience they’ve put into their board service.

And while my own time on the board has also ended, this blog has not! Stay tuned for more…

PS: As of yesterday, superintendent Campbell is now DOCTOR Campell. You can watch the (impromptu) public announcement here. Congratulations, Dr. Campbell!

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