SCHNECKSVILLE – The Southern Lehigh School Board tackled various issues Monday night at a special meeting held here at the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute. The board members convened in a formal meeting room in honor of visiting Chinese principal, Yang Xinghua. Yang is visiting the school district as part of a three-week educational exchange program. She is being hosted by Assistant Superintendent Leah Christman.
School Board Vice President Michael Eddinger asked if the school district might begin using data analysis of students’ work to evaluate teacher performance. Christman said that the school district was not doing that at present. Christman acknowledged that evaluating teacher performance is “not an easy conversation for any of us to deal with,” but explained “it’s not a question of blame. It’s a question of growth.” She urged the school board that “these conversations are definitely needed.”
Superintendent Joseph Liberati said that using data analysis to evaluate student performance has put students in kindergarten through sixth grade “exactly where we want them to get to.” Board member Dorothy Mohr said teachers already informally analyze and discuss data amongst themselves, and asked if it might be helpful to formalize the process. Southern Lehigh High School Principal Christine Siegfried told the board that high school teachers shared with each other in a non-threatening way when they developed common midterm and final exams. Southern Lehigh Middle School Assistant Principal Nathan Davidson added that middle school teachers have been working with their high school counterparts to the same effect.
Board member John Quigley cast the lone vote against a tax appeal by Saucon Creek Senior Living. Director of Business and Personnel Services James Snell explained that the assisted living and senior living facilities on Route 378 had received new property value assessments, which led to a “significant reduction in school tax revenue.” Snell said the board had discussed the issue two executive sessions ago. The reduction from $99,000 to $36,000 in taxes owed by the business is the legal result of parties coming to an agreement on a number, he said.
As representative for the school district, Borough of Coopersburg, and Upper Saucon Township at the Lehigh County Tax Collection Committee, Snell then informed the board that the TCC will be hiring an executive director. He explained how the TCC might contract with a local intermediate unit in order to avoid taking on the responsibilities that come with being an employer. According to Snell, the TCC’s executive director will focus in his first year on the transition from the old way taxes were collected to a new, consolidated method. The school district wants to approve Berkheimer Associates as its earned income tax collector for 2010 taxes and local services tax collector for 2011 taxes. Solicitor James Bartholomew said he would probably bring the contract to the school board’s next meeting.
The board unanimously approved an additional contract with First Student to transport four displaced students to the school district. According to Director of Special Education Scot Engler, if students are forced into a non-permanent living situation outside of the school district, the school district is legally required to provide transportation for them to continue attending their former schools, if their parents so choose. If the students settle into a permanent residence outside of the school district, they will no longer be considered Southern Lehigh students.
The next Southern Lehigh School Board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Southern Lehigh High School.