School board fills empty seat, approves new district hires
Catasauqua Area School District Board of Education filled its final seat during the May 8 meeting. Following a round of interviews with three candidates, the board members elected Lauren Cieslak to join their ranks.
The other hopefuls were William Nothstein and Mike Henning.
Robert Spengler, CASD superintendent, asked the candidates questions regarding how they would handle budgetary problems and address important, pressing decisions as well as what interested them in joining the school board.
Cieslak, a mother of two and a teacher in the Pleasant Valley School District, emphasized the need to determine the students’ best interests first in all decisions.
“We must always put the kids first. We are in this for the kids,” she said.
She stressed the importance of collaboration, communication and keeping current on technological advances. She wants to keep the school district at the forefront and not let it fall behind.
Cieslak said she is excited to work with the board and be involved in CASD.
“I’m happy to have my kids in this district,” she said.
The board also voted Donald Panto as the board’s treasurer.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve the bond restructuring discussed at the April meeting.
Brad Remig, PFM, again attended the meeting to give a brief overview of the three bonds that are available for refinancing. He reported taking this course will extend the debt a few years but, in the end, will save the district money and ease cash flow. After the vote, Spengler thanked the board for its actions in thinking ahead to help the district.
Board members gave their unanimous approval for the proposed final budget for the 2018-19 school year. The proposed budget will be available for public inspection at various places throughout the borough, including the schools and borough building.
The board will vote on the final budget at the June 12 meeting.
There were a few personnel matters voted on during the meeting. Megan Murphy was appointed to be a teacher at Sheckler Elementary School.
“I really look forward to working with the community. It sounds wonderful,” she said after being approved.
Kirsten DeMatto was voted to change from a guidance intern to a guidance counselor, and Erin Stamitis is changing from a substitute teacher to a certified instructional aide for kindergarten, both at Sheckler Elementary School.
Four more students were approved to be hired for summer employment. They are Hunter Miller, Christopher Contreras, Trevor Schappell and Jorden Nonemaker.
More salary freezes were discussed and approved. Mindy Redline, human resources specialist; David Cressman, transportation supervisor; some maintenance and custodial staff; food service staff; transportation staff; and support and clerical staff all agreed to a salary freeze to assist the district with financial challenges.
Spengler took time to thank these groups and to express his appreciation for everyone working together as a team to help make the district the best it can possibly be.
The board gave its final, unanimous approval for the hiring of several Discovery Education Techbooks for the 2018-19 school year. These digital textbooks will help the students learn through a digital medium. One added benefit of these digital books is that they will be updated with the latest information instead of the district having to buy new books every time a new edition is published.
Melissa Inselmann, principal at Catasauqua Middle School, reported a community group called the Catasauqua Community Cares Program, C3P, is being organized.
This program will look at Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) data and use the information to get more involved in preventive programs with the students.
Inselmann reported the PAYS committee has three primary objectives at this point: strengthening the mental heath of the students; working with disadvantaged families to get them what they need; and decreasing drug and alcohol usage among the students. One of the counselors, Amy Dymond-Jones, will head the committee.
The group has already received donations of food and supplies to start a district Snack Pack Pals program, similar to the one in the Whitehall-Coplay School District. As part of this program, food is sent home with children in need during long holiday weekends.
Inselmann also informed the board the middle school’s Kindness Rocks project is completed. The students were tasked with painting uplifting messages or pictures on rocks and will now distribute them to random places throughout the borough. The goal is to have them scattered in various places to bring cheer to people who spot them.