Catasauqua Press

Monday, September 16, 2019

CAST future in question

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 by Samantha Anderson sanderson@tnonline.com in Local News

District policy could change facilities use

Bill Nothstein, director of Catasauqua Area Showcase Theatre, came before the Catasauqua Area School District Board of Education Sept. 10 to request consideration for the organization.

Nothstein said during discussions he has had with Adam Schnug, Catasauqua High School principal, and Thomas Moll, CASD director of student activities, they noted the district is reworking its policy regarding the public use of school facilities. He said he was told to talk with Robert Spengler, CASD superintendent of schools, regarding CAST’s future in the district.

CAST has been producing musicals in the community since 1993 under the direction of Nothstein, a former art teacher at Sheckler Elementary School. The organization wanted to allow children, adults and families the opportunity to perform together.

Nothstein reminisced back to when the new high school was being built. He told a story of Spengler and himself walking together in the space where the auditorium would be and talking about future productions on the stage. He even mentioned former high school principal David Ascani asked him to be the high school theater director when the position was available. Nothstein noted he turned the position down so he was not splitting his focus, yet he offered any support he could to the new director.

Nothstein reported CAST has helped build and take down sets for the high school Drama Club. He noted sets and supplies were often shared between the two groups.

“I always felt we were school-district affiliated, with the support we’ve given over the years,” he said.

It was reported some of the concerns regarding the use of the space revolve around scheduling. Nothstein noted he completely understands the high school Drama Club gets priority. He also mentioned he understands they are guests when his cast and crew are using the school district facilities. It was mentioned the school also rents the space to other outside groups, such as local dance studios for recitals.

“I feel we have been a cooperative organization for the entire time we’ve been with the district,” he said.

Nothstein noted CAST has experienced scheduling challenges in the past and his organization has no problems working around the school’s schedule.

“Despite the challenges, we kept going,” he said. “It’s important to us and the community.”

CAST is a community-oriented organization. At each of its productions, CAST takes up a collection for its Families Helping Families project, which goes toward local families in need.

Nothstein noted he wanted to address the board to open a line of communication. He said the group is open to suggestions about how CAST can continue using the school’s facilities and be a part of the district.

“We just want the opportunity to continue,” he said.

Board Solicitor David Knerr noted the approval of the first reading of the policy regarding the public use of school facilities was on the agenda for the meeting. He also mentioned there was time for further discussion.

Spengler requested the facilities policy be added to the agenda for a special board meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 2 at Catasauqua Middle School, 850 Pine St.

In other business at the Sept. 10 meeting, residents from Hanover Township, Lehigh County, addressed the board regarding safety concerns for their children.

Stephanie Murray, a parent of children in the district, reported two of the bus stops in the Sherwood Park neighborhood were removed for the new school year. She said this forces the children to walk farther and creates a safety risk for the students.

Bob Heimbecker, Hanover Township Council member and CASD parent, also spoke on the issue. He noted there are approximately nine students who are dropped off in that neighborhood.

One concern is that cars drive at higher speeds along some of the roads. The neighborhood is directly off Pennsylvania Avenue, which serves as a major thoroughfare in the area. It was reported cars make fast turns off Pennsylvania Avenue and continue at that same rate of speed through the neighborhood.

Another issue revolved around an incident that happened last year where a student was followed home from the bus stop by a stranger.

Murray and other parents reported that while they are there to walk their children home, many students walk unattended.

In addition to several separate family homes, the neighborhood contains the Hidden Village apartment complex.

Spengler noted the district was asked by Hanover Township to remove the bus stops. He mentioned the incident from last year where the student was followed home was the impetus for removing one of the stops.

Murray then spoke up and mentioned that the new stop is even farther away for most of the students.

Spengler noted he and Lois Reed, CASD business supervisor, will look into the issue.

Heimbecker also spoke to the board regarding an organization he is a part of, Community Partners 4 Kids. The organization focuses on combating human trafficking.

Heimbecker noted he was looking for support from the school district and the local community. He mentioned possibly establishing a program in the district titled Community Partners 4 Rough Rider Kids.

He also reported the organization would be interested in offering a child identification program for some of the elementary school students.

The board next meets for the special meeting regarding the facilities policy and more information on the district’s stadium upgrade project 6 p.m. Oct. 2 at CMS. The next regular school board meeting is 7 p.m. Oct. 8 in the district board room in the administration building, 201 N. 14th St.