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Head Start program to be discontinued

Published May 11. 2011 05:00PM

A program to help disadvantaged children prepare for school will be discontinued next year in the Northern Lehigh School District.

Karen Nicholas, assistant to the superintendent, informed the school board on Monday that the Head Start program will no longer continue in the 2011-12 school year.

Nicholas said that due to the recent loss of the Accountability Block Grant funding, the district is no longer able to fund the program.

She said Community Services for Children - with whom the district has had a working relationship with - notified the district last week that it will not be able to help support the program.

That information came one month after Nicholas said Community Services for Children would be able to fund the program.

Director Gregory Williams said he was sad to hear that Head Start - a preschool program for low income children - would no longer be offered to students in the district beyond next year.

"I hear this news and I'm devastated," Williams said. "This has been an extremely successful program over the last several years."

Nicholas said the district lost $90,000 in ABG funding toward the program. Of that, $65,000 was used to pay for classroom expenses, while the other $25,000 went toward transportation, she said.

Director Natalie Green questioned whether there was another Head Start program nearby for families to enroll their children in.

Nicholas said the Lehigh Career & Technical Instititute does offer the program, but does not provide transportation. She said families are eligible to fill out an application.

"Our Head Start program is fully enrolled, and there is a waiting list," Nicholas said. "We have never not had a waiting list for this class."

Board President Edward Hartman noted that the program is moving forward in other districts.

However, Nicholas said the district has relied on Community Services for Children in the past.

"We can't run it without their collaboration," Nicholas said. "They have a great deal of personnel that is part of their program."

In a related matter, business Manager Jeremy Melber informed the board that the district could receive about $139,000 in ABG funding next year if approved by the State House Appropriations Committee. He said the Committee is scheduled to meet later this week.

Williams then asked whether the district would be able to utilize that ACBG funding to help fund the Head Start program.

But, Melber, who noted the district has lost $348,000 in ABG funding, said that if the $140,000 in ABG funding were to be restored to the district, that could help ease the burden of full-day kindergarten in its general fund budget next year and help avert a tax increase.

Williams said he believes the loss of the program will have a negative impact on the district.

"If there's another $139,000, why wouldn't we want to save this program that's been so successful," Williams said. "From my standpoint, this is a big loss to the district."

Melber said he understood Williams.

"It's something that can be looked into," Melber said. "That's sort of putting the cart before the horse."

If the district were to receive that money, Superintendent Michael Michaels said his concern was to utilize it so that the district is able to "get the most bang for our buck."

Also on Monday, the board agreed on an 8-0 vote to approve a .5 cent increase in the cost of school lunch, effective Aug. 29. Director Lori Geronikos was absent.

As a result, lunch will be raised from $2.10 to $2.15 at Slatington Elementary and Peters Elementary; from $2.35 to $2.40 at the middle school and high school; and from $3.80 to $3.85 for adult lunches.

Director Donna Kulp noted the board had no choice in the matter.

"Northern Lehigh is not looking to increase school lunches," Kulp said. "We were basically mandated by the state that we had to."

In an unrelated matter, Michaels announced that May 2-6 was National Teacher Appreciation Week.

"Our teachers do a great job, work very hard, and are child-centered," Michaels said.

In other business, the board:

• Approved the Supplemental Personnel Salary Schedule for the 2011-12 school year.

• Appointed Sweet, Stevens, Williams & Katz, LLP, as special counsel for the 2011-12 school year. The hourly rate for non-routine matters will be $185 per hour. The rate for routine or general advice will be $140 per hour. There is no increase over last year's rates.

• Approved the co-payment amount for student athletes receiving a sports physical from OAA during the 2011-12 school year at a cost of $5 per student in accordance with school board policy #122.

• Approved a three-year service agreement, from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2014, with Western Pest Services for pest control services at all four buildings in the amount of $255 per month for years one and two ($3,060 per year) and $265 per month for year three ($3,180).

• Accepted the retirement resignation of Kathleen Heiser from her position as high school library aide, effective the end of the work day, June 17, 2011. At this time, she will begin her retirement from the district after 20 years of service.

• Approved the request of employee #2630 to take a family medical leave beginning on or about June 8, 2011. The employee plans to return to current teaching position upon release from their attending physician on or about Aug. 22, 2011.

• Approved the request of employee #4930 to take a family medical leave beginning on May 16, 2011. The employee will be using 10 accumulated sick days in conjunction with the family medical leave. The employee's intention is to return to their current teaching position upon medical release from their attending physician.

• Approved the request of employee #3655 to take a family medical leave beginning on May 18, 2011. The employee will be using accumulated sick days in conjunction with the family medical leave. The employee's intention is to return to their current position upon medical release from their attending physician.

• Approved Debra Lakatosh, Spanish and Frency, Amber Kuntz, Elementary and Special Education, and Kaitlin Parliman, general sciences, as substitute teachers for the 2010-11 school year at the 2010-11 substitute teacher rates as approved on the Supplementary Personnel Salary Schedule. The appointment of Kuntz is pending verification of missing personnel file items.

• Reappointed Kulp as treasurer for the 2011-12 fiscal year, effective July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012, as required by Section 404 of the Pennsylvania School Code of 1949, as amended.

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