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Catasauqua School Board discusses academic and policy changes

By Brittany Foster, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Mar 11 2013 01:55:26 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 07 2013 03:52:42 PM CST
Catasauqua School Board
CATASAUQUA, Pa. -

The Catasauqua School Board heard from parents and the Medical Academy Charter school in a meeting Tuesday when they discussed changes to curriculum and academic policy.

Craig Haytmanek, Chairman of the Board of the charter school, addressed concerns that the school board had in their previous meeting. Board members had wondered if the Medical Academy wasn't providing enough medical practice in their curriculum. Since that meeting, Haytmanek said he has dedicated two hours every Friday afternoon to practicing medicine with the students. "I always bring a dog and pony show," he said. "I want to show the students that not all doctors are old and gray." Haytmanek said in one of his first visits, he brought a human skull and since then has brought eyeballs.  Haytmanek said he plans to take hearts, lungs and brains for the students to see how it feels to cut through internal organs.

Haytmanek told the school board he is planning a meeting with area hospitals to explore partnering on educational opportunities, and he invited the board members to attend.  The board seemed pleased with the progress and the plans for the charter school.

A member of the board later discussed the problem that the district is facing with credit recovery. As their current policy stands, students who fail classes are not able to take them during the regular school year with the exception of math. This policy comes from parents of freshman voicing displeasure with seniors in their child's age-specific classroom. If a student is to fail a class, or multiple classes, they technically move ahead in grade level, but have to make up the credits in correspondence programs or at summer school. Some students are having trouble making up the credits and the 5th year senior program has been unsuccessful in increasing graduation rates. The school board plans to examine their current policy and review the policy of repeating a grade in the hope of having more students graduate.

With PSSA testing coming up across the state, several school board members highlighted the efforts teachers are undertaking to increase students scores and ensure proficiency across the board. The board also approved a religious opt-out policy in which parents could explain their religious, or strongly moral, opposition to an element of the test and their child is to be excused from the exam. This type of policy is allowed by the state, but opt-outs negatively affect the participation rate of the school. There is no effect on the scores of the district, but some board members were unhappy about the penalty on a state-allowed policy. There was a verbal agreement to publicly oppose the penalty if it became a major problem to the district.