The Medical Academy Charter School responded to criticisms at Tuesday night’s Catasauqua School Board meeting, but remains under the microscope.
The Catasauqua School Board discussed several issues they uncovered with the Medical Academy Charter School at their meeting on January 8th.
Superintendent Robert Spengler sent a letter listing eight of the main concerns the board had to the Charter Academy School CEO and Principal, Joanna Hughes last month. These issues included the lack of medical education integration throughout the curriculum, the lack of student field trips, the absence of promised partnerships with local medical and healthcare facilities, and the questionable certification of the professional staff at the school.
Hughes, alongside chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Craig Haytmanek and the Chief Operations Officer, Phil Arnold, addressed these concerns individually at the meeting.
According to Haytmanek, revisions have been made to the curriculum to add more medical education to the courses. Every day the students have a period where they discuss and explore medical professions and careers and Hughes reassured the board that there is a strong medical education integration in every course, including English, Social Studies, and the arts.
“Our entire curriculum has been tilted to the medical and healthcare field,” commented Haytmanek.
Haytmanek mentioned that he has set up sessions at the school every Friday afternoon where he presents the students with various healthcare related situations.
“Last Friday I showed the students a human skull and answered questions,” he said. “Next, I will be bringing in pig eyes for the students to dissect during the session,” he continued.
Haytmanek also mentioned that the school has set up several visitations for students to go into healthcare facilities and for healthcare professionals to come into the school.
Hughes also addressed the board's concern about field trips. According to Hughes, the sophomore students at the school have recently gone on a field trip to Bodies Revealed at the Da Vinci Center and the freshman students will be going soon. Hughes added that the students will also be going to another program at the Da Vinci Center later this school year.
According to Spengler, the Medical Academy Charter School does meet the minimum requirement of certified professional staff, but the board questioned some specific staff members’ certifications at their meeting in January.
Hughes addressed the specific staff member concerns by stating that two staff members were certified, but there was a complication because the teachers recently changed their names due to a change in marital status. She continued by stating that the school nurse is not certified, but will be taking the certification test later this month, and the chemistry teacher is waiting to hear about his certification.
“We should know about his certification any day now,” she said.
“I applaud you for addressing our concerns,” commented Board Vice President Carol Cunningham. “If there was an issue for me, [the lack of partnerships with medical facilities] was the biggest issue. If you were going to provide something other than what we as a public school district can provide students, it should have been happening from day one,” she continued.
“I’m going to take full responsibility for that,” responded Haytmanek. “I think partnership was too strong of a term.”
According to Haytmanek, the intent of the proposed partnerships was to have students go to these various facilities and observe procedures and see how things work. He continued by saying that the term 'association' instead of 'partnership' would make these facilities more comfortable in getting involved with the school.
The Medical Academy Charter School currently only houses freshman and sophomore students and according to Arnold, these hands-on experiences and other observations wouldn’t begin until the students’ junior and senior years.
The board requested that the Charter School representatives return to the school board meeting on March 5 to further discuss these issues.