Happy anticipation seemed to fill the room during a short public meeting of the Easton Area School Board Tuesday night, as school officials look forward to the start of a new school year next week.
The optimistic mood was personified by Jena Brodhead, president of the Easton Area Education Association.
Brodhead, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, told the board: “This summer I’ve had a lot of time to think. I thought about ‘am I going to be able to return to the classroom in the fall?’ I was reminded last week that’s there’s no place else I’d rather be. I saw a few of my kids. I don’t know what my life would be like if I didn’t get to see them on a regular basis.”
The school board blasted through its meeting agenda in 20 minutes, with very little discussion and no comments from the public about anything.
John Reinhart, the district’s interim superintendent, reported that the more than 1,000 members of the district’s staff reported back to work Tuesday morning with a meeting at Easton Area Middle School. The district’s 9,200 students start school on Monday.
Reinhart said Tuesday’s meeting constituted a symbolic lift-off to what he hopes will be a successful school year for students.
“We have visited every school in the district, virtually every building in the district, and I’m happy to report that our schools are in great shape and they look ready to go, in welcoming students back next week,” said the superintendent.
Reinhart also welcomed Brodhead to the school board meeting, saying: “It’s great to see you and to know that you are returning back to good health.”
Brodhead said she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received from the school district’s “amazing” staff and community.”
She said her fingers already are calloused, with paper cuts, from setting up her classroom.
“We’re ready to go on Monday. I miss those little faces. We’re excited to start the school year.”
The teachers union president also offered her colleagues some words of advice: “We don’t know what kind of baggage our kids come to school with. As educators, it’s our job to figure out the puzzle. We need to believe in them. Because if we don’t, who will?”
Brodhead, a teacher at Francis A. March Elementary School, later said her students “are part of my treatment. They keep a smile on my face.”
Reinhart also informed the school board that Tuesday was board member Baron Vanderburg’s birthday.
Vanderburg said he attended part of the Tuesday morning gathering of the district staff. “I saw eagerness and readiness to get back into the buildings. That’s what we appreciate.”
“There is a degree of confidence in this school district and positiveness that I have not seen in a long time,” said board vice president William Rider. “And that can only be beneficial to our kids."