Thursday, May 31, 2007

Food for thought...

The following editorial, written by a 17-year old Allen HS student appeared in the Morning Call on May 18th.

'I suggest statewide education reform that would pool the property tax of the entire state and distribute it based on the needs of each school.'' I remember coming home from school one day listening to National Public Radio with my mom. The story was about a village in Africa whose children were taking a test that, if they passed, allowed them to continue their educations. The community wanted so badly to give the children the best shot at passing that the entire village sacrificed meals to provide every student with a hot meal on test day. I sat in awed silence. An entire community would forgo so much to give its children a chance at a better education!

That story contrasts with the value we place on education here in the Lehigh Valley. Look at my high school, William Allen, the fifth-largest in the state. Last year's graduating class had an abysmal graduation rate of 66 percent. Of those, a mere 58 percent planned to pursue a post-secondary education. Last year, 43 percent of 11th graders were proficient or better in reading and 27 percent were proficient or better in math. Right now, our school building is about 1,200 students over capacity. Where is the outrage? Why aren't people appalled by the situation?

Actually, Allen's problems are well known around the Lehigh Valley, but there still is a lack of public indignation. When there is public outcry or press about the school, it is for the wrong reasons; not to make people aware or to take action, but to further denigrate it. We're dumb, our school is dirty, our sports aren't the greatest, and we're all gangsters and thugs. Yet, people don't realize their perception reinforces any hint of factual evidence. We ''live up'' to their standard.

I've walked into our bathrooms when girls from other schools are using them, and watched as they roll their eyes at the scrawled curse words and filth, and I'm ashamed. I look at the trash in the hallways and the graffiti on the walls, and wish they weren't there. I've tasted the defeat of losing a soccer game or even a sport where I was a bystander where I know the opposing team assumed it had the win even before playing. I can feel it in the body language in the halls of my school -- a reckless sense of despair.

Allen still is a good school. It just seems that for every positive step, more steps are taken back because the demands on a school of 3,700 are enormous. We have a great curriculum, filled with challenging courses. However, not being in school in the first place greatly affects class time and learning. Although many Allen students walk to school, daily attendance is only 83.9 percent. In addition, how can anyone expect to learn when suspensions and fights are so common? More than 27 percent of students received an out-of-school suspension last year. Perhaps, this is to be expected when overcrowding is such an enormous problem and tempers run high. With so many students, there is no chance to get an individualized education. Classes are enormous. The nine guidance counselors are forced to function as crisis counselors rather than providers of educational guidance.

Yes, the high population at Allen provides diversity, which allows students to get a taste of the real world. The downside is that there are so many types of need: 26 languages are spoken at Allen, special education enrollment is high, and its enrollment of ESOL students is the highest around.

Other schools in the area have high populations and complex issues. Look at Emmaus and Parkland high schools. The former has close to 2,700 students and the latter 3,100. Both have overly stressed students, alcohol and drugs. Yet, at Emmaus, 61 percent of 11th graders scored proficient or better on the math test and 76 percent scored proficient or better in reading, while 70 percent of Parkland 11th-graders were proficient or better in math and 85 percent were proficient or better in reading. Where is the difference? What gives them the advantage? Money. Money … and community involvement.

The lyrics of the Pink Floyd song ''Money'' come to mind … ''Money, get away … Get a good job with good pay and you're okay.'' Money makes the world go round. The primary source of funding for public schools in Pennsylvania is property taxes. The average market value for a home in Allentown is $129,339 compared to $273,140 on average in Lehigh County, not to mention that of 45,960 city housing units, 47 percent are non-owner occupied. Allentown suffers the same declining tax base as do most other urban areas. Due to this lack of a strong tax base, the Allentown School District spends only $8,360 per student (in the lowest 9 percent in the commonwealth). Yet, these are the students who have significantly higher needs than counterparts whose education is funded by average $9,443 per student in Lehigh County. Many families cannot facilitate further learning. The mean income per student in the district is $58,684, compared to $119,561 in the county. Of the 3,700 students at Allen, 55.9 percent are from low-income families.

With additional money, think what could be done: smaller classes; more qualified teachers who represent the diversity of the school; more counselors; more effort to get students in after-school activities; more new books, computers, and other technology; less trash and more of an appearance of a learning institution, not a forgotten, dilapidated, urban school. Money alone doesn't mean students will change their ''negative attitudes.'' However, these changes may make them feel worth it, like somebody cares. Most importantly, more parents might get involved and grasp that school is worth it.

So, I'm suggesting that Allen's problems are too great for Allentown to solve alone. It requires not only groups like Education 2010 but the entire Lehigh Valley and state. I suggest statewide education reform that would pool the property tax of the entire state and distribute it based on the needs of each school.

An under-educated population hurts everyone -- not just the cities. It may not seem fair; you earned your income and the house you bought, why should it go to someone else's child? However, if you give a child an education it provides an opportunity to escape the vicious circle of poverty and an uneducated life. You have the opportunity to change the fate of thousands of children by challenging the system in place. Let's remember the African village where not everyone had a child, but still sacrificed almost everything to give all children a chance at something better.

Kate McMahon of Allentown is a junior at William Allen High School.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

NET Organizational Meeting

This is when we discuss the business side of the NET. Have a good idea? Want to volunteer? Have questions? Please attend to discuss.

All Members and non-members welcome.

When: Wednesday, June 13, 7 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Where: Wired Cafe, 520 Main Street, Bethlehem 18018

Admission: FREE!!

Leadership Lehigh Valley Summit for Success

Attendees of the Summit will have the ability to participate in a
variety of breakout sessions presented throughout the day, focused on
Financial, Legal, Human Resources, Fund Raising, Strategic Planning,
Grant Writing, Marketing, and Board Relations issues. Each breakout
session will be facilitated by experts in their respective field, who
will address topics such as "Merging Your Business Model With Your
Mission Model", "Recruiting & Retaining Good Employees", "Successful
Event Planning: Maximizing Your ROI", "What Have You Done For Me Lately?
- Getting The Most From Board Members", and more. Joseph M. Geiger,
Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit
Organizations (PANO) will serve as the keynote speaker.

Additional information regarding the "Summit for Success" class project
is available at under the News/Events link or contact
Leadership Lehigh Valley at 610-861-5431.

When: Thursday, May 31, 2007 from 8:30am - 4:30pm

Where: Best Western Lehigh Valley Hotel and Conference Center, Rts. 512 & 22, Bethlehem

Cost: $10 per person

Green Charter School Meeting Tonight

Green Charter School - The first meeting of the Green Charter School Exploratory Committee brought out more than 30 interested people. Because of the wonderful response, there will be a second meeting on Wednesday, May 30th, 7:00 pm at Unity Church located on 3rd Street (behind Armetta's Restaurant). For more information call or email Rob Apataker at 610-217-1060 or

Easton City-wide clean-up

City Wide Clean-Up!
Saturday June 2nd
Unify your neighbors and help clean-up Easton!
Plant your Planters,
Sweep your Sidewalks & Gutters,
Clean your Windows
Call: Grace Bruch
610-252-8653 or email:

Pet Parade and Petpourri

Pet Parade & Petpourri
Saturday June 9th 9am-1pm in Centre Square (circle closed to traffic)

Pet Parade 10am Registration $5.00 (applications available at Easton Farmers Market, Partyology and at the Main Street Office)
Parade Categories: Best Pet Costume, Best Pet & Owner Look-alike
Best Pet & Companion Costume, Most Unusual Pet, Best Pet Trick

Petpourri 9am-1pm
Vendors featuring: pet fashions, pet treats, pet toys and great gifts for pet-lovers! Also: Professional Pet Photos (Michael Cabreza), First State Greyhound Rescue, 4-H Bunnies, The Center for Animal Health & Welfare, Pet Care Experts & more!

WANTED: Artists willing to volunteer their time to Paint Cat or Dog Faces on Kids. Call: 610-330-9942

Get a free tree if you live in Easton

The City of Easton is proud to announce that qualified forester, Bob Nenow, has been hired through a CDBG grant to help reforest the city. Mr. Nenow was formerly employed by the City of Bethlehem for 43 years. The CDBG grant also allows the City to offer free trees to willing property owners who wish to fill already existing tree wells. The City’s forester will recommend the proper species of tree for a particular space and will also plant it. These trees are available on a first come, first serve basis. Please call the Public Services office @ 610-250-6680 to express an interest in this opportunity.

LVEDC CEO selection committee named

A nine-member selection committee consisting of three elected officials; five LVEDC board members and an outside corporate leader have been named to review more than 70 resumes received for the vacant chief executive officer’s position.

James Bartholomew of Embassy Bank, who also serves as treasurer for LVEDC, will chair the committee.

The panel will meet shortly to develop a review and selection process

“We will be looking for the right chemistry as well as the necessary qualifications for a new president and chief executive officer so that we find a candidate who will take as much pride in this organization and this Lehigh Valley as the staff and board of directors already do,” said interim President and chief Executive Officer Bob Weed, who will serve on the selection committee.

Other members include Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham, Northampton County Executive John Stoffa, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, LVEDC Vice Chair Dan Reavy of Verizon, Real Estate Committee Chair Richard Thulin of Arcadia Properties, new Board member Jane Keating of Lafayette-Ambassador Bank, and Mike Caruso of Caruso Benefits.

Caruso is not a member of the LVEDC board.

“The wide breadth of interest in the position and Lehigh Valley’s strength in economic development, as demonstrated by our rising rankings by national business magazines and other agencies, speaks to the strength of our organization and the work that has been done here over the past 12 years,” Weed said.

This weekend at Easton Farmers Market

The Friends of the Easton Farmers’ Market and the Easton Main Street Initiative Present:

Speakers’ Tent
11am- “Raising Kids, Eating Right, Spending Smart, Living Well "-Lois Killcoyne of Northampton County Extension
12 Noon- Solar Cooking demo. -Joe Judge, Penn State Master Gardener

“The Market Grill”
The Friends of the Easton Farmers’ Market will be showcasing farmers’ market products by making and selling Grilled Marinated Chicken Sandwiches, Grilled Buffalo Burgers and Grilled Turkey Burgers. Featured Vendors: Mountainview Poultry Farm (meat), Granny Schmidt’s Bakery (rolls) and L.C. Farms (heirloom lettuce).

“Backyard Flower Bouquets” by Kate Petrignani--- for Sale at the Friends’ Tent.

Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival 9am-1pm
Professional Sidewalk Chalk Artists
Sidewalk Chalk Art Competition for Kids and Adults
Sidewalk Chalk Art Fun Station

Plus…Sidewalk Sale Days throughout Downtown Easton—June 1st thru 3rd!