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Saucon Valley School Board, April 2024 Update: Op-Ed


Saucon Valley School Board member Bill Broun shares an update on the issues that have been before the board recently.

Est. Read Time: 4 mins

Here’s this month’s dispatch to the Saucon Source. I’m running down a few of the latest big school board happenings and impressions from my limited perspective. To reiterate, as always, I’m writing as one of nine board members. My take in no way represents the position of the board or district.

A Visit to School. Along with board President Shamim Pakzad and Director Viv Demko, I got to spend a recent morning at Saucon Valley Elementary, watching teachers in action. We were shepherded around by Vice Principal Tom Halcisak and stopped in the classrooms of teachers Amanda Gercie, Jennifer Davison, Tami Coughlan, Arianne Schnalzer and Bob Kachmar. We also visied with librarians Meredith Lesney and Joanna Lemay. Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty had set up the visits to help newer board members especially get a better sense of our schools. It was a terrific experience, and I learned a lot.


Saucon Valley Middle School students Kenzie McClarin, Zelie Miele, Amelia Roberts, Teagan Spencer, John Cox, teacher Meredith Lesney, Liam Gill and Luke Evans have won a Spirit Award as part of the annual What’s So Cool About Manufacturing? contest. (Contributed photo)

When a school video is more than a school video. The creative children of Saucon Valley Middle School’s iTeam have won the Spirit Award in the annual What’s So Cool About Manufacturing? contest. The WSCAM awards are part of a statewide initiative by the Allentown-based Manufacturing Resource Center, or MRC, to help educate and inform students and the public about today’s evolving manufacturing industries. And while that name “MRC” may not light your imagination on fire, the thinking the organization fosters will.

Saucon middle schoolers John Cox, Luke Evans, Liam Gill, Kenzie McClarin, Zelie Miele, Amelia Roberts and Teagan Spencer, with the help of faculty advisor and librarian Meredith Lesney, created a thoughtful and amusing video that not only showcases an important local high-tech manufacturer (Easton- and Bethlehem-based Human Active Technology, or HAT), but also blends clever screenwriting skills, hilarious acting and even a bit of CGI graphics to show exactly how one local company serves a critical need in our society.

The video opens with one boy (played by Gill) exclaiming urgently that “this homework is due online at 11:59 p.m.!” and like so many screen-adept young learners of 2024, he adds, “I need more monitors!” Don’t we all? The boy’s schoolmates try holding up more computer monitors for him, some with one in each hand, their faces showing the strain, but eventually the whole team collapses under their efforts and tumbles to the floor. And that’s when—you guessed it!—we learn about the wonderful creators at HAT, who make products to help people resolve just these sorts of problems (well, sort of), such as, for instance, how to hold up multiple screens in ergonomically sound ways. What I personally love about the video is that the children clearly came up with their own story and concept, too, and it’s endearingly goofy, informative, and just … brilliant. “I’m so proud of them,” said Lesney, and we can all be.

Communication Improvements: The newly volunteer-infused SVSD Communication Committee was to meet this week to review results of the recently distributed survey on district communication. You may have filled one out. This isn’t your grandparents’ hodgepodge school survey. It represents perhaps the first large-scale effort by the district’s recently contracted communications specialist, the Donovan Group, to improve district communications and maintain the district’s stellar reputation. There’s no question, for me at least, that the district is trying to create a more professional and candid approach to getting information to and from the public, parents and key community partners such as the local news media. It won’t happen overnight. Still, I’ve been generally impressed by the seriousness and breadth of the communication committee’s thinking, and also the outside know-how that the Donovan Group’s Harvard-trained point person Liam Goldrick brings to Saucon. We’re getting serious outside professional help on a serious issue.

After all, if you look back at Saucon’s recent history, you can’t help but conclude that one salient source of wasted time and money and attention comes down to recurring communication breakdowns. (I read last year on local social media someone claiming that public relations professionals are “a waste of money,” but in today’s social media-driven knowledge economy, we can’t afford not to stay on top of the public conversations about our district.) It’s my sense that the district isn’t content to simply stand back and see what Next Big Controversy fills the void. It wants to keep the conversation focused—on education.

Bill Broun is a freshman member of Saucon Valley School Board. He is a professor at East Stroudsburg University and a novelist. Visit for more information about the district and the school board.


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William Broun

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