Sinkhole risk for LVA – why not Southside? (13)

(13th in a series on Education and Charter Schools)

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park. 


Putting aside the merits of charter schools for a moment, I’m concerned about the proposed Jaindl Boulevard location for Lehigh Valley Academy. It’s not a question of neighborhoods, it’s one of geology. More specifically, it’s about the risk of sinkholes on the 31 acres under consideration.

Pick any excavating contractor out of the phone directory or Google and ask how often they are called to either of the Hanovers, Bethlehem, Palmer, or Forks townships to remediate sinkholes. The geological formation under the rich topsoil is karst — porous limestone. When disturbed, and more importantly, saturated with water, it dissolves and collapses. Buildings built atop them or near them follow. A property I’m associated with on Bath Pike (less than a mile from the school’s site) just spent nearly $15,000 to obtain a site study and fill in a hole. *

Former farmlands and meadows in the Lehigh Valley are at their highest and best use when left more or less alone. Developing them poses risks of creating sinkholes, and the risks for the charter school end up being borne by the taxpayers in the Bethlehem Area School District, either for sinkhole insurance or for remediation of new holes.

The Morning Call covered Parkland’s problems with a sinkhole at a middle school right before the beginning of this academic year. It is costly. We have brownfield properties available on the South Side ready for a school, if the new owners cooperate. Why not ask them?

The state has a great interactive map of sinkhole locations on its Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website (


* I can show you the paperwork from the excavators with our estimates. The geology is very well known. Somebody is going to make a lot of money on the land deal, and you and I apparently will be footing the bill.

Lehigh Valley Academy Charter looks to build (12)

(12th in a series on Education and Charter Schools)

“Bethlehem Area Superintendent Joseph Roy, a vocal critic of charter schools, said he doesn’t see the need for the charter school to build a new school with taxpayer money.”

“Most of LVA’s 1,700 students come from Bethlehem Area. The district is paying more than $12 million this year for 1,035 of its students to attend LVA.”

BASD is trying to hold the line on a tax increase, though charter school tuition is increasing $1m. Of the 12 charter schools that approximately 2100 BASD students attend at a taxpayer cost of approximately $30m, 50% attend Lehigh Valley Academy Charter. LVA is “eyeing” a possibly $45m building of its own and increasing enrollment. LVA needs BASD permission, but, if denied, can appeal to the state Charter School Appeal Board.

Gadfly is still looking through the web sites of the 12 charter schools listed in our last post on this charter school topic.

Jacqueline Palochko, “Bethlehem Area School District looking at no tax increase.” Morning Call, February 12, 2019.

“Facing one of its lowest deficits in recent years, the Bethlehem Area School District is aiming to hold the line on taxes for property owners in the 2019-20 budget. . . . Because of the low deficit, board President Michael Faccinetto said he’d like to see what the budget would look like without a tax increase. ‘I’m not saying it’s a done deal, but we’re in the position where we can at least entertain it,’ he said.”

“As has been the case in recent years for school districts, charter schools and employee pension payments are top cost drivers. Bethlehem Area is looking at an almost $1 million increase in charter school tuition that would bring the district to paying almost $31 million.”

Jacqueline Palochko, “Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter plans a $45 million school building.” Morning Call, February 14, 2019.

“Wanting to get out of the business of paying rent, the Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School is looking to build a 200,000-square-foot building at a cost of $45 million.”

LVA current rented space, 1560 Valley Center Pkwy

“At its Jan. 16 meeting, the board approved a $10 million sales agreement that could be for land. . . .  ‘The LVA Board of Trustees recognizes that owning our own facility is significantly more cost effective, fiscally responsible, and sustainable in the long term,’ the news release states. The charter school needs the permission of both the Bethlehem Area and Saucon Valley school boards to change locations because it is a regional charter school.”

“Most of LVA’s 1,700 students come from Bethlehem Area. The district is paying more than $12 million this year for 1,035 of its students to attend LVA. The news release says the new building would be for 1,950 students, suggesting LVA is looking to expand enrollment.”

“The charter school opened in 2002 and follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum, a globally focused program that requires students to take a series of demanding tests to receive an optional IB diploma.”

“LVA enrolls a diverse population; more than 30 percent of its students are Hispanic, 36 percent are white and 12 percent are black. Almost 50 percent are considered economically disadvantaged. The charter school has a 95 percent graduation rate, almost 10 percentage points above the state average.”

Jacqueline Palochko and Jon Harris, “Lehigh Valley Academy eyes Jaindl land for new charter school building.” Morning Call, February 15, 2019.

“Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School is eyeing 31 acres of Jaindl-owned land in Northampton County for its proposed 200,000-square-foot school. The charter school would pay $10.9 million for the land at 5300 Jaindl Blvd. in Hanover Township, according to the seller’s agreement between the charter school and the estate of Frederick J. Jaindl. The land is near Route 512.”

LVA possible new building, 5300 Jaindl Blvd

“Smith, the charter school’s board of trustees president, said LVA wants to own its own building because it’s more fiscally responsible than renting. The charter school pays more than $3 million annually in rent, he said. LVA plans to take out a loan for the new school, Smith said.”

“The charter school needs the permission of both the Bethlehem Area and Saucon Valley school boards to change locations because it is a regional charter school. It serves grades kindergarten through 12th. LVA has not yet filed a formal request with Bethlehem Area for a move. Saucon Valley Superintendent Craig Butler declined to comment. If either school district does not approve the location change, the charter school can appeal to the state Charter School Appeal Board.”

“Most of LVA’s 1,700 students come from Bethlehem Area. The district is paying more than $12 million this year for 1,035 of its students to attend LVA.” [Plans are to increase enrollment to 1,950 students.]

Sensible, reasonable gun control: you know you think about it

It’s Valentine’s Day – yes.

Boo! It’s also the anniversary of the Parkland shooting – it’s been a year? Seriously?

New York Times articles:

“Parkland’s Day of Remembrance: Moments of Silence, Reflection and Grief”

“Parkland: A Year After the School Shooting That Was Supposed to Change Everything”

“Parkland Shooting; Where gun control and school safety stand today”

Yay! It’s also one day after the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 by a vote of 23-15 and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 by a vote of 21-14.

You know you’ve been thinking about the need for sensible, reasonable gun control.

Like background checks.

Gadfly joined some people not just thinking but doing something about it during the noon hour today.

A demonstration/march/rally organized by CeaseFirePA that started at Broad and Main, hiked to Senator Boscola’s office at Broad and New, then downhill to City Hall.

Ok, so you weren’t there, but Gadfly is here to help you join in vicariously (good SAT word):

Warm up, shake it loose, feel the vibes

Now march uphill to Boscola’s, stretch it out, I dare you not to chant
“Whadda we want? Background checks! When d’we want ‘em? Now!”

Stop for breath at Boscola’s house, listen to our message, Barbara was one of the 004conveyers of our message to the Boss Lady – Go Barbara!

Head south to City Hall, keep your eyes from drifting to the pizza shop, downhill,  stronger of voice
“Remember Parkland!”

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Sharon was a little bit out of control, we were thinking of confiscating her shaker, Whoa, Sharon, whoa!

Look at those two at the window calmly, warmly eating their lunch — the nerve!

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Let loose at City Hall, no holding back now, full roar!
“Death is not the price of freedom”
“We got the kids’ backs, they got ours”
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough”
“We want action”


Hear that Washington!

Thanks to LEPOCO for alerting me to this event.

Callahan: proposal regarding equal pay for women

“We are not in the 50s and 60s where the guy is the breadwinner.”

“If a woman is doing the same job as a man,
she should be paid the same amount of money.”

Bryan Callahan

CM Callahan has initiated the process to introduce an ordinance banning employers BCallahanfrom asking questions about previous salary for the purpose of reducing racial and  gender salary inequality.

Hear him describe the ordinance and the rationale in a brief presentation at the monthly meeting of the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee this week:

See also: Nicole Radzievich, “Councilman Bryan Callahan wants to stop Bethlehem businesses from asking job applicants this question.” Morning Call, January 31, 2019.

“Looking to close the pay gap between men and women, Bethlehem City Councilman Bryan Callahan on Thursday called for a wage equality ordinance that contains a provision struck down in federal court.”

“The proposed ordinance would require employers in the city to compensate workers based on job function and experience, rather than what the applicant made at a previous job. Those who do business in the city would be banned from asking an applicant that question, he said at a news conference.”

“The rationale is that basing new salaries on past salaries perpetuates any racial and gender inequities. Women in Pennsylvania are paid 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. . . . The court ruled employers can be prohibited from basing compensation on previous salary, but it was a violation of the First Amendment to stop them from asking the question.”

“Bethlehem would be subjected to that ruling — at least under current case law — because it falls within the same federal court jurisdiction as Philadelphia, [Callahan] said. The ruling has been appealed to the U. S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, a level below the U.S. Supreme Court. In recent years Bethlehem City Council passed ordinances of questionable enforceability in order to send a policy message to higher levels of government.”

“Mayor Robert Donchez said he supports pay equality but wants to review Callahan’s proposal before taking a position on it. In Bethlehem, a job application posted on the city’s website asks its prospective employees for starting and ending salary at previous jobs. But Donchez said Thursday the city plans to remove that question from applications.”

“Callahan said he expects to review the details of the proposal in committee and would look for guidance from counsel about penalties and how it would work.”

“I found [H.D.’s poetry] totally, totally intoxicating” (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on H.D.)

“H.D.’s poetry said to me that we could bring patriarchal dominance to an end,
it was a poetry that insisted that we could bring war to an end.”
Seth Moglen

Finding H.D.: A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle

The next event is “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” by Moravian’s Craig Atwood, February 26, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Here is the third slice of Prof Seth Moglen’s January 30 “How I Fell in Love with H.D.” lecture at the BAPL in the FINDING H.D. series.

Seth recounts his personal discovery of H.D. in college as a 19-yr.-old in 1983, how her work speaks to perpetual cycles of intergender and international war, and how she has influenced his own scholarly work.

You need to hear Seth’s personal account in his own words, but here’s a taste of what you will find:

“I picked up this book Trilogy, and I started to read it, and it was like doing drugs, I just couldn’t believe it, that a human being had written this. The musicality of the verse was so immediately powerful.”

“This feeling of the bottom opening up and this . . . sense of both a beauty and a mysteriousness about the poetry that I found totally, totally intoxicating.”

“H.D. felt that she had to get to the heart of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament and Greek mythology and the Roman mythological tradition in order to explain how it could 030be that these extraordinarily gifted women that she had grown up with had been deprived of the opportunity to lead the full lives of the kind that her male relatives had.”

“H.D. is deeply concerned with misogyny . . . which is to say male fear and aggression towards women. H.D. was convinced that you could stop this, that it could be confronted, and overcome.”

“What is it in men that produced this fear, and how might we create a culture in which men could change.”

“H.D. was worried about war and absolutely committed that the scourge of modern warfare, this endless cycle of one war leading to another and the next was rooted in these painful fantasies of dominance.”

“H.D.’s poetry said to me that we could bring patriarchal dominance to an end, it was a poetry that insisted that we could bring war to an end.”

“I didn’t want to risk my life in Grenada, and like a lot of men of my generation, I was genuinely alarmed about this, and I was trying to understand why this was happening. And there was nothing that I read that year in college that seemed to me to have more to say about this question of why generation after generation we were engaged in futile war.”

“One of the things that literature could do was alter how we feel and think about the world in ways that might enable us to be less actively engaged in the perpetuation of violence.”

“H.D. herself was trying to figure out . . . how the Bethlehem Steel plant which was producing the munitions for global warfare, how that had grown out of a pacifist communitarianism.”

Next time we’ll talk about some specific poems.

Remember: the next event in the year-long series is “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” by Moravian’s Craig Atwood, February 26, 6:30-8 at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Gadfly will remind you.

Lecture photo by Jennie Gilrain.