More info on Lehigh Valley Academy (16)

(16th in a series on Education and Charter Schools)

Timely to our discussion is the showing of the “Backpack full of Cash” documentary this Thursday, March 21, 6:30pm – 8:00pm at NITSCHMANN MIDDLE SCHOOL, sponsored by Bethlehem Proud Parents – Free!

This info from Sara Satullo and Karen Beck Pooley much appreciated:


IB is integrated into the curriculum, but not all students earn an IB degree. To do so, students must take exams akin to Advanced Placement tests. Not all do so. This is from the 2016 charter school renewal hearing for the school: “The school’s Class of 2016 included 50 graduates and 11 of the students were awarded a full IB-diploma, while a number earned some certificates but did not take all of the exams, Mauser [Susan Mauser, LVA CEO] said.”


“Why Bethlehem school board approved charter school agreement.” Morning Call, November 29, 2016.

in 2016, when the LVA charter was up for renewal, Karen writes that the Bethlehem School Board generated “a long list of concerns and several reasons for denying the charter outright” and sought to negotiate an amended charter, but LVA “rejected all of [their] requests and offered no realistic counterproposals.”

Karen indicates that our Board was hamstrung by experience with the state Charter Appeals Board. Gadfly has read elsewhere that the Charter School lobby is among the most powerful in the state.

Provisions rejected by LVA included ceasing to cover school lunches, aligning LVA and BASD calendars to reduce transportation costs, and holding monthly public Trustee meetings.

Gadfly has an appointment with Dr. Roy next week on the questions Gadfly posed at the end of his last post.

H.D.: “If she went away [from Pennsylvania] her spirit would break; if she stayed, she would be suffocated” (11)

(11th in a series of posts on H.D.)

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

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Gadfly is following this wonderful program on Bethlehem-born world-renown author H.D. (1866-1961), the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure – who most of us, Gadfly included, know very little about.

Here again is the full recording of Prof. Mary Foltz’s lecture on “Challenging Limited Understandings of Gender and Sexuality” on March 6.

After the intro by Jennie Gilrain, Mary introduces the overarching questions we should think about during her talk (min. 2:30), introduces H.D.’s The Gift (min. 5:01), discusses and interacts with the audience about two poems by Rosa Lane for context (min. 8:04 and min. 20:54), and concludes this context by showing how the Lane poems set up four themes that characterize H.D.’s work (min. 30:25). Mary turns to The Gift for the main focus of her talk (min. 32.18) and the Q ‘n A follows (min. 1:14:50).

So now let’s think about the second slice of Mary’s lecture.

Gadfly is straight.

How can he know what’s it’s like to be . . . not straight?

How can he know what it feels like to be lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer?

Literature is a way of knowing.

Mary tells us that H.D., the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure, is a bisexual feminist poet.

How can Gadfly understand H.D. and her criticism of the damages of sexism and patriarchy?

Mary fosters that understanding of people like me who “will not know the pain of encountering others’ hatred as you express femininity or masculinity because you’ve been assigned a sex at birth that does not match your gender” through a discussion of two short poems by lesbian poet Rosa Lane.

Poetry must be heard.

Gadfly encourages you to read the Lane poems printed below along with listening to them read by members of Mary’s audience — people just like you.

H.D. 3

Read them. And think about them for a couple minutes. Then listen to Mary and her audience talk about them.

Rosa Lane, “Tomboy’s Toggle to Love”

Rosa Lane, “Boats Named Women”

Rosa Lane 2

Mary took the poems individually, got the audience talking about them, and then pulled things together in her words.

Gadfly would love to think you have the time to listen to the segments on each poem – but you must, YOU MUST listen to at least one!

So here are audio clips of the full segments on each poem with some teasers from Mary’s wrap-ups.

1) “Tomboy’s Toggle to Love”

“The child expressing lesbian desire in this poem, the longing to share love for another woman, feels like an alien in her own home. . . . What she is looking for is a community, a tribe, of others that can affirm her desire as beautiful and valuable. She sends a message in a bottle, but hears nothing back from the world, nothing washes ashore, that indicates she is not alone in her difference. . . . the desire for another woman is not something that she feels could be erased, her course is set from childhood to be lost to her community and family because of her difference.”

2) “Boats Named Women”

“This poem addresses how women are the vessels that support men in their journeys through the world in this fishing community. Women’s bodies. . . . are gutted hulls, not subjects in their own right, but bodies devoted to pleasuring men. . . . sexual intimacy here is described as the mother chopping off a part of herself to give to her partner.”

Mary then finishes her introduction to H.D. by setting out four themes that characterize H.D.’s work.

  • institutionalized sexism limits possibilities for white women
  • normative heterosexuality defines women’s sexuality as being objects of desire for men rather than subjects of desire
  • documenting the desire to surpass limited understanding of what women’s bodies are for
  • imagining and enacting alternatives to gender norms for women

H.D. 5H.D., Mary tells us, felt suffocated in Bethlehem and Philadelphia even as she loved her family and community.

“If she went away her spirit would break,” H.D. wrote of herself, “if she stayed, she would be suffocated.”

That tension tears Gadfly up.

Another slice of Mary’s lecture to think about coming in our next post. Moving there into a discussion of H.D.’s work itself.

Remember: the next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Charter schools: What makes Lehigh Valley Academy so special for BASD students? (15)

(15th in a series on Education and Charter Schools)

Timely to our discussion is the showing of the “Backpack full of Cash” documentary this Thursday, March 21, 6:30pm – 8:00pm at NITSCHMANN MIDDLE SCHOOL, sponsored by Bethlehem Proud Parents – Free!

Half of BASD’s total charter school enrollment is in LVA, for whom BASD pays $12m/yr.

LVA is seeking $45m for a new building and may be increasing its enrollment.

“30 percent of [LVA’s] 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.” (from Morning Call)

What makes Lehigh Valley Academy charter school so special? What’s the draw?

Please bear with a long description. Remember that as taxpayers we are paying $12m/yr. for LVA.

LVA’s distinctive feature seems to be the International Baccalaureate program (IB).

IB’s distinctive feature seems to be “International Mindedness.”

“LVA is the only fully authorized International Baccalaureate World School in Pennsylvania that offers an IB continuum to all students in grades K-12. Beginning with full-day kindergarten and continuing through a student’s senior year, LVA emphasizes inquiry-based learning and critical thinking to prepare a student for higher education and the 21st century globalized environment.”

“The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who recognize their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet. Central to this aim is international-mindedness. International-mindedness is a multi-faceted and complex concept that captures a way of thinking, being and acting that is characterized by an openness to the world and a recognition of our deep interconnectedness to others.”

“To be open to the world, we need to understand it. IB programmes therefore provide students with opportunities for sustained inquiry into a range of local and global issues and ideas. This willingness to see beyond immediate situations and boundaries is essential as globalization and emerging technologies continue to blur traditional distinctions between the local, national and international.”

“An IB education fosters international-mindedness by helping students reflect on their own perspective, culture and identities, and then on those of others. By learning to appreciate different beliefs, values and experiences, and to think and collaborate across cultures and disciplines, IB learners gain the understanding necessary to make progress toward a more peaceful and sustainable world.”

“An IB education further enhances the development of international-mindedness through multilingualism. All IB programmes require the students to study, or study in, more than one language because we believe that communicating in more than one language provides excellent opportunities to develop intercultural understanding and respect. It helps the students to appreciate that his or her own language, culture and worldview is just one of many.”

“International-mindedness is also encouraged through a focus on global engagement and meaningful service with the community. These elements challenge the student to critically consider power and privilege, and to recognize that he or she holds this planet and its resources in trust for future generations. They also highlight the focus on action in all IB programmes: a focus on moving beyond awareness and understanding to engagement, action and bringing about meaningful change.”

IB learner profile
In grades 11-12, IB offers 2 tracks:

Diploma Programme: Prepares students for effective participation in a rapidly evolving world. This is a demanding two-year curriculum that meets the needs of highly motivated students,and leads to a qualification that is recognized by leading universities around the world.

Career-related Programme  is a framework of international education that incorporates the values of the IB into a unique programme addressing the needs of students engaged in career-related education. The programme leads to further/higher education, apprenticeships or employment.
The Diploma Programme curriculum

The Diploma Programme (DP) curriculum is made up of six subject groups and the DP core, comprising theory of knowledge (TOK), creativity, activity, service (CAS) and the extended essay. Through the Diploma Programme (DP) core, students reflect on the nature of knowledge, complete independent research and undertake a project that often involves community service.

The three core elements are:

  • Theory of knowledge (TOK), in which students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know.
  • The extended essay, which is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.
  • Creativity, activity, service, in which students complete a project related to those three concepts.

How is TOK structured?

As a thoughtful and purposeful inquiry into different ways of knowing, and into different kinds of knowledge, TOK is composed almost entirely of questions.

The most central of these is “How do we know?”, while other questions include:

  • What counts as evidence for X?
  • How do we judge which is the best model of Y?
  • What does theory Z mean in the real world?

Through discussions of these and other questions, students gain greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions, as well as developing an appreciation of the diversity and richness of cultural perspectives.

As part of theory of knowledge (TOK), each student chooses one essay title from six issued by International Baccalaureate (IB).

The titles change in each examination session. Upcoming and past TOK questions include:

  • “To what extent are areas of knowledge shaped by their past? Consider with reference to two areas of knowledge.”
  •  “’There is no reason why we cannot link facts and theories across disciplines and create a common groundwork of explanation.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement?”
  • “There is no such thing as a neutral question. Evaluate this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.”
  • “’The task of history is the discovering of the constant and universal principles of human nature.’ To what extent are history and one other area of knowledge successful in this task?”

Some examples of the 4,000 word extended essay are:

  • “An analysis of costume as a source for understanding the inner life of the character”
  • “A study of malnourished children in Indonesia and the extent of their recovery after a period of supervised improved nutrition.”
  • “Doing versus being: language and reality in the Mimamsa school of Indian philosophy.”
  • “The effects of sugar-free chewing gum on the pH of saliva in the mouth after a meal.”
  • “To what extent has the fall in the exchange rate of the US dollar affected the tourist industry in Carmel, California?”
  •  “What level of data compression in music files is acceptable to the human ear?”


So the above should give us some idea of what the distinctive feature of LVA is.

Gadfly is not sure if the IB is required of all students or it is an option, a track. Need to find that out.

Gadfly also needs to know more about 1) how LVA is promoted, publicized (if at all) among BASD students, and 2) whether both BASD and LVA have done surveys on why these students are choosing to attend LVA.

So, with luck, more info later.

How are you feeling about the $12m?

Remember: timely to our discussion is the showing of the “Backpack full of Cash” documentary this Thursday, March 21, 6:30pm – 8:00pm at NITSCHMANN MIDDLE SCHOOL, sponsored by Bethlehem Proud Parents – Free!

The best I can do

Jon Harris, “People of all faiths unite for peace in Allentown vigil honoring those killed in New Zealand mosque massacre.” Morning Call, March 17, 2019.

As I write this, there’s a vigil/ceremony for the New Zealand victims in Allentown.

And maybe it’s as much for “us” as for them.

I can not get there.

But my mind is there.

I happen to be rehearsing my reading of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” for a recording project with the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

And I can’t help reading Whitman — a man, a gay man, unparalleled in identification with American democratic values — through New Zealand.

At meeting today, a member asked for spiritual help “managing my rage.”

I understand.

New Zealand unmoors you.  kelson

The central message of Whitman’s poem defining the American Self is that “a kelson of the creation is love.”

It’s a great image if you know what a kelson is: the spine that runs along the bottom of a boat that holds it all together.

In the wake of such hate, it’s hard reading that line now with the old conviction.

But it’s the message I need to hear.

Whitman’s Self in the poem loves everyone. That’s what it means to be an American. Whitman’s hard message is that true equality is not based in law but in love.

There is no discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sex, whatever because the law won’t allow it but because we see the inherent worth in everybody.

Whitman makes “appointments with all,” he resists anything better than “his own diversity,” he’s a “caresser of life wherever moving.”

After parading before our eyes presidents, and prostitutes, and peddlers among a cavalcade of people from all geographies, all castes, all moral strata, Whitman concludes:

these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,
And such it is to be of these more or less I am,
And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.

I’m not sure I have managed my rage. But Whitman is working his way on me.

In the face of New Zealand, must hold on to and, more importantly, must act on the Whitman ideal.

How have you been thinking about these particularly horrendous events of the last few days?


The Gadfly at 6 months

The Gadfly is 6 months old today.

Time to reflect.

The statement of purpose on the About page begins with “God.”

Pretty pompous.  Gadfly 61

But I think I’ll leave it.

At least for another 6 months.

How else explain the “hang time” of Antalics and Scheier?

I think of gadfly as a special breed – Genus Antalicus.

Gadflying is a calling.

I think of gadflies as unofficial official representatives of the public.

Gadflies have a keen nose for inconsistency and hypocrisy.

Gadflies are institutional  memory.

And it’s not about winning.

It’s about witnessing.

I still believe in the fantasy Norman Rockwell small town.

I like to think of Bethlehem as that kind of small town.

I like to think of model democracy here.

I love the voices at public comment

whether about barking dogs or building high-rises.

The ability to speak is sacred.

Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech

And good conversation makes community.

I believe that differences don’t have to divide.

Bethlehem needs a place for people to talk.

People tell me Gadfly fills a need.

Not enough people take advantage.

Not enough people initiate conversation.

Gadfly isn’t just Gadfly’s.

Gadfly needs more voices.

Gadfly wants you.

Speaking on Gadfly is empowering.

Speaking is exercising franchise.

Let there be more speakers on Gadfly.

Gadfly is grateful.

Followers are oxygen.


A tip o’ the hat and a wave o’ the wings to Al Bernotas for the Gadfly image.

Need for a more robust discussion on the state of the City

(The latest in a series of posts on City government)

In one of his “modest proposal” posts a few posts back, Gadfly whined as gadflies tend to do (sigh) about the venue for the Mayor’s “State of the City” address, the audience for it, and the dissemination of it.

The content of the Mayor’s address is very positive, very upbeat, as such addresses are wont to be, but, I think, legitimately so. And Gadfly has admitted to wishing that the Mayor seek the spotlight a bit more and foster a widespread positive feeling about the good news among “the people.”

But the dissemination of the address seems better this year than last. Virtually immediately, there was an “announcement” on the top page of the City web site with a link to the audio of the address accompanying the Mayor’s slides. And there is a link to the printed text of the address at the top of the quick links on that page as well.

And the Call article that day is a prominent size: “Bethlehem mayor showcases city’s untold development story.” (The headline of the Call print version is “Bethlehem mayor stressed development; Donchez highlights investment numbers in State of the City address.”)

But that’s still not enough.

Gadfly’s whine is basically centered on the venue and the audience: As the Call says, “Donchez delivered the remarks Thursday to 250 business people at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks.”

I say again. That just seems wrong to me. Symbolically. Probably not politically.

You aim your speech at your audience.

And, though the Mayor’s address contains much more, the Call headlines saw the address primarily through the lens of that venue and audience, focusing on the Mayor showcasing, stressing, highlighting development – even to the drama of revealing to readers an “untold story” of development.

And astronomical numbers dominate the content of the news story: one imagines an audience of slick-haired Gordon Gekko’s salivating at the Mayor’s financially erotic language: 190 million, 295 million, 54 million, 370 million, 22 million, 15 million . . . 1 billion! 1.3 billion! Even Gadfly swooned.

And, though there is more in the Mayor’s words, the Call reports that post-address questions centered, as one might expect in that venue and with that audience, only on “two big projects,” Martin Tower and the Sands.

Gadfly sees the “State of the City” address as an exciting moment for robust wide-ranging discussion from a broad set of perspectives.

We didn’t have that.

So Gadfly’s been thinking about a “modest proposal” of his own for next year.

Assembling, say, four people to complement the Mayor’s address with posts on Gadfly.

Complement not compete with, criticize, answer, or attack like what happens with our national “State of the Union” address.

Complementary views.

Aimed at fostering a sense of community.

The state of the City seen from a variety of angles, through a variety of lenses, using different metrics. Equally valid.

Gadfly hasn’t been around long enough to know. Who are the wise heads representing a range of perspectives that he might invite next year to fill this delicate and valuable role?

Give him your suggestions–