Charter School Organizers Appeal for Building Deposit

A Northampton Area School District teacher seeking to open a charter school at the former Lincoln Middle School in Catasauqua on Tuesday appealed to the public to help him raise a $50,000 deposit for the building.

”We need the help of the Lehigh Valley to make that happen,” said Chris Hoenscheid, speaking to about 40 people at the middle school on Tuesday of the possibility of opening the Thomas Paine Charter School.

Hoenscheid and his wife, Deanne, hope to use the building to house the school, which would serve kindergarten through eight grade.

The Catasauqua Area School Board voted the project down earlier last month. But Hoenscheid plans to resubmit an application for the 2009-10 school year.

The building is owned by developer Abraham Atiyeh, who said he hopes the charter school’s backers can come up with the money. ”If a real buyer comes in with a deposit” before they do, they might lose the building, he said.

Atiyeh said he has been approached by ”people looking to put condos in there.” He added that he’s also talking with Catasauqua officials about converting the building into a police or fire station.

Hoenscheid cited two ways he can keep the Lincoln building available for his project.

One is to raise the $50,000 through pledges.

”We are accepting pledges right now, so you don’t need to send money,” he said, adding that contributors can print a pledge sheet from either or from

The second is for organizers to find an individual or group ”willing to make an investment in education here in the Lehigh Valley by purchasing the Lincoln building and leasing it to us,” he said.

The school would operate with a Core Knowledge curriculum. Under that system, instead of following one course of study one year and an unrelated one the next, students would build on a single course of study over more than one grade.

The Catasauqua board rejected the charter school on March 3, saying that Hoenscheid had not proven ”demonstrated, sustainable” community support.

Supporters in Tuesday’s audience included Dawn Berrigan, vice president of the Lehigh County Republican Committee; Joe Hilliard of FreedomWorks; and Meghan Coursen, a legislative aide to state Sen. Lisa Boscola, who read a letter from her boss.

Citing her former colleagues’ decision, Berrigan said she thinks competition will help the district. ”A little competition isn’t a bad thing; it’s going to make them do better,” she said.

Other supporters included Northampton borough couple Joe Herr and his wife Resa, members of the charter school’s Planning Committee and the parents of a 4-year-old girl and a 11/2-year-old boy whom they would like to eventually send to the school.

”I think the curriculum makes sense,” said Resa Herr. ”It’s focussed on progressive learning and not so much focussed on passing a test, passing a standardized test in school.”