School for the Arts planned for Tobyhanna area

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(WBRE/WYOU) — A new school for the arts is planned for the Tobyhanna area.

Dr. Thomas Lubben, who founded several arts-based schools in the Lehigh Valley, plans to open the Pocono Charter High School for the performing and visual arts in September 2020.

On Thursday, Eyewitness News took a tour. Dr. Lubben plans to rent the building and hopes to have an enrollment of up to 500 students. The school will offer dance, music, theater and other classes for teens interested in a career in the arts. Dr. Lubben says he’s trying to provide a much-needed school to the Pocono area.

“The public schools cannot provide three hours a day of an art form. That’s why these schools exist in every major city in the United States,” Dr. Lubben said.

There are several open houses coming up. Dr. Lubben will present his plan to the Pocono Mountain School Board in a few weeks.

(WBRE/WYOU-TV) — At 5, Eyewitness News took a tour of the site for a new planned charter school. Now the host school district is responding to those plans.

The Pocono Charter High School for the performing and visual arts plans to open in September 2020 at the site of a former controversial charter school. Back in 2014, the state revoked the charter for the Pocono Mountain Charter School which was run by the pastor of the then adjoining Shawnee Tabernacle Church.

The pastor pleaded guilty to federal tax fraud in 2013 and was fined by the state ethics commission. On Thursday, the Pocono Mountain School District held a press conference to argue against the need for another charter school.

“The concern is that we certainly have had two failed charter schools within the Pocono Mountain School District that have cost our taxpayers just under $40 million because of the lack of accountability, transparency and really not caring about each of our individual students as we do here at Pocono Mountain,” noted Dr. Elizabeth Robison, Superintendent of Pocono Mountain School.

The Pocono Mountain School board must approve the plans which will be submitted in a few weeks. Click here to see plans.

Dr. Elizabeth Robison, Superintendent of Schools for the Pocono Mountain School District released this statement:

First, let me assure our entire school community that Pocono Mountain School District already has outstanding arts and music programs and opportunities available to all students of all abilities throughout grades K to 12. The District’s curriculum for arts and music education is unmatched and has been recognized for its rigor and outstanding support of the arts and music education both nationally and throughout the state.

There is no deficit of music and arts programs and opportunities for students in Pocono Mountain School District. Just the opposite is true.

When other school districts throughout Pennsylvania were forced to cut their arts and music programs due to budget constraints, our school board, administration and faculty remained firmly committed to the importance of those programs for our students who have an interest in and love of the fine arts, music and the performing arts. When others reduced such programs, here at Pocono Mountain School District we expanded such opportunities for our students.

Let me state this quite strongly and quite clearly – This rural area already offers amazing arts and music educational programming and opportunities for all of our students. You

don’t need a specialized school to offer specialized and individualized arts and music programs for students.

We, as a school community, support and love our music and arts programs and activities. Our arts and music students already have real CHOICE, the choice to attend our schools and excel in music and the arts. They have the additional choice of having input into the electives available to them, which are based upon student interest surveys and adopted annually for the upcoming school year’s program of studies. While we don’t have a magnet school here dedicated to just the arts, we offer something much more important, a strong record of student success in the arts and music, and outstanding arts and music programs with top-notch educators available to all students with all abilities. We also offer our students access to amazing STEAM opportunities, which combines the very best of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.

While charter schools promote the concept of school choice, at times they promote a very limited concept of school choice that benefits the charter schools founders and organizers more than the students. We are not Allentown, Bethlehem or Easton. The majority of our students choose to learn and excel at the arts through the programs we have available at Pocono Mountain School District schools. We offer more opportunities for our students than any charter school can hope to offer.

Dr. Lubben has a very limited understanding of Pocono Mountain School District, our community, our very dedicated arts and music teachers, our students and our parents. Dr. Lubben’s career in public education was accomplished in New Jersey. He chooses to open charter schools in Pennsylvania, not near the schools where he taught all those many years ago.

Dr. Lubben was quoted in media reports that the number our Pocono Mountain students being transported to the Lehigh Valley arts charter high school in Bethlehem helped him

decide on the Poconos as the location for his next charter school venture. That statement confuses me, because currently we only have eight (8) students attending the charter arts high school in Bethlehem, while hundreds of students attend our District programs.

If or when Dr. Lubben submits an application to open a charter school, I will promise our school community and taxpayers that my Cabinet and I will scrutinize and evaluate the application very fairly, but also extremely carefully and thoroughly. Pocono Mountain School District taxpayers have already endured the cost of two failed charter schools which cost our district taxpayers approximately Forty Million Dollars ($40 million). We cannot afford to go down that path again, because too many students were neglected educationally for far too long by the charter schools entrusted with their care.

As Dr. Lubben knows, there is a very specific application submission and review process that has to be carefully followed. The decision to approve or deny a request to open a charter school within the boundaries of Pocono Mountain School District rests with our elected School Board Directors. We intend to follow that process, but it is way too early for anyone to assume a new arts charter high school will be opening in our District in 2020. This is not a done deal!

I am very proud of our Arts and Music programs here in the District and I am confident that our music and Arts parents will continue to support our outstanding programs and teachers, because we remain PMSD PROUD

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