Thursday, January 17, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 17: PDE places Penn Hills in financial recovery status, joining Duquesne, Harrisburg, York City, Chester Upland & Scranton.

Started in November 2010, daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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PDE places Penn Hills in financial recovery status, joining Duquesne, Harrisburg, York City, Chester Upland & Scranton.

Register for PA Schools Work Delaware County Work Group Conference
Saturday, February 2, 2019 8:45 am – 12:00 pm at DCIU
Join the DCIU and the PA Schools Work coalition to work together to advocate for PA public schools, their students and the communities they serve.
At the event, you will:
Hear stories about how funding affects students and educators across Delaware County
Learn how to speak with your local legislators to advocate for the needs of our students
Connect on social media and grow your network to influence stakeholders in your community

PA Senate Dems Post Ed Committee Members
Dinniman, Andrew E., Minority Chair
Brewster, James R.
Leach, Daylin
Williams, Lindsey

“To submit a tip, all you have to do is call the hotline at 1-844-SAF2SAY (1-844-723-2729), but if you don't feel comfortable calling the hotline, you can submit a tip on your phone through the Safe2Say app.”
Safe2Say: Anonymous tip line created for Pennsylvania schools
WJAC TV by Haleigh DiBetta Monday, January 14th 2019
CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. (WJAC) — On Monday, schools across the commonwealth implemented a new anonymous tip line through a partnership between the Pennsylvania attorney general's office and Sandy Hook Promise. Sandy Hook Promise is a nonprofit organization that was created by family members whose loved ones were killed in 2012 in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The new anonymous tip line, Safe2Say Something, will be in all Pennsylvania schools for grades 6 through 12. "When they're worried about things or uneasy about things, when they don't feel they have an outlet, those types of things weigh on students' minds," said Timothy Regan, the principal at Richland High School. That's why creators and advocates for Safe2Say Something believe it can help. Anyone can submit an anonymous tip about individuals who may be a threat to themselves or to others. According to Safe2Say Something, 80% of school shooters told someone about their violent plans and 59% told more than one person.

Safe2Say: There’s a new school safety initiative in Pa. How will it affect Centre County schools?
Centre Daily Times BY SARAH PAEZ JANUARY 15, 2019 07:34 PM, UPDATED JANUARY 15, 2019 07:34 PM
An anonymous reporting system for all schools in Pennsylvania called the Safe2Say Something tip line went live Monday, providing a way for students, teachers and community members to report threatening behavior that may endanger an individual or school institution. The S2SS tipline was brought through a partnership with the state’s Office of the Attorney General and Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization that trains students and adults to look for signs of gun violence in order to prevent tragedies like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 that killed 20 children and six staff members. The new tipline fulfills requirements outlined in Act 44, the school safety and security bill passed by the state Legislature in 2018. State College Area School District is working on implementing the tip line, which allows students and adults to use the S2SS app, website, or a dedicated hotline to report a tip, each of which is reviewed by the S2SS crisis center housed in the Office of Attorney General. The call center will process and refer each tip to the appropriate school crisis teams and law enforcement according to the level of the threat, said SCASD Assistant Superintendent Will Stout.

Fragmented local government a challenge in addressing pockets of high child poverty in Allegheny County
KATE GIAMMARISE Pittsburgh Post-Gazette JAN 16, 2019 7:03 AM
Allegheny County's patchwork of highly fragmented municipal governments, combined with a reliance on local property taxes for services, is an obstacle to tackling concentrated pockets of high child poverty and need, officials said this week. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week launched a series, Growing up through the Cracks, focused on how poverty impacts children, families and communitiesThere are seven Allegheny County municipalities in which half or more of the children live in poverty: North Braddock, Mount Oliver, Rankin, Duquesne, McKeesport, Clairton and Wilmerding. “You've got real haves and have nots in this county,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in a December interview, after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette presented him with the data used as the basis for Growing up through the Cracks, a series which started this week. “There's just a big disparity,” he said. “As we continue to see a gap growing, between the haves and the have nots, I think we've got to come to sort of a way to bridge that gap, whether it is regionalization of some of these municipalities, so that they can use efficiencies and economies of scale, or even some more of a regional revenue source that can maybe solve that problem.”

“Penn Hills joins Duquesne as the second Pittsburgh-area school district in financial recovery status. Other districts with the designation include Harrisburg, York City, Chester Upland and Scranton.
State takes control of Penn Hills School District's finances after years of budget strife
MATT MCKINNEY Pittsburgh Post-Gazette JAN 16, 2019  
7:36 PM
The state Department of Education has placed the Penn Hills School District into financial recovery status, seizing control of the district's finances after years of continued budget strife. The designation, announced Wednesday, followed a blistering May 2016 audit by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale that alleged mismanagement and a lack of oversight of district finances. Mr. DePasquale said at the time that he had referred the conclusions to law enforcement officials, but no public action has occurred. Through the designation, the state will appoint a chief recovery officer who will carry out a plan designed to lead the district to financial health. The school board will create a special advisory committee to provide recommendations and feedback on the plan. The state designated Penn Hills as a financial watch district in June 2017, providing extra help and financial resources in the months since. The state provided Penn Hills with an extra $2 million during both last and this school year, but the district's budget woes continued, officials said. Penn Hills is roughly $172 million in debt, with about 13 percent of its budget spent on debt service, obligations it described as "crushing" in a budget presentation last year. At the current rate, Penn Hills expects that debt to remain on the books through 2043.

State takes charge of debt-ridden Penn Hills School District's financial recovery efforts
Trib Live by NATASHA LINDSTROM AND MIKE DIVITTORIO | Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, 6:30 p.m.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has placed the Penn Hills School District in financial recovery status in an attempt to get the debt-ridden, shrinking district back on track to solvency, officials announced Wednesday. The oversight move means that the state will appoint a full-time chief recovery officer to work with the school board, administrators, education experts, community members and officials from neighboring schools to develop and implement a financial plan that incorporates goals for academic success. “We’re still in a reaction mode,” Superintendent Nancy Hines said by phone Wednesday night, shortly after hearing from the state about the financial recovery classification. “If it’s support for our community and it helps to relieve the taxpayer burden, I welcome the extra support. The state has been supportive of us all long, so I’m going to assume nothing’s going to change as far as that end.” The decision follows years of warning signs that the district of less than 4,000 students in the sprawling suburb northeast of Pittsburgh was on the brink of a financial cliff.

Film screening on Monday to highlight need for more Philly counselors
Panel discussion about Philadelphia's need for school counselors to follow movie
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa January 16 — 8:06 pm, 2019
For Juliane Dressner, the issue was simple: What if schools told students that they couldn’t afford math teachers and maybe there was someone at home who could help them? This would hardly be acceptable. But that is essentially what happens to many students who need college counseling, especially those who are low income and would be the first in their families to attend college. So Dressner made a film about a peer counseling program in New York City in which students are trained to help each other with the complex, daunting college application and financial aid process. A special showing of the film, called Personal Statement, is planned for Monday, the observance of Martin Luther King’s Birthday. It will be followed by a forum on the need for more counselors in Philadelphia schools. Panelists will include City Council member Helen Gym, two of the young people profiled in the film, Philadelphia school counselor Tatiana Olmedo, and a youth organizer from Philadelphia Student Union. The event will kick off a public awareness campaign to convince policymakers that the Philadelphia District needs more school counselors and that resources must be provided to hire them.

Youth in Pa. residential institutions unsafe, disconnected, denied quality education
WHYY Opinion By Kate Burdick and Maura McInerney January 16, 2019
Kate Burdick is a senior attorney at Juvenile Law Center. Maura McInerney is the legal director at the Education Law Center.
Two recent reports on the plight of more than 3,700 children and youth living in residential facilities across Pennsylvania should provide a wake-up call to anyone who cares about children. One, Unsafe and Uneducated: Indifference to Dangers in Pennsylvania’s Residential Child Welfare Facilities, Education Law Center and Children’s Rights,details harrowing experiences of children in group homes, residential treatment facilities, and other Pennsylvania child welfare residential placements. In Broken Bridges: How Juvenile Placements Cut Off Youth from Communities and Successful Futures, youth advocates in a Juvenile Law Center program describe horrific treatment those young people endured in Pennsylvania juvenile justice facilities. Both reports call for policy reforms – including dramatically reducing referrals to residential placements to keep youth safe from harm, connected to their support systems, and progressing in school.

“LNP, which is celebrating its 225th anniversary this year, is increasingly a rarity as a family-owned news operation. According to figures from the Alliance for Audited Media, it’s now the second-largest newspaper in Pennsylvania that has a daily paid print edition. LNP publisher Robert M. Krasne said in an email that Digital First Media and Gannett have severely damaged the legacies of strong community journalism in Chester, York and Lebanon counties. The companies, he wrote, "are more interested in maximizing shareholder value than on serving the communities in which they operate." In Lancaster County, he said, the Steinman family "has recognized the importance to our communities of a strong locally owned newspaper and has committed to the independence of LNP/LancasterOnline."
Digital First Media bid for Gannett could change media landscape in Central Pennsylvania
Lancaster Online by HEATHER STAUFFER | Staff Writer January 17, 2019
Central Pennsylvania’s media landscape could change a lot as part of a proposed megadeal that has raised widespread concern about further weakening the industry. MNG Enterprises, which does business as Digital First Media, offered Monday to buy Gannett Co. for $1.36 billion. Both companies have a record of buying media companies and slashing costs, but Digital First has a reputation for being especially ruthless, according to the Associated Press, and released a letter saying it could handle Gannett’s portfolio more profitably via tight cost controls and consolidation of operations such as printing and administration. Digital First already owns Daily Local News in West Chester and the Southern Chester County weeklies. It used to own the Chambersburg Public Opinion, Hanover Evening Sun, Lebanon Daily News and York Daily Record, which Gannett acquired in 2015 and currently owns. Also in the mix is The York Dispatch, which is owned by the York Dispatch Publishing Co., with Dave Martens as company president, and is in a joint operating agreement with York Daily Record. The Associated Press quoted Dan Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University in Boston, as saying the deal would be “very bad news for anybody who works for a Gannett paper or reads a Gannett paper.”

Staff to target vaping by teens
Altoona Mirror by RUSS O'REILLY Staff Writer JAN 17, 2019
HOLLIDAYSBURG — Standing in front of the Hollidaysburg Area School Board Wednesday night in the high school library, High School Principal Maureen Letcher covered her mouth with her hand as if to stifle a yawn. And that, she said, is how easily vaping is concealed by students. In her hand was a discreet vape pen that students are apt to use during school. She demonstrated how students exhale the vapor into the crook of their arm as if coughing. Drug and alcohol use is down at the junior high and senior high schools, all except for vaping, Hollidaysburg Area School District administrators said. Vaping entails inhaling a flavored vapor, usually but not always containing nicotine, from a battery-powered pen. The devices can also include cannabis vapor; however, Superintendent Bob Gildea said the administration has not identified that as an issue among students. Letcher said the district is going to make an effort, beginning with a letter, to educate parents and students about vaping, which carries a penalty of a three-day suspension. About 30 percent of Hollidays­burg Area Senior High Students surveyed indicated they had participated in vaping in the past 30 days, she said. Later in the meeting, the board renewed two state-standard policies: one attaching a three-day suspension to vaping and another outlining protocol for student searches.

Madonna & Young: Casey on Deck
Politically Uncorrected Colummn by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young January 14, 2019
Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Robert Casey has been an enormously successful politician, winning six statewide elections by substantial margins - twice as Auditor General, once as State Treasurer and three times as U.S. Senator. The scope and magnitude of his many victories reveal wide appeal across the political spectrum.
Casey has indicated he might seek the Democratic nomination for president. So far, however, he has not set up an exploratory committee, put together any campaign staff, or taken any visible steps to pursue a candidacy.
Casey is not notably outspoken, normally eschews controversy, and generally has not sought a national profile. Yet on some big culture issues he has modified his positions. He’s personally pro-life and opposes abortion after 20 weeks, while strongly supporting Planned Parenthood.  He has supported new gun restrictions, favoring universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a ban on bump stocks.
The Senator might be described as a moderate Democrat in a party moving leftward, making him appear to be an unlikely candidate. But Electoral College geopolitics could make Casey an attractive candidate. 

Teachers strike at L.A. charter schools too, a first for California
LA Times By DAKOTA SMITH JAN 15, 2019 | 6:20 PM
Teachers at three charter schools in South Los Angeles walked off the job Tuesday, marking the first time ever that a charter school organization in California went on strike, according to the teachers union. The strikers joined thousands of other L.A. educators who began a strike a day earlier against the L.A. Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system. Charter schools are publicly funded, but can be privately operated. They are also exempt from union contracts affecting school districts. Although it’s rare, teachers at charter schools may organize and seek representation from a union, just as the teachers at the Accelerated Schools did. This is said to be only the second time nationally that instructors at a charter school organization went on strike. Union representatives for teachers at the Accelerated Schools said more than a year and a half of negotiations with school management failed to yield a contract. At a morning news conference, teachers and their supporters chanted and waved signs outside Accelerated’s campus on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Founded by two former Los Angeles Unified teachers, the three Accelerated schools serve 1,700 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
As passing cars honked in support, teachers stood on the sidewalk and spoke about the constant turnover at Accelerated. Between 2016 and 2018, there was a 50% turnover rate among teachers at the school, the union said.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: January 9 -15, 2019
Submitted by fairtest on January 15, 2019 - 1:02pm 
2019 is already proving to be a huge year for assessment reform -- just check out this week's stories from 15 states and the world of college admissions about initiatives to roll back standardized testing misuse and overuse.  There's much more to come -- make sure your friends and allies receive this regular updates by encouraging them to sign up at:

Open Board Positions for 2019 PA Principals Association Election
Thursday, January 10, 2019 9:05 AM
Margaret S. (Peg) Foster, principal, academic affairs, in the Crestwood School District, has been appointed by President Michael Allison to serve as the chairperson of the 2019 PA Principals Association Nominations Committee to oversee the 2019 election. Her committee consists of the following members: Curtis Dimmick, principal in the Northampton Area School District; Jacqueline Clark-Havrilla, principal in the Spring-Ford School District; and Joseph Hanni, vice principal in the Scranton School District.   If you are interested in running for one of the open board positions (shown below) in the 2019 election, please contact Stephanie Kinner at or (717) 732-4999 for an application. Applications must be received in the state office by Friday, February 22, 2019.

Pennsylvania schools work – for students, communities and the economy when adequate resources are available to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
Join A Movement that Supports our Schools & Communities
PA Schools Work website
Our students are in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. Teachers are paying out of pocket and picking up the slack. And public education is suffering. Each child in Pennsylvania has a right to an excellent public education. Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a full curriculum, art and music classes, technical opportunities and a safe, clean, stable environment. All children must be provided a level chance to succeed. PA Schools Work is fighting for equitable, adequate funding necessary to support educational excellence. Investing in public education excellence is the path to thriving communities, a stable economy and successful students.

Build on finance, policy, board culture skills at PSBA’s Applied School Director Training
Four convenient locations in December and January
Take the next step in your professional development with Applied School Director Training. Building upon topics broadly covered in New School Director Training, this new, interactive evening event asks district leaders to dive deeper into three areas of school governance: school finance, board policy and working collaboratively as a governance team. Prepare for future leadership positions and committee work in this workshop-style training led by experts and practitioners. Learn how to:
·         Evaluate key finance documents such as budget and audit materials
·         Review and analyze board policies and administrative regulations
·         Build positive board culture by developing strong collaboration skills
Locations and Dates:
Dec.11, 2018 — Seneca Valley SD
Dec. 12, 2018 — Selinsgrove, Selinsgrove Area Middle School
Jan. 10, 2019 — Bethlehem, Nitschmann Middle School
Jan. 17, 2019 — State College

Cost: This event is complimentary for All-Access members or $75 per person with standard membership and $150 per person for nonmembers. Register online by logging in to myPSBA.

NSBA 2019 Advocacy Institute January 27-29 Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.
Register now
The upcoming midterm elections will usher in the 116th Congress at a critical time in public education. Join us at the 2019 NSBA Advocacy Institute for insight into what the new Congress will mean for your school district. And, of course, learn about techniques and tools to sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Save the date to join school board members from across the country on Capitol Hill to influence the new legislative agenda and shape the decisions made inside the Beltway that directly impact our students. For more information contact

PSBA Board Presidents’ Panel
Nine locations around the state running Jan 29, 30 and 31st.
Share your leadership experience and learn from others in your area at this event designed for board presidents, superintendents and board members with interest in pursuing leadership roles. Workshop real solutions to the specific challenges you face with a PSBA-moderated panel of school leaders. Discussion will address the most pressing challenges facing PA public schools.

Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.

2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.

Save the date: PSBA Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Harrisburg has been scheduled for Monday April 29, 2019

Save the Date:  PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.

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