Office for Safe Schools Releases PCCD Threat Assessment Needs Survey (January 24, 2021)

On January 20, 2021, Office for Safe Schools Director Dr. Scott Kuren disseminated a PennLink to all LEAs titled PCCD Threat Assessment Needs Survey, informing recipients that Act 18 of 2019 amended the Public School Code of 1949 by adding Article XIII-E, Threat Assessment. Among its provisions, Article XIII-E requires all school entities in Pennsylvania to establish threat assessment teams and tasks the School Safety and Security Committee within the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to support school entities with this effort by developing model procedures and guidelines, training and information materials, and other resources.

To fulfill these responsibilities and support school entities in implementing these new requirements, PCCD is working with a selected training and technical assistance provider, Risk and Strategic Management (RSM) Corporation, to design and launch new resources, including an online training program and train-the-trainer curriculum. PCCD anticipates making these resources available to school entities (at no cost) beginning in early spring 2021.

To inform the design of this new comprehensive threat assessment training curriculum tailored for PA school entities, PCCD is asking school administrators, School Safety and Security Coordinators, and other personnel who will be involved in a school entity’s Threat Assessment Team(s) to complete a confidential Threat Assessment Needs Survey:

LEAs are asked to provide responses by Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

More information about PCCD’s threat assessment initiative, as well as model procedures and guidelines, guidance, training, and informational materials, can be found on PCCD’s website.

Wolf Names Two to Replace Dr. Levine at PDH (January 23, 2021)

On January 22, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf announced his intention to nominate Alison Beam to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health (PDH) and named Dr. Wendy Braund Interim Acting Physician General. Beam currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Wolf, coordinating initiatives and resources across Pennsylvania’s departments of Health, Human Services, Drug & Alcohol Programs, Aging and Insurance, as well as the Office of Advocacy and Reform. She has helped coordinate the administration’s COVID-19 pandemic response; the rollout of Pennie, Pennsylvania’s health insurance marketplace; the Reach Out PA campaign; and the Wolf Administration’s health care reform plan. Prior to transitioning to the Governor’s Office, Beam served as Chief of Staff to the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner. She previously served as Director of Public Policy and Associate Counsel for Independence Health Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Beam will assume the role of Acting Secretary effective January 23, 2021. The governor has also named Dr. Wendy Braund as Interim Acting Physician General, replacing Dr. Rachel Levine in that role. Dr. Braund, currently serves as the COVID-19 Response Director for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Previously, she was the Director of the Center for Public Health Practice, Associate Dean for Practice, and a Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Prior to her time in academia, she served as the Wyoming State Health Officer and Public Health Division Administrator for the Wyoming Department of Health. Before working at the state level, Dr. Braund was employed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, first in the Office of the Assistant Secretary, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and then at the Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions. Dr. Braund will assume the role of Interim Acting Physician General effective January 23, 2021. For more info, click here.

PA to Provide $2.2B in Stimulus Funds to K-12 Schools (January 23, 2021)

Governor Tom Wolf is dedicating $2.2 billion in federal stimulus funds to K-12 school districts and charter schools affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to support food programs, technological improvements and other education services.

“All schools have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I commend school communities for rising to the challenge to combat the toll it has taken,” said Gov. Wolf. “This extra funding is critical to help schools meet the unique needs of educating students at this time while keeping school buildings safe when students return to the classroom.”

The federal relief is provided by the bipartisan Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) Fund passed by Congress in December.

“Additional, much needed support is on its way to Pennsylvania schools,” said Acting Secretary Noe Ortega. “These funds will provide critical assistance to school communities as they continue to navigate COVID-19.”

To promote equity, efficiency, transparency, and local flexibility, PDE will administer 100 percent of ESSER II funding through the Federal Title I, Part A formula which considers the number of low-income students served by school districts and charter schools. Each entity will receive an amount proportional to federal Title I, Part A funds received in the 2020 fiscal year under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

PDE has urged school entities to continue to prioritize equity and consider how investments can accelerate opportunities for vulnerable students and families, including those living in deep poverty, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.

School districts and charter schools may use ESSER funding for a wide range of activities, including food service; professional training; technology purchases; sanitization and cleaning supplies; summer and after-school programs; and mental health supports. A list of ESSER II fund allocations is available on PDE’s website. Funds must be used by September 2023. School districts and charter schools must apply to PDE to obtain their allocated funds. The application process will be posted on the PDE website.

PA State Board Meeting Addresses Amended Regs, Pandemic, Capitol Riots (January 14, 2021)

On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, the PA State Board of Education (Board) met via virtual means. The meeting opened with Board Chair Karen Farmer-White announcing that former state senator Andrew Dinniman will be joining as a member of the Higher Education Council.

The meeting proceeded with a presentation by the Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education, Dr. Tanya J. Garcia. In her presentation, Dr. Garcia spoke of the impact that COVID-19 has had on higher education. One impact has been that, usually during a recession, there is an increase in higher ed. numbers. This has not occurred due to the pandemic. According to Dr. Garcia, emergency educator certification procedures have also been implemented due to the pandemic. With regard to instruction she reported that currently 31% of colleges have in-person learning, 30% are remote learning only, and 39% are using a hybrid instructional delivery (i.e, lab work and/or classroom learning coupled with remote learning).

Higher Ed.Council Chair Dr. Jonathan Peri  commented that the shelf-life of a COVID-19 discussion seems to be about a week. He also reported that the Master Plan for Higher Education is, as per the School Code, to be updated every 10 years by the council and that process will now begin. The last update was in 2005.  

Acting PA Secretary of Ed. Noe Ortega addressed the Board on the effects of the pandemic on preK-12 children and the need to look at ways to safely return to in-person learning and the results of research in this area are being continuously analyzed.  Secretary Ortega also spoke of the DC riots and the importance of education in playing a role in addressing such events. He mentioned teaching civic engagement and outcomes and the appropriate means of civic interaction with an awareness of the importance of altruism, volunteerism, and otherness.

In action items, the Board unanimously approved two items, which were the Board’s Annual Report to the Governor and General Assembly and the Petition of the PA Association of Independent Schools (PAIS) to extend the review cycle for one year.

The meeting concluded with an update on proposed amendments to Chapter 49 regulations (i.e., the public comment period will close on January 17th and the amended regulations will then go to the House and Senate Education Committees) and amendments to Chapter 4 regulations (which are awaiting comment from the Governor’s office).