BSE Director Clancy Promotes Mikalya’s Voice Opportunities (October 14, 2019)

BSE Director Carole L. Clancy has released a PennLink memo titled 2019-2020 Inclusive Programming Opportunities through Mikayla’s Voice, which announces inclusive programming opportunities for schools for the 2019-2020 school year.  Mikayla’s Voice offers three types of inclusion programs.  Free programs are available for schools and will be awarded on a first come, first serve basis.

Mikayla’s Voice Inclusion Assemblies introduce valuable dialogue for schools and demonstrate children’s capacity for understanding, acceptance and compassion.  Led by a child or young adult with a disability and their parent, these one-hour assemblies begin by sharing the book Our Friend Mikayla (written and illustrated by Mikayla’s former third-grade class) to provide background knowledge regarding what it is like to have a disability.  Two assemblies are typically held at each school to limit the size and age range of the audience and increase student participation. 

The Wheels of Friendship program has children paint not with brushes, but with the wheels of a wheelchair (or walker) and the paws (and tail) of a service dog. Working with an inclusive class over four one-hour sessions, the first session is used to brainstorm, and the final three are utilized for art production.  The finished paintings are unveiled at school-wide presentations and remain on permanent display in the schools where they were created.

The Book Donation program provides two books each, which are Our Friend Mikayla, High Fives and A Big Heart, and Super Brady: Always on the Move!

 Participating schools are asked to help with pre and post data collections to measure the global quality of the programs and their ability to improve school culture.  Mikayla’s Voice has partnered with researchers at Lehigh University to design develop plans for improvement and replication. 

Interested schools can contact Rita Cheskiewicz, Executive Director at 570-690-7113 or rita@mikaylasvoice.org or Kimberly Resh, Program Director, at 610-746-2324 or kim@mikaylasvoice.org to participate in Mikayla’s Voice programming.  The Mikayla’s Voice website can be found at www.mikaylasvoice.org.

BSE Releases Memo Re. Special Education Students Placed in Homebound Instruction or Instruction Conducted in the Home (October 13, 2019)

On October 9, 2019, BSE Director Carole L. Clancy released a memo titled Special Education Students Placed in Homebound Instruction or Instruction Conducted in the Home. When a special education student is placed on Homebound Instruction or Instruction Conducted in the Home, the local education agency (LEA) must report the student’s status to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) via the Special Education Students at Home website. PIMS reporting of students receiving Homebound Instruction or Instruction Conducted in the Home does NOT fulfill this additional court-ordered requirement. Timely reporting of such students is required by PDE to meet its obligations of Intensive Interagency (also referred to as the Cordero Court Order).  When a student is reported, regional interagency coordinators will:

  • Review each student report and contact the LEA in cases where interagency support may be needed to address student need (e.g., students who have behavioral health needs that are the reason for Homebound Instruction or Instruction Conducted in the Home placement); and
  • Collaborate with Intermediate Unit interagency coordinators to support the LEA in connecting families with other county-level child-serving agencies and in collaborating with such agencies.

This reporting helps PDE to build capacity to meet the needs of all students with disabilities who require services from agencies outside of the educational system. While this reporting requirement applies to both Homebound Instruction and Instruction Conducted in the Home, it is important to understand the distinctions between the two arrangements.  The most important difference is that Homebound Instruction is NOT a special education placement while Instruction Conducted in the Home is a placement made by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. 

Regional interagency coordinators at each Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network office are available for assistance: Pittsburgh – Hillary Mangis at  800.446.5607 or hmangis@pattan.net;  East –Amy Smith at 800.441.3215 or asmith@pattan.net ; and Harrisburg – Roni Russell at 800.360.7282 / 717.901.2262 or rrussell@pattan.net.  PDE’s Adviser/Single Point of Contact from the Bureau of Special Education assigned to your area can also assist LEAs in the procedures for Homebound Instruction or Instruction Conducted in the Home. Questions concerning Homebound Instruction or Instruction Conducted in the Home should go to Amy Deluca, Chief, Division of Monitoring and Improvement – West, at 717.736.2650 or amdeluca@pa.gov.

Competitive Equipment Grant Applications Are Available Now (October 12, 2019)

Applications for the Career and Technical Education Equipment Grants are now being accepted. Approximately $1.2 million in competitive state funds are available for the purchase of equipment to enhance the hands-on training of students in approved career and technical education programs.  Programs must also be aligned to national or state industry certifications, and national or state industry standards. Each grant will be awarded on a matching basis, one state dollar for every local dollar. The Career and Technical Education Equipment Grant guidelines contain important information and are available at https://www.education.pa.gov/Documents/K-12/Career%20and%20Technical%20Education/Grants/CTE%20Equipment%20Grant%20Guidelines.pdf.

NOTE: The deadline for applications is November 8, 2019 at 5 p.m. Questions should be referred to Monique Burton at moburton@pa.gov or 717-346-3188.

BSE Announces Trainings for OSEP Fiscal Verification Review (October 12, 2019)

In an October 9, 2019, BSE Director Carole L. Clancy disseminated a memo via PennLink titled Training in Response to Recent Changes by the Federal Office of Special Education Programs. The memo states that the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has oversight of states’ compliance with federal special education regulations and requirements.  A component of OSEP’s compliance monitoring verification visits is a fiscal verification review.  Part of that fiscal verification includes a review of the use of funds for coordinated early intervening services, maintenance of effort, and general use of federal, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B (IDEA-B), funds.

To assist local education agencies (LEAs) with these components of the federal on-site visits, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is providing training to familiarize special education directors and business administrators with clarifying information.  This training will address three topics:  IDEA Fiscal Programming, Contingency Funding, and Approved Private School Electronic Management System (New Enrollment System for Approved Private Schools/Chartered Schools for the Blind and Deaf). Each school district and charter school is required to send participants to this training.  Because the training is highlighting the fiscal program data verifications associated with the IDEA-B fiscal reporting requirements, it is strongly recommended that the participants representing your LEA be your special education director and business administrator.  If a school district or charter school contracts for business services, its contracted business representative should attend as well. This training will be held at the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) offices as well as Intermediate Units 4, 20, 26, and 29. Register at www.pattan.net for the following training sessions: Monday, October 28th at PaTTAN West, October 29th at IU 4, and October 31st at IU 26. Questions regarding the fiscal training should be directed to Dr. Del Hart, Chief, Division of Analysis & Financial Reporting, at 717.772.1114 or dehart@pa.gov.  Questions about registration should be directed to Sharon Kennedy at PaTTAN-Harrisburg at 717.901.2265, 800.360.7282 (in PA only), or skennedy@pattan.net.

US Supreme Court is Hearing Important Title VII Arguments (October 8, 2019)

On October 8, 2019, the US Supreme Court began hearing arguments as to whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s sex, also covers sexual orientation and transgender status. Schools are watching things closely for two reasons. One reason is that they are employers and will have to adhere to whatever the Court decides in that regard, The second reason is that the decision of the Court will be of great influence with regard to other cases that touch on similar issues involving gender identity and sexual orientation.