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Creating a presence in Harrisburg and building positive relationships with our legislators has proved beneficial to the Berks County education community. Growing familiarity between our school leaders and our local legislators has been an excellent strategy to leverage awareness, advocacy, and support of local issues in need of attention for the benefit of Berks County schools.
Two events were scheduled recently to assist in our advocacy efforts:
The Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) coordinated a Fall Day on the Hill on Tuesday, October 16, 2018, for intermediate unit representatives to visit the Capitol and to familiarize legislators with the work of the intermediate units that serve their legislative districts. The goal of the day was to provide information to legislators and their staff about IUs to help them understand the roles IUs play to advance achievement for all students; provide leadership on learning for the 21st century; create cost savings for districts; support our youngest learners; provide capacity for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) in implementing priority education initiatives; and to deliver critical services that help keep students safe and healthy.
Dr. Jill Hackman, Mr. Carl Blessing, Mrs. Michelle Reichard-Huff, and Ms. Christi Weitzel represented the Berks County Intermediate Unit and were able to meet with Representative Mark Gillen, Education Committee Member; Representative David Maloney, Labor and Industry and Children and Youth Committee Member; Representative Mark Rozzi, Appropriations Committee Member; and Senator Judy Schwank, Appropriations Committee Vice Chair. BCIU leaders were also fortunate to meet with Representative Stan Saylor, Majority Appropriations Committee Chair; and had joint meetings with Senator Jake Corman, Majority Leader (along with IU 10); and Senator David Argall, Appropriations Committee Member (along with IU 29).
The BCIU team specifically shared information about Berks County IU School Safety Emergency Preparedness and School-Age / Early Childhood Behavioral and Mental Health Services initiatives / efforts. They also took the opportunity to thank our local legislators for their support of increased funding for preschool early intervention, special education, basic education, and early childhood education; and for their support for safe schools.
As an organization, the BCIU is fortunate to have such committed and dedicated legislators who support our efforts for the benefit of the schools and communities we serve in Berks County.
Berks County superintendents visited Harrisburg on October 24 and 25, 2018, to connect with legislative education leaders as part of their 2018 Study Council event. When the group arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday morning, they were greeted in the Rotunda by Senator Judy Schwank and were later able to meet with Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and Brian Campbell, the Director of the Department of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction at the PA Department of Education. Morning activities also included meetings with the Attorney General’s Office for an update on the Safe2Say Something Program; and Senator Patrick Browne, Senate Appropriations Chair.
That afternoon, superintendents met with Dr. Mark DiRocco, Executive Director, PA Association of School Administrators’, for an update and dialogue about proposed legislation, regulations, and critical issues affecting education. Roundtable discussions on the second day were with the leaders of professional organizations which provide services, advocacy, and support for public school students, employees, and the education community:
• Jay Himes, Executive Director, PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO);
• Jennifer Mills, Deputy Executive Director of the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS); and
• Liz Gerloff Wagenseller, Chief of Staff of Auditor General DePasquale’s Office.
The Study Council provided a valuable opportunity to network and gain insight regarding important education initiatives. Advocacy efforts will be continued to build relationships with our legislators and professional organization leaders, assess the impact of existing and proposed education legislation, promote legislation that supports public education, and communicate vital information affecting our schools and the 70,000 students we serve in Berks County.