Throughout the Commonwealth, Intermediate Units are serving their communities and students. Check out recent media stories about IUs:
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NORRISTOWN — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey recently paid a visit to the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit's Early Learning Academy.
The academy provides early learning programs and support to hundreds of children through the federal Head Start program in Montgomery County.
Afterward, he spoke about his legislative proposal to boost funding to such centers.
"My legislative proposal to set all American children up to succeed, the Five Freedoms for America’s Children, includes the Freedom To Learn," Casey said in a statement released to the media after his visit.
"This proposal recommends an additional annual investment of $7 billion to expand affordable child care and early learning programs, an additional investment of $18 billion annually to ensure that Head Start can cover all eligible 3- to 5-year-old children and a substantial, permanent expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit which will cover up to half the cost of child care for working families," Casey said.
"Affordable, high-quality child care helps give children the early learning experiences they need to succeed in school and enables parents to work so they can support their families,” said Casey.
View photos and original article in The Mercury...
By Dr. Gregory S. Koons, Executive Director, Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29
(This Spotlight Series article on AESA is a reflective piece about the role ESAs and leaders play during times of adversity, as witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic.)
The pandemic has posed numerous challenges on educational leaders, and consequently, the pressures faced have created opportunities for educators to shine brightly.
Pressure is “the application of force to something by something else in direct contact with it” (Merriam-Webster, 2021). As a resident, educator, and educational leader in rural Pennsylvania (PA), it is fitting to reference the significance of coal under pressure being forged into a diamond. In a blog post from COACT, the author states that in order to forge diamonds through fire one must have a high degree of intensity, a lot of pressure, and collective teamwork (COACT, 2021).
The pandemic has inevitably forced educational leaders to handle intense situations, withstand insurmountable pressures, and bond together through collaborative efforts.
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School districts across the state could benefit from a survey that collects broadband connectivity data to help determine whether families have sufficient internet access.
The survey was created by the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units and Penn State Extension as a way to help districts across the state, including those in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, have internet-related data readily available for use in grant applications, including those like the upcoming $7.1 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund.
“We want to get to the heart of the matter,” said Gregory Koons, executive director of the Schuylkill Intermediate Unit and one of the leads on the project.
Students from around Pennsylvania have a chance to share their message of kindness at this year’s Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units’ annual conference at Seven Springs.
The Westmoreland Intermediate Unit is collecting short video messages and plans to play them at the conference Sept. 20-22. Curriculum services director Tim Hammill said he hopes to get a diverse response from students of all ages statewide about their visions of kindness and what it means to them.
“It really could be anything and that’s what we’re hoping for,” he said.
Videos should be 60 seconds or less and can be submitted online with a parent’s permission through Sept. 3 at bit.ly/Kindness-Video.
Via City & State PA ...
There’s no question that the pandemic exacerbated issues for many school districts, especially those that were underfunded to begin with.
Transitions to virtual learning were difficult for students, teachers, parents, and administrators alike, and the federal funding slated for school districts will be used to make up for lost instructional time. Of the $4.9 billion of federal relief funding coming to the Commonwealth, at least 20% must be used to address learning loss and the social, emotional, and academic needs of underrepresented students, including students from low-income families, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
City & State spoke to several experts on what education gaps were exposed during the pandemic and how the state and school districts should prioritize funding to address them. They include: John George, executive director, Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Unit; Tomea A. Sippio-Smith, K12 Policy Director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth; and Sherri Landis, executive director, The Arc of Pennsylvania. The responses have been edited for length and clarity.
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Gretchen Heintzelman's plans for a nursing career got off track but a free program offered by the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit put her back on course and today the Lewisburg resident is employed as a registered nurse.
Heintzelman, 34, is among 1,378 participants in the CSIU's federally-funded Work Attributes Toward Careers in Health (WATCH) Project which helps income-eligible individuals interested in working in the health care field as a direct care worker (DCW), certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, phlebotomist or registered nurse by providing training, financial assistance and other resources.
In 2010, CSIU was awarded $9.2 million for the program and in 2015 received another $7.5 million grant to continue it.
Of the participants, 1,131 individuals have completed training in the past decade, said Katherine Vastine, WATCH Project program manager.
From The Daily Item
A number of local families will be gifted with life-changing adaptive equipment on Thursday.
On that day, Variety — the Children’s Charity and Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 are slated to present 26 adaptive bikes and strollers to local children with disabilities.
Variety provides adaptive equipment at no cost to families of children and youth with a mental, physical or sensory disability who live in the service area, are 3 through 21 years old and who meet the income guidelines. The income guidelines are designed so that middle income families are included, not just low income.
The equipment will be presented at the IU9 in Smethport. Families will be coming at scheduled times to receive their equipment.
“Thursday is going to be a really exciting day in Smethport, Pa. when we present a huge amount of equipment to local kids, and it is all given for free,” said Variety’s CEO Charlie LaVallee. “Including Thursday’s distribution, Variety has presented more than 75 adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, and communication devices to kids in Cameron, Elk, McKean and Potter counties worth more than $120,000! We hope to help so many more this year.”
IU9 Executive Director Don Wismar said that IU9’s goal is “To become the epitome of Rural Education Leadership,” and LaVallee said that Wismar is truly achieving it with his leadership and passion.
Variety recently celebrated the presentation of its 4,000th piece of equipment, having given away equipment worth $6.3 million since starting in 2012.
From The Bradford Era
It's called PA Pen Pal Project, and it launched one week ago for all 500 school districts across the state.
WNEP, POTTSVILLE, Pa. — As you walk into the main lobby of Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29 in Pottsville, you'll notice the word "kind" on the wall missing the letter I, and urging students to be the I in kind.
It's a word that's led the school and its students to start writing letters and drawing pictures to cheer up residents in long-term care facilities during this difficult time.
But the Schuylkill County initiative quickly turned into a statewide project after being presented to the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units.
"When we talk to them about paying it forward and doing nice things for others, and then with the pandemic, it tied in very easily for us to give them ways to pay it forward, and to share some kind of happiness with someone else who right now can't see their families," said Paula Hromyak, the principal at Intermediate Unit 29.
Over 150 cards and handmade pictures have already been sent out to 13 different long-term care facilities.
Some students joined in on our interview to share why they are participating.
"We're writing cards to help seniors during this time where, like, nobody can visit them. It might make them happy, maybe a bright, colorful card, saying, feeling about you might warm up their day or something," said Zachary Sitlinger, a seventh-grader at the intermediate unit.
The executive director says the hope is to spread some much-needed positivity to those who need it.
"In the senior living homes, what I'm hearing is they feel that a lot of the residents feel like they're in jail. They feel like they're incarcerated and having, you know, students reaching out like this, it's providing that hope that they are so in need of," said Gregory Koons, the Intermediate Unit 29 executive director.
The project runs through Dec. 25 and is for students in grades K-12.
The Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, an educational agency serving Westmoreland County children, was to serve as the host of the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) statewide conference in May 2020.
The theme of the conference “Kindness: The Key to Our Neighborhood” was centered on Mr. Fred Rogers and his emphasis on kindness. As a team-building activity, conference attendees were to assemble backpacks containing hygiene, personal, and comfort items. The goal was to distribute 1,000 backpacks to homeless children within Westmoreland County and across the Commonwealth.
In January 2020, an all-out effort was made to encourage county residents to support the initiative by:
By the March 1st deadline and after, the response was overwhelming! Not only did we have enough money and supplies for each stuffed backpack, we recently donated 45 boxes of extra supplies to Westmoreland Community Action.
Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) statewide conference, where the backpack assembly was to occur, was canceled due to the pandemic. With the 2020 conference’s cancellation, the 2021 conference in limbo, and homeless student needs continuing, we decided to internally complete the backpack project and distribute them to the intermediate units located in the western region.
We have allocated 110 backpacks for each intermediate unit (IUs 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 27, and 28). Each backpack contains a bag of toiletries, a bag of school supplies, and a blanket sponsored by Rotary Club #7305. Also, it will contain a personalized note from the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit. A majority of the backpacks were purchased through a grant provided by DMJ Transportation. The backpacks will be delivered beginning Wednesday, November 18.
We cannot thank the community enough for their support of this project! Because they played an integral part, students in Western Pennsylvania who become homeless will feel our collective love, compassion, and kindness. This effort shows that Westmoreland County is the true birthplace of kindness.
Why did we focus on supporting students who become homeless?
In 2016-17, 23,000 public school students in PA were homeless at some point during the year (PDE)
300 children had no shelter at all, about 7,000 lived in a motel or shelter, and about 14,000 lived with friends or relatives (PDE)
1 in 30 children in the US (under 18) are homeless (American Institute of Research)
40% of the US homeless population is under age 18 (American Institute of Research)
60% of homeless children spend at least one day per month without food (American Institute of Research)
Children often have to leave their home/shelter quickly and have little time to pack.
Backpacks can be used at school as well as to take supplies between locations.
Backpacks are inconspicuous.
As Fred Rogers so eloquently stated, “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors-in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”
The Brookville Area School District is the first of the 17 schools in the Riverview Intermediate Unit 6 to use one of the telepresence robots the IU purchased this year through a grant.
According to Jason Williams, the director of technology at IU6, Senate Bill 1275 that was passed during the 2017-2018 regular session, provided grant opportunities to intermediate units to receive telepresence robots. The robots can then be lent out to school within the intermediate unit.
“The telepresence robots would be able to help students that are homebound due to an illness or some other reason, they can control this robot from their home computer and drive around the school and participate in the school day,” Williams said.
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