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April 2, 2020

As we all deal with the daily challenges of the COVID-19 emergency, PSEA’s top priorities are to support you, protect you, and get answers to the questions you have.

Last night, I convened a tele-town hall with hundreds of PSEA local association presidents. It was a terrific event. And I was so pleased to hear from so many local leaders.

We will post a summary of the questions and answers from the tele-town hall soon.

Many of those questions involved the impact of the COVID-19 emergency law. 

Gov. Wolf signed this new law last week. You can find an updated FAQ about it in “NEA and PSEA Education Resources” on this web page.

Just as important, I was pleased to be a guest on the "PA Newsmakers" television program today. It was a great opportunity to talk about the amazing work PSEA members are doing and the innovative ways you are connecting with your students.

PSEA, all I can say is “thank you.”

You are truly amazing. Keep up the great work.

Rich Askey

April 1, 2020

Let’s stay connected.

I’ve heard from so many of you over the past few weeks. You’ve asked questions, shared “thank yous,” and told me about the amazing things PSEA members are doing to teach and serve kids during the COVID-19 emergency.

I love the stories members share. They’re heartwarming and inspiring, They’re creative and innovative. And I want to hear more of them.

The thing is that so many members don’t think their stories are unique or interesting.

Well, I have news for you.

Your stories are amazing. I want to hear them. And I want to share them.

So, post them on Facebook. Put a video or a photo on InstagramTweet something. Or drop your story in the web form on this page.

Your stories matter.

They show how committed you are to teaching and serving kids. And they remind everyone that PSEA members are there for our students – wherever we are.

This isn’t an easy time. But PSEA members are doing incredible work. PSEA members are incredible.

Please share your stories, because you should be so proud to tell them.

Thank you, PSEA, for everything you’re doing.

Rich Askey

March 31, 2020

PSEA members are amazing.

That’s true every day of every year. But, when confronted with a huge challenge, like dealing with the COVID-19 emergency, you see the incredible, creative, unconventional things PSEA members are doing to connect with our students.

I love Siobhan Peterson-Walsh’s idea. She made a video, using Lego characters and stop animation, to model what social distancing means for our students, and for all of us.

Check it out on PSEA’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Nice work, Siobhan.

This is just one of many, many, many examples of PSEA members doing incredible things during an incredibly challenging time.

Keep up the great work, PSEA.

Once again, stay safe and healthy. 

And know that PSEA has your back.

Rich Askey

March 30, 2020

Since the start of the coronavirus school shutdown, PSEA members across Pennsylvania have made the education of their students a top priority.

Some have done so through online instruction or enrichment, while others have delivered printed education materials to students at grab-and-go meal sites and even to students’ homes.

I am so impressed and proud of the way that Pennsylvania’s educators and support professionals have stepped up in this crisis and put their students first.

As more districts implement online instruction this week, PSEA members will be ready, adapting lesson plans and material to meet students and families where they are. I also know that many members will have questions about exactly how to do this. Be assured that we are working to make sure that we have answers.

Unfortunately, this emergency is going to last for a while. Today, Gov. Wolf ordered that schools will remain closed indefinitely.

This is a challenging and difficult time. But one thing is clear throughout all of this. Wherever PSEA members are, they are there for their students.

Thank you for all that you’re doing to keep your students learning. Please continue to stay connected with each other and take care of yourselves and your families.

Rich Askey

March 27, 2020

Thank you, PSEA.

Thanks to you the Legislature passed a bill to ensure your financial security during this uncertain time.

Now, many of you are getting ready to start – or continue – teaching our students.

The Department of Education is refining guidance about how instruction can occur while schools are closed during the COVID-19 emergency. Check out PDE’s updated guidance.

PSEA members still have many questions about the finer points of online instruction. I want you to know that PSEA is working to get you the best possible advice.

PSEA staff are working on draft MOUs to protect you and your students as we all move forward together. Find information we have already posted regarding distance instruction on this page. Just scroll down to “Resources” to find it.

If questions arise, please reach out to your local president, UniServ representative, or me, and we will do our best to get you answers.

We will be here for you. Because, in so many ways, you have been here for me.

Every time I check the news or Facebook, I see PSEA members doing incredible things.

Teachers driving around town waving to their students. Support professionals making kids lunch and breakfast. A teacher playing her guitar and singing songs to her students. Educators making videos just to remind students that they’re there for them.

Amazing.

We all have stories like these. And now is the time to share them. The best place to find inspiration is in each other, by sharing the incredible work you’re doing – even in this unprecedented time.

You have a story, too.

Post it on Facebook. Drop it in the story form on this webpage. Put a photo or a video on Instagram.

Please tell your stories. Because they are incredible.

You inspire me, PSEA.

Keep up the great work.

Rich Askey

March 26, 2020

Yesterday was a historic day for the Pennsylvania General Assembly – and for Congress.

The state House and Senate voted unanimously to approve emergency school code legislation that sets clear state policy for public schools during the coronavirus emergency and ensures that all school employees — EA and ESP members alike — get paid and receive a full year of PSERS retirement credit. PSEA members played a key role in getting this bill passed.

State lawmakers also adopted legislation moving Pennsylvania’s primary election date to June 2, providing $50 million in aid to hospitals and health care systems, and easing eligibility requirements for workers applying for unemployment benefits.

Congress had a big day, too. Last night, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan stimulus package to ease the economic impact of this crisis. The U.S. House plans to vote on it tomorrow.

The federal bill includes immediate financial stimulus to American families, additional funding for state and local governments, and a six-month suspension of student loan payments, among other provisions.

You can find information on both the state and federal COVID-19 legislative on this web page.

Thank you for all that you’re doing to help your students. Keep connected with each other and take care of yourselves and your families.

Rich Askey

March 25, 2020

This is great news.

Today, the state House and Senate voted to approve the COVID-19 emergency legislation that PSEA has been working on with Gov. Wolf, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, and legislators.

The bill will provide clear statewide policy for public schools as they confront this emergency, ensure that all school staff – EA and ESP members – get paid, and ensure that all school staff get a full year of PSERS retirement credit. See below for more details about what’s in the bill.

Now, it’s on its way to the governor’s desk.

This is great news. PSEA has been encouraging the Legislature to act on this bill. And you sent more than 20,000 emails last week, asking lawmakers to make this a priority.

They listened to us, and they did the right thing.

PSEA’s top priority is to make sure the state gives the clearest possible direction about how our schools should operate during this emergency. And we want to make sure that every PSEA member is treated fairly.

Passing this bill is a great step in the right direction and a tremendous victory.

As always, thank you for the amazing work you’re doing. Keep connected with each other and take care of yourselves and your families.

Rich Askey

March 24, 2020

Since Gov. Wolf announced yesterday that schools will be closed for another two weeks, we’ve had some questions about what exactly that means.

Just to clarify, the Department of Education has said that this means that schools will be closed through April 6. Unless the governor extends the school closure, schools will reopen for staff on April 7 and students will report on April 9.

This is intended to give staff time to get ready for students to arrive on April 9.

I know that some members are working with their administrations to think about how to deliver instruction in new ways during the time that schools are closed. Some are considering online instruction as an option.

Be sure to check out a new resource PSEA has provided on this in the “resources” section below – “Tools and Resources for K-12 Online Learning  during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” It has some really good suggestions.

In other important news, the Department has announced that Pennsylvania is cancelling standardized testing for students in career and technical education (CTE) programs for the 2019-20 school year. These include exams from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) and National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS).

As always, thank you for the amazing work you’re doing. I’ll keep you posted. And, please, make sure that you take care of yourselves and each other.

Rich Askey

March 23, 2020

Now is the time to stay connected.

By now, you’ve likely heard that Gov. Wolf has directed that public schools remain closed for another two weeks. And he’s asked Pennsylvanians who live in Philadelphia, Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, and Montgomery counties to stay home for two weeks.

I know this isn’t easy, but I’ve always known that our members are leaders in challenging times. PSEA members go the extra mile for students every single day. And today is no different.

Even though we’re in the middle of an unprecedented crisis - with schools closed, businesses shuttered, and more questions than answers - PSEA members are still connecting with their students, preparing their meals, and making sure they know that we care about them.

You can find some great stories about this incredible work on this webpage and on our social media channels.

And we’d like to hear yours. So, please share it.

Drop a summary of your story into the webform on this page. Post it on Facebook. Take a photo and put it on Instagram.

We want to help you promote the great work you’re doing. So, please, share your story.

In other news, we’re hopeful that the Legislature will start voting our COVID-19 emergency legislation this week. Once it passes, it will answer a lot of the questions you have about what lies ahead. Check out a summary of the bill on this webpage.

PSEA, I’m so proud of the work you’re doing.

I also know that, in addition to this great work, all of you are also caring for yourselves and your families.  Please know you are in my thoughts every day.

Keep up the great work. And please stay safe and healthy.

Rich Askey

March 20, 2020

Thank you, PSEA.

Yesterday, I asked members to contact their legislators and urge them to take up a COVID-19 emergency bill. The bill will provide clear statewide policy for public schools as they confront this emergency, ensure that all school staff – particularly ESP members – get paid, and ensure that all school staff get a full year of PSERS retirement credit.

You responded. Within hours, you sent more than 15,000 messages to lawmakers. As a result, legislative leaders have agreed to start voting on this bill next week.

This is great news. And our legislators deserve our thanks. They’re working with us to get this done, and I’m very grateful for their support – and for yours.

You may also have seen the Department of Education’s announcement yesterday cancelling the PSSA and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year. Members had questions about how testing would work in the face of the COVID-19 emergency.

Now, these questions have been answered. No PSSA or Keystone testing this year.

This is another smart, practical decision, and I applaud the Department of Education for making it.

What we all need to do now is stay healthy, stay safe, and support each other.

Continue to check out this web page and PSEA’s social media channels for the most up-to-date information on this. And know that PSEA has your back.

Rich Askey

March 19, 2020

It’s tough to look at the news these days.

But, every day, I see stories about how PSEA members are helping students, feeding kids, and reaching out to people in their communities to offer a helping hand, a kind word, or educational resources for parents and students.

Check out some of those stories on this page. They’re really something.

As we all cope with the COVID-19 emergency, we need to put some pressure on legislators to take up a bill we’ve worked with them to write. This bill would provide clear state-wide policy for public schools as they confront this emergency, ensure that all school staff – particularly ESP members – get paid, and ensure that all school staff get a full year of PSERS retirement credit.

Have a look at what else this bill would do below.

I’m confident that this bill will pass, but we need the state Legislature to focus on it right away. So, take a moment to send your state legislators a message encouraging them to vote on it as soon as possible.

And I want to say special word about PSEA’s higher education and health care members. We’re working on issues that impact you as well.

Keep checking this webpage for updates. This is where we’re going to post the most up to date information we have about the COVID-19 emergency and what PSEA is doing to deal with it.

Once again, stay tuned. Stay safe. Stay home. And know that PSEA has your back.

Rich Askey

March 18, 2020

This isn’t an easy time. For any of us. PSEA members have a lot of questions about how to deal with the COVID-19 emergency. We don’t have all of the answers yet. PSEA has your back, and we’re working around the clock to get those answers. 

Emergency legislation poised for a vote
Our primary goal is to pass legislation that sets clear policy for schools and staff as we all confront the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve been working with the governor, legislators, the secretary of education, and other school officials to get this done – around the clock. See below to learn about what this bill will do.

We believe this bill will pass within the next week or so. And we may ask you to contact your legislators and urge them to support it. 

More to come
When this bill passes, many of the questions you have will be answered. But I know there will be more questions as we deal with this unprecedented crisis. PSEA is here to answer them. If you have questions, feel free to contact your UniServ representative and ask your question that way.

I’ll be updating you about this regularly. So stay tuned. Stay safe. Stay home. And know that PSEA has your back.

Rich Askey