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Volume 19

April 2014


Tri-State Workshops & News


News Roundup


Title IX Update


Education News & Events


In Brief: School Law Update


2014 Event Calendar

TRI-STATE AREA SCHOOL STUDY COUNCIL Seeking ways to increase organizational capacity in schools through problem solving, technical service, and staff development so all students will be better prepared to make contributions to both our democratic society and the world community


- 412.648.3907 - 412.648.7175 - 412.648.7185



Tri-State Banquet Recap Tri-State annually celebrates the accomplishments of deserving member district boards and educators at the School Board and Distinguished Educator Banquet. The 66th annual celebration was held at the Edgewood Country Club on Thursday, March 20, 2014. It was a wonderful night of celebration and networking with other districts and past award winners. The 2014 D. Richard Wynn Distinguished School Board Award winners were the Carlynton and Upper St. Clair Boards of School Directors. Both districts, nominated by Superintendents Gary Peiffer and Dr. Patrick O’Toole, respectively, were selected from a large group of deserving districts. This award, which has been given to two deserving districts annually since its creation in 1989, seeks to honor boards who successfully work through conflict to successfully overcome the obstacles they face. Dr. Joseph Clapper, Quaker Valley Superintendent, was recognized for his many years of service to the profession with the presentation of the 2014 Continued on page 2

Observer Skills Training Workshops On January 14, Tri-State and the South Fayette Township School District cohosted a consultant from The Danielson Group to present a workshop focused on “The Framework for Teaching: Enhancing Professional Practice Observation Skills.” Teams from 7 member districts attended the full-day workshop presented by Dr. Carol Rauch, Danielson Group Consultant and professor at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Rauch’s is an experienced presenter who’s career is focused on Professional Development in Cincinnati area schools, supervising student teachers and training mentor teachers. This workshop was set up for participants who had already received basic level training in the Danielson Framework for Teaching through completion of the PDE Teachscape online course, attendance at Educator Effectiveness workshops offered by regional Intermediate Units, or training sessions directly with the Continued on page 2

Tri-State Workshops & News Tri-State VP Elected & New Exec. Members Welcomed

Banquet, continued from page 1

Dr. Janet Sardon, Yough Superintendent, was voted into office as Tri-State’s next Vice President at the March 19th Executive Committee Meeting. Dr. Sardon fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Dr. Anne Stephens, who retired in January from her post as superintendent in the Fox Chapel Area School District. In addition, two new members of the Committee were introduced at the meeting—Dr. Darby Copeland, Director of Parkway West CTC, and Thomas Ralston, Avonworth Superintendent.  Honorees Top: Carlynton School Board with Gary Peiffer, Supt.; Middle: Upper St. Clair School Board with Dr. Sharon Suritsky, Asst. Supt., and Dr. Pat O’Toole, Supt.; Left: Dr. Joseph Clapper, Upper St. Clair Supt.

Danielson, continued from page 1

Danielson Group. Designed to follow this introductory instruction, “Observation Skills” training builds upon the participant’s knowledge of the Framework and applies it to developing skills around a collaborative observation process. The session focused on understanding the issues of bias, collecting low-inference evidence during an observation, the interpretation of evidence against the levels of performance, and differentiated evaluator coaching conversations for teacher support. Tri-State is hosting a repeat of this workshop on April 15 at Bethel Park High School. Further “Observation Skills” workshops will be available the first week of August, and possibly higher level Framework trainings as well. If your district is interested in learning more or sending a team to a future workshop, please email or call Director Dr. Diane Kirk at (412) 648-1716. 

Distinguished Educator Award. Dr. Clapper is the 37th educator to be awarded this recognition since the inaugural was given to Dr. Samuel Francis in 1981. Jim Buckheit, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and Stuart Knade, Esq., General Counsel for the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA), were in attendance and offered words of congratulations along with a reminder of how important it is to celebrate the successful working partnership and mutual respect between school boards and administrators of a district. Entertainment for the evening was provided by the wonderful Bethel Park High School Orchestra, led by director Stephanie Oliver and introduced by Superintendent Nancy Rose. The group helped set a festive mood for the celebration during the cocktail hour and played a few selections prior to dinner. The dinner was once again a successful celebration of what is good about education in our region. 

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Tri-State Workshops

News Roundup

Jean Winsand Leadership Workshop Preview: 4/24/14

The Forum’s new online format allows us to link directly to important news stories and interesting articles. If you have any suggestions for future issues, email them to

“Using your Leadership GPS to find your True North: Growing from Personal Stories” The theme for the 12th Annual Dr. Jean E. Winsand Institute for Women in School Leadership is “Using your Leadership GPS to find your True North: Growing from Personal Stories”. The full-day workshop will be held on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at the Edgewood Country Club. While geared toward women leaders, the workshop is open to anyone who feels they would benefit from attending. Registration is open until April 16.

Indiana becomes 1st state to withdraw from Common Core education standards “’I believe when we reach the end of this process there are going to be many other states around the country that will take a hard look at the way Indiana has taken a step back, designed our own standards and done it in a way where we drew on educators, we drew on citizens, we drew on parents and developed standards that meet the needs of our people,’ Pence said.” Additional article — How Disintegrated in Indiana

Leanne Meyer

Sharon Ward

National speaker Leanne Meyer, from Transitioning Season, will lead the day that features a keynote address by Sharon Ward, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. During the luncheon portion of the program, an outstanding female leader will be awarded the Jean E. Winsand Distinguished Woman in Education Award. The winner will be announced via email soon. 

Save the date!

17th Annual Dr. Samuel Francis School Law Symposium and Special Education Workshop June 18, 2014 The University Club Schedule and registration will be available soon!



Five New Facts from the Civil Rights Data Collection “Equity – the push to ensure strong educational opportunity for every student – drives everything we do at the U.S. Department of Education, and particularly in the Office for Civil Rights. From preschool enrollment to college attendance and completion, our office’s work is grounded in the belief that all students, regardless of race, gender, disability, or age, need a high-quality education to be successful.” News release from DOE summarizing results: Expansive Survey of America's Public Schools Reveals Troubling Racial Disparities More than 350 PA School Districts are awaiting approximately $1.2 billion dollars that has been backlogged by the October 2012 moratorium on applications for the state’s Planning and Construction Workbook (PlanCon) process. Rep. Seth Grove, R-York County, has introduced HB2124 “Overhaul of the School Construction Reimbursement (PlanCon) Program to Help our School Districts”. Grove has said his goal is to get funding flowing again and reform a system so outdated that it required districts to send copies of their designs to the state on microfilm instead of an electronic format. Memo on PSBA’s support for HB2124 and March 31 Testimony before the House Education Committee

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Title IX Update A Step in the Right Direction: Increased Federal Scrutiny of Sexual Assault and Harassment in Schools In the last few years, the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment in schools has finally captured the federal spotlight. From the policy and procedure guidelines issued by the Department of Education in the spring of 2011, to the recent formation of a White House task force devoted to the issue, increased government scrutiny of sexual assault and harassment in schools is a vital step toward eradicating discrimination in educational programs. Sexual assault and harassment in schools is a problem of shocking proportions. A survey conducted by the American Association of University Women during the 2010-2011 school year found that 56% of girls and 40% of boys in grades 7-12 experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment during the school year. The same survey revealed that only half of the harassed students did anything about the harassment, with only 9% reporting the incident to a teacher, guidance counselor or other adult at the school. When asked why they did not report harassment, students cited doubts of a complaint making any impact, fears about making the situation worse, and/or concerns about a staff member’s reaction. The problem persists at the college level. Recent studies estimate that 20% of young women and 6% of young men will experience a completed or attempted rape during their college career. Further, almost two-thirds of college students report experiencing some form of sexual harassment. Faced with this pervasive problem, the federal government recently has signaled recently that it is taking sexual assault and harassment in schools very seriously. In April of 2011, the Department of Education issued comprehensive policies and procedures (“Dear Colleague Letter”) for how schools must respond to sexual harassment, including sexual assault. More than ever before, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, as well as the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, are investigating complaints of non-compliance, issuing findings of discrimination and entering into resolutions with schools. By way of just one example, in January of this year, after a two year campaign of Title IX advocates, the Department of

Education announced that it finally will undertake an investigation of Penn State University’s handling of sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints. The advocates called for such an investigation when confronted with numerous complaints from victims about a double-standard in the disciplinary process that unduly favored student-athletes accused of sexual assault. Finally, on January 22, 2014, President Obama launched the White House Task Force Protecting Students from Sexual Assault and renewed pressure on colleges and universities to prevent sexual assaults on their campuses. The President gave the task force ninety (90) days to recommend best practices for colleges to prevent or respond to sexual assaults and to check that they are complying with existing legal obligations. Additionally, the task force was asked to develop proposals to heighten awareness of college records regarding assaults and their corresponding responses. For far too long, students have suffered when faced with unresponsive school environments, harmful stereotypes about sexual assault, and tepid enforcement by the government. Our schools need to do more, not less, to prevent sexual harassment and respond appropriately to the troubling frequency of sexual misconduct. Accordingly, we welcome the federal government’s demonstrated willingness to show its teeth and help make it happen. 

Women's Law Project Western Pennsylvania 401 Wood Street, Suite 1020, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 (412) 281-2892,

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Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know. Daniel J. Boorstin

Education News & Events Homeless Children and Youth Taskforce Report

Green Building Alliance 2014 Inspire Speaker Series

In 2012, the General Assembly Pennsylvania passed and Governor Corbett signed Act 123 of 2012 creating a Task Force within the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to examine the educational needs of Pennsylvania’s homeless children and youth. Prescribed Task Force members (Homeless Task Force) were leaders from both the public and private sector representing education, community organizations, faith-based organizations, advocacy organizations, housing services and state officials. The Homeless Task Force created was to conduct a study of the demographics and education of Pennsylvania’s homeless child population and their educational needs. PDE encourages all superintendents, administrators, and teachers to read the report—you can find more information and download it here. 

The Green Building Alliance and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens announce the lineup for the 2014 Inspire Speaker Series. This monthly lecture circuit features nationally renowned experts in various fields of sustainability as well as local specialists who can share news from the from lines of sustainability in our region. Tri-State member district personnel are eligible to receive discounted admission prices to all events in the series ($25). See below for dates of upcoming workshops and visit for more information or to register.

Homeless Children’s Education Fund—Homeless Education Network (HEN)

John Francis spent more than 20 years walking and sailing around the world to spread a message of sustainability – for 17 of those years, he didn’t speak a word! Now he is using his words to inspire change as well as his actions, and we have a chance to listen!

Learn more about educating local homeless and unaccompanied youth and the issues they face at the upcoming Homeless Children’s Education Fund meetings:

Thursday, April 10 National Guest: Dr. John Francis, Author, Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence.

Thursday, May 15 National Guest: Col. Mark Mykleby, Senior Fellow, New America Foundation with Local Guest: Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh Mayor

HEN Quarterly Meetings: Friday, May 2, 2014, 9am-Noon Friday, September 12, 2014, 9am-Noon Allegheny Department of Human Services (ACDHS) Summit V—Unaccompanied Youth: Friday, November 14, 2014, Time and Location TBD HEN's mission is to "Serve as the catalyst for community collaboration aimed at improving educational outcomes for children and youth experiencing homelessness as mandated by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.”

Mark Mykleby is a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, he is working towards a “grand strategy of sustainability” for our nation in the 21st century. Mark will be joined by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto!

Visit for more information. 

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Green Building Alliance 33 Terminal Way, Suite 331 Pittsburgh, PA 15219 @go_gba

In Brief

School Law Update April 2014

Supreme Court Issues Decision on Executive Sessions and the Sunshine Act by Nicole Wingard Williams, Esq.

It is well-known that the Sunshine Act provides certain exceptions to the requirement that agency meetings be open to the public. In a recently decided case, Smith v. Twp. of Richmond, 82 A.3d 407 (Pa. 2013), the Supreme Nicole Wingard Williams Court of Pennsylvania further expounded on these exceptions and held that closed-door meetings which did not involve deliberations did not violate the Sunshine Act. In Richmond, Richmond Township was engaged in litigation with the Lehigh Cement Company over the possible expansion of the Company’s limestone quarry into the Township. The East Penn Valley Residents Group had also joined in the litigation as an intervenor. Before entering into a settlement agreement with the parties, the Township Board of Supervisors held four meetings, two with representatives of adjacent municipalities, one with the Residents Group and one with the Company and its attorneys, in order to gather information on how the quarry operations affected the neighboring municipalities, the concerns of the Residents Group and to ask questions of the Company that were raised as a direct result of the information gathered in the previous three meetings. At a subsequent open meeting and after public debate, the settlement agreement was accepted by the Board of Supervisors. A resident of the Township filed suit, claiming that the four closed-door meetings held by the Township with the various parties violated the Sunshine Act. The Commonwealth Court observed that under the Sunshine Act, the gathering must be held to “deliberat[e] agency business or tak[e] official action”

and further explained that the Act defines deliberation as “the discussion of agency business held for the purpose of making a decision.” 65 Pa.C.S. §703. The Commonwealth Court found, and the Supreme Court confirmed, that there were no deliberations in the four closed-door meetings and as a result, there was no violation of the Sunshine Act.

CAUTION URGED While the Richmond case does provide authority for closed-door sessions where members of an agency gather information which may later assist them in taking official action on an issue, the case should be read with a note of caution. Sunshine Act cases tend to be highly fact-sensitive and as such, it would be easy for a court to determine that deliberations did in fact occur at a closed-door meeting. The Supreme Court cautioned in Richmond that “when an agency holds such gatherings… skepticism among the general public is not unreasonable, as suspicions may naturally arise that the conversations are aimed at deliberating agency business in private. In such cases, the agency incurs the risk that citizens will challenge the propriety of its actions, and consequently, that it will have to defend those actions in the context of legal proceedings where an evidentiary record is developed (as in this case) and a determination is made by a fact-finder concerning whether a violation occurred.” 82 A.3d at 416. Therefore, it follows that these information-only sessions should only be held sparingly and if absolutely necessary. Any time an agency wishes to hold a closed-door session, it should consult with its solicitor to discuss the basis for the session and to determine whether the session is properly allowed to be closed under the Sunshine Act. If an agency and its solicitor do believe that a gathering can be properly closed as a session being held for informational purposes only, the agency must be extremely cautious and ensure that no deliberations occur in the session.

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Important Changes Made to the Educator’s Misconduct Act! by Jocelyn P. Kramer, Esquire

On February 18, 2014, the chief school administrator’s obligation to submit mandatory reports regarding professional educators exploded. Prior to February, mandatory reports were required to be filed in three circumstances: (1) for the dismissal of a certificated employee for cause Jocelyn P. Kramer within 30 days after the decision by an arbitrator or school board; (2) upon a charge or conviction for a crime set forth in Section 111 of the Public School Code or for a crime involving moral turpitude within 30 days of learning about the charge or conviction; or (3) within 60 days of receiving information constituting “reasonable cause to believe” that a certificated employee has caused physical injury to a student as a result of negligence or malice or has committed sexual abuse or exploitation. The reports were sometimes delayed for months pending the outcome of an arbitration or appeal. Not so today; the reasons for mandatory reporting have nearly tripled and the deadline for filing has been reduced to a mere 15 days. Chief school administrators must file a mandatory report within 15 days of receiving notice of any of the following: (1) that an educator has been provided notice of intent to dismiss/separate from employment for cause, notice of nonrenewal for cause, notice of removal from eligibility lists for cause or notice of a determination not to reemploy for cause; (2) that a resignation or separation from employment has been tendered after any allegations of misconduct have arisen; (3) that there is an allegation of sexual misconduct/sexual abuse or exploitation; (4) that there is information constituting reasonable cause to suspect that an educator has caused physical injury to a student as a result of negligence or malice; (5) that an educator has been charged with or convicted of a crime graded as a misdemeanor or felony; (6) that an educator is the subject of a child abuse report filed by the school entity under 23 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to child protective services); (7) that an educator has been identified in an indicated or founded report as a perpetrator of abuse. Additionally, the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) was also recently amended and goes into effect on December 31, 2014. Under the amendments to the CPSL, the standard for filing a report of suspected child abuse has changed. The definition of child abuse has been expanded from

“serious physical injury” to “bodily injury.” This expansion will significantly increase the number of mandated reports relating to injuries at school. The filing of a ChildLine report on a school employee triggers your 15 day deadline to also file a mandatory report to the Department. Failure to file a mandatory report will result in civil penalties and will jeopardize the certification of a chief school administrator. To ensure compliance and learn the specifics of these important legislative changes, schedule a training session with Weiss Burkardt Kramer LLC today!

Audiotaping Now Permitted on School Buses by Nicole Wingard Williams, Esquire

Previously school districts were only permitted to utilize video cameras on school vehicles and buses. Recently, however, Senate Bill 57 was passed. This Bill amends the Crimes Code and now affords school districts the right to audiotape on school vehicles and buses so long as several requirements are met. First, the Board of School Directors must adopt a policy that authorizes audio interception on school vehicles and buses for purposes of security and discipline. Second, the district must send annual notice of the practice to parents and student. Finally, all school vehicles and buses must display conspicuously posted notices indicating that students may be audiotaped. Weiss Burkardt Kramer recommends that all districts consider approving a policy permitting audiotaping on school vehicles and buses. Please do not hesitate to contact us for questions regarding compliance with these requirements, including the revision of your current policies to include this important update!

Weiss Burkardt Kramer, LLC 445 Fort Pitt Boulevard Suite 503 Pittsburgh, PA 15219 Phone: (412) 391-9890

Fax: (412) 391-9685

Ira Weiss M. Janet Burkardt Jocelyn Kramer

This issue of In Brief: School Law Update is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice. Should districts wish legal advice on any matter, they should contact their legal counsel or request a legal opinion from Weiss Burkardt Kramer, LLC. Copyright 2014, Weiss Burkardt Kramer, LLC

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Tri-State Area School Study Council 2014 Events The Framework for Teaching: Enhancing Professional Practice Observation Skills April 15, Bethel Park High School 12th Annual Dr. Jean E. Winsand School Leadership Institute for Women in School Leadership April 24, Edgewood Country Club 17th Annual Dr. Samuel Francis School Law Symposium and Special Education Workshop June 18, The University Club Executive Committee Meeting June 25, Edgewood Country Club The Framework for Teaching: Enhancing Professional Practice Observation Skills August, Quaker Valley School District NCAA Update Late September or October, Petersen Events Center

Tri-State Website and Mailing lists We’re hard at work putting together a new and useful website to better keep our members updated about the services we offer and allow for easier distribution of workshop information. It will contain workshop agendas as well as new easier ways to register. We hope to have it ready for release by the end of April. Keep an eye out in your inbox for updates.

The Forum is a publication of the Tri-State Area School Study Council. Your comments and suggestions of topics for future publications are always welcome. You may contact us at: Tri-State Area School Study Council University of Pittsburgh 4302 Wesley W. Posvar Hall 230 South Bouquet Street Pittsburgh, PA 15260 Phone (412) 648-3907 Phone (412) 648-7175 Fax (412) 648-7185 Dr. Diane L. Kirk, Director, Associate Professor, Administrative and Policy Studies, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh Phone (412) 648-1716

Speaking of inboxes, you may have noticed that we have switched to using the mailing list service Mailman, provided by the University, to send out information. We utilize a few different lists (like TriState and TriStateWorkshops)—if you would like to change who receives emails from us or have us add someone to a list, just email 

The Forum 8 The information in The Forum is for the general knowledge of the reader. For more specific information, rely on the advice of your solicitor.

The Forum April 2014  

by Tri-State Area School Study Council, with In Brief by WBK

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