Mideastern Region PSEA

September Newsletter

Welcome to the Mideastern Region newsletter! Each month we will be featuring information to help our members stay informed, get involved, and advocate for our profession.

Our region represents the 15,168 public school educators across the 35 school districts and two intermediate units of Bucks and Montgomery Counties. Your hard work and the power of collective bargaining help to bring an exceptional education to the 195,426 students in our buildings.

Be My Eyes

Several years ago when reading Things Not Seen with my 8th grade students, I reached out to the Bucks County Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired to see if they ran any outreach programs for our community. This began a several-year partnership where the association would send volunteers who were blind or had low vision to speak with my students. One of the items that came up most frequently in those visits is how much technology has improved the lives of those who are blind or have low vision. Our guest speaker talked about getting lost in her own backyard one day, but was able to use the app Be My Eyes to connect with a sighted volunteer who helped her find her way back to her home again.


I signed up to be a volunteer with this app long ago but never received a call, in part because the service has many more sighted volunteers than users who are blind or have low vision.

I’d forgotten that I’d signed up to be a volunteer until one day this week, when I got an alert on my phone while I was working through one of the many, many school reopening challenges in our area.


“Someone needs your help. A blind or visually impaired person is calling for help.”


Woah.


I answered and was Facetime-like connected to a woman who was struggling to take her temperature because the batteries were dead on her talking thermometer and she couldn’t read the screen on her other one.


After an exchange I excitedly read the screen for her, happy to not have to deliver bad news: “It says 98.6!”


She was so happy she didn’t have a fever. She then went on to explain how she uses the app to help mark the colors of new clothes or find out what is in a can in her pantry when her bar code reader is not working. She thanked me for my help, we disconnected, and I tuned back to look at the nine million tabs open on my laptop.


***


As we move forward into a school year that seems to change every three days, let’s agree that asking for someone else to figuratively be your eyes once in a while is a healthy way to deal with the trauma we are all experiencing. Ask for help setting appropriate electronic boundaries so that you are not working 24 hours a day. Ask for help using new software that was clearly not designed by an educator. Utilize your district’s Employee Assistance Program if you are struggling.


This isn’t a toxic positivity pep talk for the upcoming school year – it’s a reminder that we are all human, we all struggle sometimes, and what we are going through right now has thrown a lot of us off our game.


When someone reaches out to you to be their eyes, help them the best way that you can.


Thank you for all you do for our students, schools, and communities.


Bill Senavaitis, Central Bucks EA

Mideastern Region President

Health and Safety First

Join a conversation with NEA President Becky Pringle and Dr. Nathaniel Beers, a pediatrician and a member of the AAP Council of School Health. On the agenda:


  • what we know and don’t know about COVID-19,
  • the implications of the disease for children and adolescents,
  • the unique concerns of vulnerable populations including students of color and students with disabilities, and
  • what science tells us about balancing the sometimes-contradictory requirements for fostering the overall health of children, adolescents, educators, staff, and communities.


WHEN: Wednesday, September 9 at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT


Click here to register for this webinar

Welcome New Mideastern Division ESP Officers

As of September 1, due to the upcoming retirement of Chris Cooke, Council Rock ESP, our Mideastern Division ESP Officers are:


President: Deneeen Dry, Central Bucks ESP

Vice-President: Randy Godin, Bristol Township ESP

Secretary/Treasurer: Dawn Evans, Abington Secretaries ESP


We welcome this strong and experienced leadership team to their new roles in the Division and look forward to working with them in the weeks and months ahead!

COVID-19 Resources

For the latest resources from NEA and PSEA, visit www.educatingthroughcrisis.org and www.psea.org/covid19. Each website has current information on supports available to our members, your rights and leave options, and the latest guidance from state officials,.

Virtual Member Benefits Fair

Give us an hour (from your sofa!) and PSEA/NEA Member Benefits may be able to provide you over $1,000 in savings per year. Please consider joining us for this one-hour virtual member benefits fair featuring the following vendors:


Kades-Margolis – investment services

California Casualty – home and auto insurance

AmeriServe Bank – mortgage services

URL Insurance Group – life insurance

Free College Tuition – education benefit

Liberty Mutual – home and auto insurance


To register, please visit this link.

Professional Learning Webinar Series

PSEA's Education Services Division has developed a series of Act 48/Chapter 14 professional learning webinars to meet the professional learning needs of our members. Click here to register for one of the events below:


  • SEL in a Virtual Space

  • EdTech Pedagogy in Early Childhood

  • Schoology in Practice: The Essentials for Beginners

  • Effective Remote Instruction and Distance Learning

  • Taking Seesaw to the Next Level

  • Taking Google Classroom to the Next Level

  • Using Pear Deck to Engage Learners at a Distance

  • Building Routines for Student Success in a Virtual Space

Showcasing Our Members and their Work

Our CAPS program is looking to highlight our new members on our social media platforms! If you have a new colleague this year, take a few minutes to speak with them about being a member and let them know that we want to welcome them to their new profession!


What would you like the community to know about you and your colleagues? What have you learned about your students as you work through the difficulties of teaching during the pandemic? What are your hopes for this school year? Take a few minutes to complete this form and help us have positive interactions with our communities about the challenging work we are doing in schools this year.

FREE Performance!

Join the Philadelphia Orchestra on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, at 8pm for an exclusive first look at The Philadelphia Orchestra’s new digital platform, the Digital Stage. This program features Kensho Watanabe leading members of the Orchestra’s string sections in Composer-in-Residence Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Tarqueada” and “Coqueteos” from Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. Recorded on August 6, 2020, at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, this performance marks the first time that the musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra were able to perform together on stage in 146 days. Click here to reserve your ticket!

Election 2020

November 3 is coming fast and we need ALL PSEA members to be ready to vote for our public schools. You can do your part by writing postcards or participating in virtual phone banks to fellow PSEA members voting in key races for the PA legislature here in MER. For more information or to volunteer to participate, please email our Mideastern Region Advocacy Coordinator Adam Clark, aclark@psea.org. Also, don’t be surprised if he reaches out to ask you to do your part to maintain a pro-education majority in Harrisburg!

Thank You

Our MER PSEA staff (pictured here and mostly frozen in time from their 2017 photos) continues to do amazing work helping our local leaders and members navigate the complexities of the upcoming school year. Thank you so much for your advocacy, professionalism, and dedication.

Pre-retirement Workshops

Our region will be offering several virtual pre-retirement workshops in the coming weeks and months. These events, designed for members who are within five years of their anticipated date of retirement, are run by our PSEA staff and can help you review the PSERS options available to you.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 3, 2020 at 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.


To register, please click this link.

Retirement Checklist

If you are retiring soon (within the next year) here are steps that you should be taking with your district and PSERS:


  1. Carefully read your contract for information about when you need to provide notification to your district.
  2. Request a retirement estimate from PSERS. You can ask for up to two different scenarios (ex: retirement date of December 2020 or June 2021.)

  3. Call the Southeast Regional PSERS office in Warminster (215.443.3495) to schedule Exit Counseling.


You can also sign up to be a PSEA-Retired member if you are in year one or year 35 of your career - or anywhere in between! The earlier you sign up, the more money you will save on dues. You can enroll in PSEA-Retired FOR LIFE with a one-time dues payment of $774, or break that into four payments of $193.50 over a two-year period. This is a great way to continue to stay involved and engaged with the work of the association as well as continued use of our member benefits. For more information and to enroll, visit this website.

Meet Our New NEA Director

The term of NEA Director Debbie Lee (Abington EA) expired this summer after six years of leadership and advocacy in Washington, DC. Beginning this month, our region will be represented by elected NEA Director Kevin Deely.


Kevin teaches high school English and serves as local president for the Easton Area Education Association, where he’s been since 2003. Kevin has a passion for politics and political action and has served as chair of the PSEA Legislative Committee, on the NEA Legislative Committee, and was elected by the NEA Board of Directors to represent them on the NEA PAC Council. In 2012 he narrowly lost a hotly contested race for the PA House of Representatives. He lives near Allentown and is a graduate of Abington High School in the Mideast Region. Welcome, Kevin!

FREE for Educators

Headspace is available for FREE for all educators - all you need is for someone (usually the HR department) to register your entity. After that, everyone can use their school email to log in and access a variety of mental wellness resources on a desktop or mobile device.

Mideastern Region Elections

Mideastern Region will be holding its Fall House virtually on November 12, 2020 at 5pm. Delegates will elect the following positions for the remainder of the term ending August 31, 2022: Vice President (1); Secretary (1); Treasurer (1); Resolutions Representative (1); Legislative Representative (1); Council on Instruction and Professional Development Representative (1); Resolutions Alternate (1); Legislative Alternate (1); PACE Director (1). For information about attending this meeting as a delegate, please reach out to your local president. If you are a member in good standing interested in running for one of these offices, please email our elections chair, Mike Stettner.

Virtual Event Opportunities

Our region's membership in the Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence & Equity allows us the opportunity for members to participate in special events and activities that are focused on eliminating achievement and attainment disparities defined by race/ethnicity, economics, gender, or (dis)ability. Please use this link to check out their line up, and email me (bsenavaitis@psea.org) if you are interested in participating in one or more opportunities.

VHS Transfers and Photo Digitization

Do you have old home movies that need to be transferred to DVDs? What about photos that you'd like digitized? The WOW program can help out! Prices are only $5 per video tape and 100 photos for $25, respectively. A number of aspects of the WOW program are currently up and running, including this transfer service, which is done by students.


The WOW transitional life skills program is run though the Bucks IU and helps students aged 18-21 prepare for an independent, meaningful life. Some of their other activities (pandemics aside) include gathering day-old baked goods and delivering them to local food pantries, sorting and bagging produce from farm donations for local food pantries, and weekly deliveries of meals to local seniors. Students also make a variety of made-to-order dessert trays for various occasions, including the Pre-Retirement workshops held each year at the Mideastern Region office.


To get in touch with the program, contact Doreen McNamara at the IU (dmcnamara@bucksiu.org) or call the WOW office in the Landis Shopping Center in Perkasie at 215.529.2601.

Your Clearances Will Soon Expire - FBI Deadline Extended

Act 153 of 2014 requires school employees to provide or renew State Police/FBI record checks and child abuse clearance statements. Additional changes to the law went into effect July 1, 2015. PSEA wants to ensure that all members understand how this policy affects them. Updated clearances are required every 60 months from the date of the oldest clearance. If you obtained your clearances when this law went into effect, you are approaching the end of the 60 month term. Please reach out to your HR department or visit this website for more information.


"But how am I supposed to complete my clearances during a pandemic??"


Good news - you have until December 31, 2020 to obtain (not apply for) your FBI clearance. For complete information on this legislation, please take a look at this document from PSEA.

Save on your Prescriptions

No matter what type of insurance you have or who provides it, this group has the potential to save you and your family money! Give it a try... this will go one of two ways:

  1. You enter your information, discover that there's a savings, and use the coupon

  2. You enter your information, discover that the prices listed are not less than your current copay, and continue to use your insurance for the prescription as you have in the past.

In short, you can use one method, but not both, to get the lowest price available. GoodRx operates this website as well as an app.

PSEA Hardship Grants

The PSEA Education Foundation provides financial assistance to PSEA members who are experiencing dire hardship through illness, disability, and/or financial need. Applications are submitted to the PSEA Retirement & Welfare Committee, which reviews the applications and makes recommendations to the PSEA Education Foundation. For more information or to apply, please scroll to the bottom of this page

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NEA Member Benefit Spotlight

See how much you can save today with the NEA Auto and Home Insurance Program! Request a quote today and earn a $25 gift card!


Don't Wait Until You are Sick

Many of the healthcare plans offered in our area feature some type of service such as Teladoc or MDLive for members to have remote access to a physician - but there's a one-time medical history set-up before you can utilize the service. Take a few minutes today to create your account while you are well so that you have quick access to care if you become sick.

When and How to Report Suspected Child Abuse

The documents below, prepared by our PSEA Legal Division, are the most current guidance available on reporting obligations of mandated reporters. Periodic review of this information helps us all to make sure we are in compliance with the law and our duty as educators. Please take a few minutes to review the content, and save it in case you or a colleague need it in the future.

Stay Connected

There are multiple ways to stay connected to our organization. If you're not yet a member of our private Facebook group, please consider joining (be sure to answer the question and let us know the name of your local). Our website it also a great place to get information about critical alerts and upcoming events.
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Save Money

We spend a lot of time talking about how much our members earn - and maybe not enough time talking about how those earnings are spent. PSEA Member Benefits can save you and your family money on everything from insurance to hearing aids. Spend some time browsing our website today!

Previous Editions

Did you miss our newsletter last month? Was there something from earlier this school year that you'd like to reread? Look no further!


September 2019

October 2019

November 2019

December 2019

January 2020

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

Mideastern Region PSEA

Bill Senavaitis, President (bsenavaitis@psea.org)

Alan Malachowski, President- Elect (amalachowski@psea.org)

Bill McGill, Vice President (wmcgill@psea.org)

Kathy Hornberger, Treasurer

Susan Brown, Secretary

Theresa Prato, PACE Director

Kevin Deely, NEA Director (kdeely@psea.org)