Pa. education secretary visits Juniata

Rivera welcomes staff back for another year during visit to school

MIFFLINTOWN — By participating in a School Improvement pilot program, Juniata County School District has helped shape some practices throughout the commonwealth in terms of meeting student needs in rural communities, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera told school staff Tuesday.

Rivera welcomed administrators, faculty and staff to the new school year with a speech at Juniata High School auditorium. The speech was held during a teacher inservice day.

“You’ve really challenged us with your involvement in the school improvement pilot — over the course of the past year — to think differently about how diverse, geographically and socioeconomically, in terms of students needs we continue to be in the Commonwealth,” Rivera said. “It has allowed us to think more deeply about the needs of kids, specifically about the needs of rural students and rural families.”

Juniata County was one of three Pennsylvania school districts — along with districts in Pittsburgh and Allentown — to participate in the program, which is part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to help schools and improve education across the state.

“I know (Juniata County School District) Superintendent Keith Yarger and I have had a number of amazing conversations about the work you have been doing leading up to the new school year and your plans moving forward from this school year and beyond,” the Pennsylvania secretary of education said.

Rivera noted that feedback from teachers has helped inform the practices in the Pennsylvania Department of Education, as well as the governor regarding how to change the system of accountability for school districts.

The secretary also offered some words of encouragement going leading into the new school year regarding the district’s elementary school consolidation and programs the district recently implemented.

“You have invested in a significant consolidation plan of your elementary schools. I know that could not have been easy because we get pretty married to our locations as teachers,” Rivera said. “You’ve been consolidating services to really be able to maximize opportunities and experiences for kids … if you can bring more resources together, not only do you become better educators because you have a better network to engage in, students have more resources at their disposal. You can build stronger, more cohesive teams. You can take advantage of extra curricular activities…”

Rivera also boasted the school’s breakfast in the classroom program, which makes breakfast available to students.

“As a teacher…I knew the kids walking into my class wouldn’t grab a breakfast on their way in…and we know that if students are hungry they can’t learn.”