New year, new opportunities
The start of each new school year brings new opportunities for us to connect, thrive and shape the lives of the learners we serve. As we grow our capacity at the Department, I am excited to share the new faces and partnerships that will help us serve you and the more than 547,000 PK-12 students across the state who will enter our buildings this fall.
I am thrilled to introduce our new division administrator of learning and results, Dr. Kim Buryanek. Kim is an innovative education leader with more than 20 years of teaching, leading and policy experience, most recently as associate superintendent with the Sioux City Community School District. As division administrator, she will oversee federal and state programs related to K-12 education and lead a team of education experts serving school districts, nonpublic schools and area education agencies across the state. Kim started her new role on July 1 and she is working closely with other state agencies and education stakeholder groups to ensure programs and services are meeting the needs of students, families, schools and communities. You can reach Kim at email@example.com.
Mental health support to schools continues to be a top priority and we are so excited that registration is now open for the 2022 Iowa BEST Summit. This is the second year that we are co-hosting the event with the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health, which is set for Oct. 10-11 at the Iowa Events Center. Last year, more than 1,000 teachers, administrators, school mental health professionals, researchers and other partners joined in this two-day conference on best practices in school-based social-emotional-behavioral health. We hope you join us again this year to learn the latest trends and innovative strategies, network with other professionals and reinforce your valuable work.
Additionally, we are proud to partner with the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services to offer an opportunity for school districts to apply for funding that will support up to 12 days of social-emotional-behavioral professional development training for school staff. The funding comes from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and schools can apply for awards up to $100,000. There is still time to apply before the Aug.12 deadline.
Iowa e-Learning Central is another priority that addresses two statewide needs vital to the success of our students, educators and families. The first is the need for accessible, evidence-based supports and resources not only for students to be successful in their studies (whether that’s in-person or online), but for educators and families to support their students in their learning. The second identified need is access to high-quality content, regardless of a student’s location in the state. This summer Department staff invited more than 300 educators and technology support staff from across the state for training and support to develop new course content for Iowa e-Learning Central. These new developers are focusing on elementary units (K-5) in Foundational Reading Skills, English Language Arts, Science and Social Studies. We are so excited about this work and will share more information as soon as this new content is available.
We have also been working closely with our partners at the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) and Iowa Department of Public Safety on the school safety initiatives that Governor Reynolds announced last month. District superintendents and nonpublic school administrators have access to a survey in the Consolidated Accountability and Support Application (CASA) to signal interest in a vulnerability assessment for their school buildings. These assessments are being provided by HSEM at no cost. As of last week, a total of 301 school districts and state and independently accredited nonpublic schools have requested a vulnerability assessment.
A vulnerability assessment must be completed in order to be eligible for the school safety improvement grant funds. However, it is not required that the vulnerability assessment be conducted by HSEM's vendor. The option to use a previously conducted assessment and/or use a vendor of the district's/school's own choosing is now reflected in the updated vulnerability assessment survey in CASA. As such, we ask that you take a moment to update your survey responses.
Watch for more information from me prior to the start of school for updates regarding the CASA surveys, including how to request other services such as radios, and how to apply for school safety improvement funds to implement recommended safety measures identified through these vulnerability assessments.
I am excited for the new year and working with all of you as we support Iowa’s learners throughout the state. Thank you for dedicating your talent and efforts to build a promising future for Iowa families. I look forward to the work ahead.