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Wolf’s Cabinet Visits Area

September 28, 2018
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Wolf’s Cabinet Visits Area

EXETER — The first question for state Secretary of Transportation Leslie S. Richards at Thursday’s “Cabinet in the Community” event was about that most pernicious and frustrating problem for governments: potholes. “Potholes are a serious problem,” she said. “There are a lot of challenges here in Pennsylvania. It’s the aging of our infrastructure system and it’s the tough winters we have. Let me remind you that the last winter we had was one of the roughest in one of the last 30 to 40 years. We normally get about 15,000 calls to our pothole line. And this year we had double that. So it was a very, very tough year.” Then she shared some good news, and invited audience members to report potholes at 1-800-FIX-ROAD or online at www.dot.state.pa.us. “The Wolf administration has one of the most aggressive pothole campaigns going on right now in the history of PennDOT. We have ‘Resurface PA,’ where we are investing more than $150 million, more than ever before on just going around and sealing the cracks and the potholes. We want to get ready and as prepared as we can for this winter.” Richards joined state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, state Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith and acting state Police Commissioner Lt. Col. Robert Evanchik on stage at the Wyoming Area Secondary Center on Thursday. The event brought Cabinet-level members of the state government to town to discuss what they do and the issues they are facing. The audience included students and community members. Some of their questions and the answers were: • Do you support state police troopers wearing body cameras? Yes, said Evanchick, and the agency is currently undertaking a pilot program in three different areas across the state. “We’re trying to see how our policy will develop based on the results of the pilot program,” he said. • A question about young Pennsylvanians turning to substance abuse because of fear and anxiety: The Department of Education and the Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs are working together to integrate services for mental health and substance abuse disorder in school health curriculums, said Smith. There are already many mandates school districts must meet, so the final look of that program is complicated. “We’re trying to do it in a very thoughtful way and in a way that integrates the need for understanding good mental health practices throughout many parts of the curriculum, so that it’s not just a set core of ‘OK, for the next two weeks we’re just going to talk about mental health,’ and instead kind of integrates it,” Smith said. • A sixth-grade student asked Rivera what the state was doing to keep music classes. More basic education funding will help keep those programs, he said. “That’s the money that schools and superintendents and principals can use specifically to choose what programs they want in their schools and in their school districts and communities,” Rivera said. He also pointed to efforts to allow smaller school districts to use some of the resources of larger districts. • On accountability for state police: “We have an aggressive internal affairs department,” said Evanchick, but it begins with reporting from citizens with complaints. “We interview the person, we investigative it to the fullest and we take appropriate action,” whether that be disciplinary or criminal, he said. The body cameras Evanchick mentioned in response to an earlier question came up again here. “That also puts the troopers and the police officers on notice. Their actions are being recorded. I think that’s a useful tool to deal with some use of force issues,” he said. • On standardized testing: “I support standardized tests as a formative tool. I do not support standardized tests the way we have used them,” Rivera said. Using the scores to let teachers understand students’ abilities is a good way to use them, he said. But using them to rank teachers, education systems and schools leads to an outsize focus on teaching to the test. “We still have to work with the General Assembly assembly to reduce the reliance on standardized tests around educator performance,” he said. Contact the writer: bwellock@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2051, @CVBillW

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