During the summer of 2020, I was told by numerous people that the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the Commonwealth’s teachers’ union, had absolutely no influence over the decision whether to open schools in Bucks County.
Two years later and after several thousand emails obtained via the Right to Know requests, I have learned that was a lie. I have also realized that the people who kept schools closed were either scared of Covid or scared of the PSEA.
It turns out, the teachers’ union in Bucks County was just as involved in dictating school reopening policies as the national teachers’ union was with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Keep in mind that Bucks County had more kids attend in-person education than surrounding counties, thanks to our health director and the parents and school board directors who fought to make it happen.
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Central Bucks School District is the largest suburban school district in Pennsylvania. Up until July 17, 2020, former superintendent Dr. John Kopicki told parents school would open for a full five days per week. Then, without board approval, he reversed course and made the unilateral decision to switch the entire district of 18,000 students to “hybrid” education.
In announcing his decision, Dr. Kopicki lied to parents about what the state guidelines actually were. Then he had district employees incorrectly measure desks from edge to edge rather than from center to center like they were supposed to. By measuring incorrectly, he claimed there wasn’t enough space to open schools, when, in fact, there was. His actions resulted in kids only attending school in person two days per week. Secondary students weren’t even allowed to eat lunch in school.
Dr. Kopicki was enabled to keep kids out of school by the shameful actions of PSEA Mideastern Regional President Bill Senavaitis. Instead of preparing his classrooms for the upcoming school year, Mr. Senavaitis went on an unprecedented assault against Bucks County Health Director Dr. David Damsker, the board-certified public health doctor who gave parents hope that children could have a relatively normal school year.
First, Mr. Senavaitis pressured the Bucks County Commissioners to change Dr. Damsker’s guidance, using personal attacks so repugnant that Commissioner Bob Harvie chided him for it. Then he wrote opinion articles bashing Dr. Damsker for allowing schools to use three-foot distancing instead of six-foot, one of many disease prevention strategies the CDC would eventually admit they got wrong and Dr. Damsker got right.
In Aug. 2020, Mr. Senavaitis got the PSEA president to send a letter to the Bucks County Commissioners, once again pressuring them to change Dr. Damsker’s guidance so kids could be kept out of school. Dr. Damsker never changed his guidance, but Mr. Senavaitis’ attacks unfortunately enabled Dr. Kopicki to keep Central Bucks schools closed.
It turns out, the teachers’ union in Bucks County was just as involved in dictating school reopening policies as the national teachers’ union was with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
After calling parents “jerks” in his PSEA newsletter, Bill Senavaitis left his position as President of the PSEA Mideastern Region. Now the PSEA is looking to promote him again so he can be in the same position when the next crisis occurs. Is this the type of leadership the PSEA wants representing their organization? Is this the type of organization politicians want endorsing them?
Two years later, we now know Dr. Damsker was correct about learning loss, distancing, and treating Covid like the flu. Bill Senavaitis was wrong about everything concerning Covid. His article, “David Damsker’s remarks about 3-foot social distancing in schools are harmful,” is a personal and professional humiliation for Dr. Damsker, who simply wanted to stop the damage our teachers’ union inflicted on our children with draconian Covid policies. Parents need to ask why Senavaitis is back in a leadership role in the PSEA.
Under Mr. Senavaitis’ leadership, the PSEA advocated for thousands of children to be unnecessarily kept from school. That speaks volumes about the PSEA and should make every citizen and especially parents wonder what type of organization is influencing our district administrators, our school board, and our kids.
Some teachers are fed up with the union’s actions, which is why more than 1,300 teachers resigned their PSEA membership in the 2020–21 school year alone.
Now, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has reported that twenty years of educational growth has been wiped out by the last two years of learning loss. This predictable outcome lays at the feet of men like Dr. Kopicki and Mr. Senavaitis.
Any other Pennsylvania teacher who wants to stop paying union dues that support PSEA and its corrupt leadership can do so at optouttoday.com.
All the emails and documents that inform my opinions can be found at parentshavetherighttoknow.com.
Jamie Walker is a Central Bucks School District mom of three and a former teacher.