Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency

Sarah Pearce Leaves Homeschool Position at PDE

from Howard Richman

[This article first appeared in Issue 83 (Summer 2003) of the PA Homeschoolers newsletter.]

Again and again over the past five years the same scenario has played out again and again: a distraught homeschooler calls us because her district is making up their own version of the homeschool law, Susan or I suggest that the homeschooler call Sarah Pearce at the School Services Unit of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Then Sarah Pearce would call the school district and the problem would be solved.

Sarah was a totally competent administrator who took her job seriously and did it well. She developed the home education webpages on the PDE website (to find this website go to and click on “PA Dept of Ed”) making it easier for homeschoolers to find the information that they needed, and she developed a homeschool packet that she sent out when new homeschoolers called to find out how to get started.

I first met Sarah when she was the legislative liaison, one of the most powerful figures in the PDE during the Casey administration. She stepped in as the Casey administration's chief negotiator during the last few months just before the 1988 homeschool law's passage, and negotiated provisions such as the one which prevents convicted child abusers from homeschooling within 5 years of their conviction. When Republican Governor Ridge won his election, Sarah was one of the many political appointees to lose their jobs. Having two adopted children to support, she was able to obtain an administrative position at the bottom of the same Department of Education that she had helped to lead.

The first three years of the Ridge administration was a time of problems in the homeschool liaison office. The person who was then handling homeschool phone calls had a hands-off attitude and was reluctant to inform school districts of their limitations. It was a time of increasing friction between homeschoolers and school districts. Susan and I were relieved when Sarah was offered the homeschool liaison position and our hope that she would prove to be a tough and able administrator was fulfilled.

Susan or I would visit with her periodically in her little cubicle among the other administrators at the Department of Education. The last time was just after the election of Democratic Governor Rendell. I asked if she would be taking a political job now that it was again a Democratic administration. “No,” she replied. She had her family to consider. However, just three months into Governor Rendell's term, I learned that she had again taken the leap to a political job that has no job security.

Sarah is now Director of Governor Rendell's Office of Government Relations working closely with Secretary of Education Vicki Phillips, and with a big private office of her own. As long as Democrats control the Governor's office, they will rely upon Sarah's competence to help them steer an effective course.

In the meantime, there are still helpful people who will be handling homeschooling issues in the School Services Unit at the PDE who would be reached if you call 717-787-4860:

Although we will miss Sarah Pearce's helpfulness, it is likely that the School Services Unit will continue to play a positive role in solving the inevitable frictions that will occur between homeschoolers and school districts. When I just interviewed Sarah a few weeks ago she told me, “I hope to maintain a good and close relationship with homeschoolers. I have really enjoyed this work.”

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