Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Innovative Principal"

Yesterday's PG included an obituary notice for an "Innovative principal at Dilworth Traditional Academy."

Principal Robert F. O'Keefe, who retired from Dilworth in 2006, is described as "having a band of student drummers signal the start of each school day. He recruited local artists and musicians to supplement regular classroom teaching. He set aside Tuesday afternoons for students to pursue out-of-the-box coursework such as sign language and puppet-making instead of basic curriculum."

The article goes on to observe that Dilworth "became a rare school that erased the gap between black and white students in test performance."

Question: Could a principal take a similar approach in today's Pittsburgh Public Schools?


Emilio Pucci said...

Answer: NO WAY.

Principals like this have been shown the door by Mr.Roosevelt. They have been replaced by PELA principals who are essentially drones that relay what they "learn" at PELA sessions and implement the techniques into their schools. Thinking outside the box? Sorry--follow what you are "taught".

This corporate approach to education has a great many people fooled among the parent base. The shame of it is that innovation leads to success. You can't innovate when you being shaped into a corporate vision of what a principal should be. And as a teacher, you can't innovate when you are given a daily canned curriculum to implement.

It's a sad era in our schools.

No fun in learning allowed said...

These innovations and others continue at Dilworth. However, it's *because* their tests scores are high and have no gap that they're still able to be doing this. They were able to innovate when things weren't run like a prison and have been able to continue because those sorts of programs work.

Schools that want to innovate now to achieve these kinds of results would be told to get with the program. Instead their kids lose recess and do more and more busy paper work while sitting in desks all day. (Did you know that next year there will be no art or music offered at Westinghouse HS?)

It's backwards or maybe a catch-22: raise your scores through our prescribed (unsound) teaching methods of sit and drill (even if this isn't what the elementary curriculum requires, it's what it's boiled down to) and then maybe you'll be rewarded with being able to offer enriching activities that would motivate your student to do more and harder work. But no, you can't institute those interesting and involving practices now, because your scores are too low.

Questioner said...

Reportedly another problem is that principals are being assigned crushing loads of paperwork/ data collection (data that it seems is rarely made public); so that even if they were allowed to innovate they would have little time or energy left to do so.

Emilio Pucci said...

Questioner, you sometimes sound like an apologist. Again, try to imagine this for a moment---
curricula designed for teachers--a DAILY road map which is expected to be adhered to...overseen and largely devised by people NOT in the classroom. (Whether it's the Pittsburgh Institute or Bellefield Ave--the point is that it is Ivory Tower Education, 101).
Daily pacing is beyond problematic--it's just plain outrageous, and this is especially so for mainstream students.
I can imagine that 'old school' principals would object loudly if not laugh altogether at such a method of education. I can imagine what they would have told people like Roosevelt or his Asst.Superintendent in charge of data, or his Assistant in charge of grading policies and curricula.
They've been shown the door.
Westinghouse's inclusion in this discussion is noteworthy and appropriate, for they had a principal who was vocal about the reality of things and who also was recently shown the door.

PPS is now under corporate control, and this is especially so where standardized test scores and public relations are concerned. It's the district's lone way of saying, "See, we are improving."
As is the case with any corporate wonk, it's all about data, data and more data, and as such, your kids are NOT educated adequately but overly instructed toward the test and provided "practice tests" after practice tests.

And you wonder why there is no innovation?

Questioner said...

Gunther, the note about paperwork burdens SUPPORTS your points!

By the principal shown the door at Whouse- do you mean the principal who started in 2008 or an earlier principal?

Anonymous said...

How about this for being innovative? Let's try 1 or 2 high school magnet boarding schools and see if we can't make a difference. One would be all boys and one all girls. We would have them 24/7 and they would go home on holidays only. It would make for an interesting experiment to take students out of their daily environments.

Questioner said...

The idea of experimenting is a concern- we should have a basis for believing that this arrangement would actually be best for the children involved. And, for the same amount of money could we improve the daily environments of these children and more? In any event this type of program is unlikely to be considered because it would take years of planning and then more time to see results, amd we are in a climate that focuses on quick (test) results.

Anonymous said...

The new Principal was a PELA at Frick and Allderdice, He did not even finish the program, his name is Mr. McNeil. The Other PELA that was at Dice he was replacing went to CAPA earlier this semester.

What a program, you do not have to even finish it, to be a wonderful Broad foundation principal

What a Joke

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that Ms.Crenshaw "retired" at Westinghouse, either. I do know that she spoke her mind and that this was quite refreshing in this PELA/Broad era.
Seems only old school teachers can appreciate old school principals. They knew education and what was right for their buildings. Now, we have a great many classroom failures who have decided to get into administration. Great. Just great.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Crenshaw is expecting a baby. She is taking a leave of absence. The new rule is that when you take a leave, you aren't guaranteed your position back. You do get a position though. I'll bet she is glad to not go back to the House. The new principal there will be the present Allderdice Pela fellow. Good luck House staff.

Knows it Can be Better said...

You speak of principals who have been shown the door. Why can't we show the door to certain board members and their boss? My board member was unopposed on election day. Please don't tell me it is because she is so good. The agenda at BoE is self serving and not interested in education. We need to show the door to those who pretend to be concerned about the students while they only help their own little kingdoms.

Anonymous said...

It seems like once anyone is elected to something, due to name recognition they'll be there as long as they want to be (as long as they don't do any crimes)- although Tonya Payne did lose her place on City Council. Maybe 2 year rather than 4 year terms would help prevent entrenchment. With 4 years many decisions are in the distant past by the time the next election rolls around.

The W-house principal posts are a little hard to follow, but if art and music are not planned for next year it would mean the principal did not budget for them. And most schools do manage to keep art and music.

It's not just the principal said...

Their budget has been cut enough (due to low enrollment) that they have a VERY small number of positions total. They have to offer gym due to the state. But otherwise, they're scrambling to have enough teachers to teach 4 years of say, science.