Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lack of in-house legal counsel

On the June "Start a new post," Anonymous wrote:

Regarding the process of replacing the outgoing school board member, there is the question as to whether the school board president was advised by the district's legal counsel and if, in fact, she was advised correctly.

This situation brings up another situation that should be addressed, the fact that the PPS, the 2nd largest district in the state, does not have its own in house legal counsel. Every time the present legal consultant answers a phone call regarding the district, the PPS is billed at an exceedingly high rate. The amount that the district is paying to an outside lawyer is fiscally irresponsible. In fact, two full time lawyers, along with benefits, could be hired for the cost that the district is paying in the present situation.

In a time when schools are being closed and teachers are losing their jobs, every cost-cutting measure must be examined. And perhaps there will be a less politicized approach to the legal opinions as well!

Friday, June 26, 2009

School board member resigns

From the PG, Heather Arnet District 2 has resigned.

The article indicates that per the Board president the mayor appoints a replacement- but PURE's research indicates that mayoral appointments may only apply for resignations closer to the next municipal election.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Board Watch report card 2

On the June "Start a new post" amymoore wrote:

Just read A+ School's Board Watch report card. My first reaction is, how can you go down in two areas and only improve in one but have your overall score improve? I think a C+ in conduct from our leaders is disgraceful!

Posted by amymoore to PURE Reform at June 25, 2009 2:47 PM

- The link to the report card is: .

Changes in principal staffing

On the June "Start a new post" Amy Moore wrote:

Is Randall Taylor right? If Randall is right, this is one of the few times that the board has listened to parent complaints. In this morning's PG among the other changes listed, Ms Berdnik is being transferred from Linden to Woolslair. Mr. Taylor complained that it was orchestrated by a handful of parents critical of Ms. Berdnik. Although I am no longer closely associated with Linden, I have heard more than a few complaints from the parents that I still know there.
June 25, 2009 9:21 AM

Another Principal has bailed out. It will be interesting to hear the story behind this story. Did Mr. Lentz actively seek a new job even before his new Sci-tech school opens or was he recruited by Fox Chapel because of his outstanding credentials? Is Mr. Scherrer's transfer a demotion because of the recent events at Allderdice or is heading up one of Mr. Roosevelt's pet schools a promotion? and how will the parents at 'Dice accept Ms. Friez? Lots of changes
June 25, 2009 9:30 AM

Here is the link to the PG article that the above posts are discussing:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"No longer letting scores separate pupils"

From today's NYT- pros and cons:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Retaining students in PPS

On the June "Start a new post" anonymous wrote:

At a party this weekend I met someone who had moved their family to the suburbs due to PPS. The parents had called the principal at their feeder 6-8 school and explained that they were considering the school but would like to meet with someone at the school for more information. The principal informed them that there would be an open house the next May and that after that they could call in with any questions. The response was not particularly welcoming and they didn't wait around for the open house. Should PPS be doing more to retain families at transition grades?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Facilities update

An update to the Featured Topic on the facilities study has now been posted. The update discusses results of the May community dialogue.

The facilities steering committee will hold its final meeting today, and the facilities consultant is scheduled to make a presentation to the Board on June 22 (see PURE's announcements tab). It appears that no building specifics will be provided until that time, and even then only high schools will be addressed. This schedule would allow only limited opportunity for public comment on and discussion of a specific plan.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

CTE focus group

On the June "Start a new post," Kathy Fine wrote:

Two weeks ago I attended a focus group related to Career and Technology education in the PPS. What I thought would be a forum to flush out the best way to administer CTE (eg one centralized school versus programs in schools throughout the city) turned out to be something quite different. The focus group was run by a marketing firm that has been hired by the city. The survey consisted of 2 questions (I am paraphrasing because I neglected to write the questions down!):

1) What challenges facing struggling students in the PPS could CTE help in addressing?

2) What challenges does the PPS face in communicating the importance of CTE to the public?

We all flipped through pages of random images and selected 5 that we thought best answered the question. I commented that I thought that the second question was somewhat rhetorical as we all know that CTE is essential in any school system as different students have different career goals.After leaving the focus group it occurred to me that possibly the administration is looking for ways to sell the public on CTE because it is planning to spend a lot of money on it and it needs to justify that expenditure after saying that it cannot afford to renovate Schenley. Just a guess...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Positive reinforcement as a means to address disciplinary issues

From today's PG, an elementary school reports success in using positive reinforcement as a means to address disciplinary issues:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

City schools lack comprehensive recycling program

From this week's City Paper:

Significance of a rise in NYC test scores debated

From last week's NYT:

The article reports that 82% of NYC students in grades 3-8 passed the NY state math test, up from 74% the previous year and 57% the year before that, and that similar gains in English tests were posted recently.

NYC's mayor is citing the gains as evidence of the benefits of mayoral control of icty schools. Others, however, take the position that the tests had become too predictable, and that gains are "mostly about educators getting used to the exams." A graph of passing rates since 1998 show a dip in scores the year a new test was introduced. Commentators also note that other New York cities showed similar gains in achievement, and that scores of city students improved by an average of 8 points compared to 6 points statewide. Are there significant improvements statewide, or is the test getting easier or more familiar or just being taken more seriously?

It may be difficult to determine based on state tests the extent of gains in achievement. SAT scores may prove to be a better measure of whether real progress has been attained.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Experimenting w/ high pay for top teachers

From today's NYT, an article about a new charter school in New York testing out the concept of high pay ($125k plus a possible bonus up to $25k) to attract top teachers:

The article notes that the premise of the school is that "excellent teachers- and not revolutionary technology, talented principals or small class size- are the crucial ingredients for success." It describes the teachers who were selected after a nationwide search to start at the school.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Turnover at ALA's

Article from today's PG reporting that per the district, high turnover at the ALA's was expected.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

PA Senate Education Committee rejects graduation exams

From today's PG:

The committee complained that the administration agreed to a costly contract for exams without sufficient input from legislators.

Monday, June 1, 2009

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"New push" to end need for college students to take remedial classes

From last week's NY Times:

New program to mentor 6th graders

From today's PG, describing a new program to operate through the United Way:

This program can be a good opportunity for students and mentors alike, although more details such as whether mentors can continue to work with their student beyond 6th grade are needed. Parents have long recommended a mentoring program, but it is not clear what type of input was obtained in the planning process.