Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Townhall meeting coverage by PG

From the PG, coverage of Randall Taylor and Mark Brentley's townhall meeting:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09328/1015846-53.stm

11 comments:

Annette Werner said...

It is good to see the concerns of these two board members being given some ink. I would note, though, that after board members and panelists expressed concerns, members of the public raised a variety of issues. Often the later portions of meetings get less coverage since reporters need to make deadlines. I counted more than 80 people at the meeting at one point or another (some arrived late). Concerns included a grandparent complaining about Milliones, including that students were receiving printouts rather than books. Several speakers expressed concern that the district could handle a Peabody/Westinghouse merger in a way that would prevent violence. A parent who had moved to Shadyside so that her children could attend the IS program at Liberty pointed out the lack of a clear path as to where they would ultimately go to school. Others raised issues with CEP, the Reizenstein building and treatment of Schenley students. An adorable little boy objected to losing his uncertified but native speaking French teacher at Fulton (apparently she is being bumped for a new graduate).

My main observation was, if you attend both a board meeting and the townhall meeting it is hard to believe the same district is being discussed. The board meeting conveys the impression that everything is great or on its way to becoming great. The townhall meeting conveys widespread criticism and a deep sense of distrust.

Annette Werner said...

At the same time, individual PPS staff members do manage to build some confidence. For example, deputy superintendent Linda Lane was noted for listening to and addressing concerns, and even at this meeting was called upon in the audience to speak with parents who had described problems.

another observer said...

I found that attending PPS public hearings was an excellent way to get a snapshot of the district as a whole. We tend to think that our own school community is the only one to have an issue, then we find that others share the same concerns. Great way to meet and network.

dazed said...

Annette, thank you as always for providing information. Shouldn't someone ask why the uncertified teacher did not persue certification? Relaxing the rules on everything seems to be coming faster than some of us would like, particularly those of us who only know education from the outside in. Isn't one of the issues under NAACP focus unqualified teachers in too many classrooms? If certification is not a prerequisite to becoming qualified and highly effective what is?

amymoore said...

I don't know that the uncertified teacher has not/is not pursuing certification. I think the mother said that she is recently from Haiti. Not sure what the current certification requirements are, but it might take several college courses to become certified in PA if she got her degree in another state. I think it is possible to get emergency temporary certification, especially in certain high-need subjects but the board would have to approve.

Annette Werner said...

Yes, we noticed that same paradox. If we stick with a strict certification requirement we can be sure that some kind of standard is met, but we may lose wonderful non-certified teachers. In this instance, maybe the teacher is new to Pennsylvania and has not yet acquired certification, or maybe obtaining certification would require the teacher to forego employment and the teacher cannot afford that. So a good look at how well certification correlates to effective teaching and whether exceptions should be codified would be very welcome. Also perhaps there could be provisions that would prevent the district, once it has taken an uncertified but high performing teacher, from bumping that teacher in mid year- since we also hear a lot about the importance of stability and continuity for students.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet it pained the PG's resident spokesman for Roosevelt Joe Smydo to write something negative about current PPS leadership. He was probably over in a washroom puking as he submitted it.
On a separate note, I agree that Linda Lane is the ONLY upper administration type who knows anything about the education process and remembers that the main idea is to help kids achieve.
She'd make a good superintendent once the head honcho exits for sunnier locales. Perhaps her first order of business would be to clean house and rid the district of individuals who enact policy yet have no clue about what education is all about.

Anonymous said...

I don't have much sympathy for teachers that don't pursue certification. In what other profession does that hold?

Now, is an uncertified teacher better than no teacher or a sub that can't teach the subject? Probably! But I've also had a kid in a room with a native speaker of a language...who had no teaching skills. That was a lost year, regardless of the teacher's language abilities.

There is definitely a difference between a proven teacher who is working toward certification and a new, uncertified teacher. It's like the chances of a walk-on ending up as starting quarterback.

Usually those sorts of situations come up through the wacky mid-year retirements and the like.

Anonymous said...

I really don't think Joe Smydo has a particular interest in making the administration look good. In the latest article he went beyond what he had to do in explaining the viewpoints of the two dissenting board members.

amymoore said...

There is a real need for good world language teachers in this city. There has been a terrible retention problem at Frick (now IB); I think only the Japanese teacher has been there more than 3 or 4 years. When our current seniors were in 7th grade, the German teacher left in January and they had subs for the remainder of the year. It is rather difficult to learn a language without a teacher, especially since they don't usually use books. We don't know why this particular teacher is not certified or even if she is trained or experienced as a teacher but not certified in this state.

Anonymous said...

And yet Amy, one of the points of intrigue for this administration is the distance learning approach which was reviewed in Denver a few years back. A great way to save money and get rid of teachers. Just have the kids respond to interactive TV.
Just a matter of time. Teachers? Who needs them in the classroom?