Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Principals Younger and Freer, But Raise Doubts in the Schools"

From today's NYT:


NYT discussion of pros and cons of young principals trained at leadership academies v. those promoted through the ranks. The paper's analysis indicates that in NYC, schools led by graduates of the New York City Leadership Academy for aspiring principals "have not done as well as those led by experienced principals or new principals who came through traditional routes."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Facilities "Community Dialogue" Results Posted

Results can be found at:


The deJong consultants are to be credited for posting the many comments made by respondents, which are very interesting and informative to read.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Take a father to school survey

Mark Rauterkus's blog discusses a survey that was to be given to participants at yesterday's "Take a father to school day." He reports that the survey was pulled at the last minute without explanation. The link to this discussion including a further link to a draft of the survey is at:


"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?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Suspension at Penn Hills

The PG reports a 60 d suspension for a student w/ an eyebrow shaver.


This seems to be getting ridiculous- there are many everyday items in school buildings, such as scissors, that are more dangerous than an eyebrow shaver.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Public Hearing May 2009

PURE Reform's testimony from yesterday's public hearing has been posted.

Go to the announcements tab at http://www.purereform.com/ and on the description of this May 18 event, click "PURE Reform Report."

In addition to the latest installment of Transparency Watch, PURE Reform discussed population and enrollment. 16,000 school age children are expected next year to either drop out or choose a private or charter school rather than a non-charter PPS. Instead of holding meetings to plan for these students opting out, we need to determine what it will take to make them want to stay.

Other issues discussed were progress on reducing diesel emissions and the need for recycling in PPS (incredibly, it appears that PPS is recycling very little other than some paper), education as a civil right and how there are important differences between Pittsburgh and other cities such as Cleveland that facilities consultant deJong has advised.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Homewood children's zone envisioned

From last week's PG:


As PURE Reform noted in last November's public hearing, federal funding for children's zones modedled on the well-know Harlem Children's Zone is expected to be made available for funding in 20 locations.

PPS attempt to make homework relevant

From Friday's PG:


Another committee has been formed, this time to study homework.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Petitions; GASP

GASP indicates that it has nearly 1600 signatures on its petition for action to reduce diesel emissions (see GASP info below).

A note about petitions and why more than signatures are needed- in a short timeframe PURE Reform obtained signatures of 200 city residents requesting not only an inspection of asbestos plaster at four elementary schools but also an opinion on the condition of the asbestos plaster at those schools in comparison to the plaster at the Schenley building. While an inspection is to be done at the elementary schools, the response to the request for the comparison was: "Thank you for your opinion." No explanation was given as to why the district would decline this information.

From GASP:

Last Thursday, we sent you an invitation to testify at the Pittsburgh School Board meeting next Monday, May 18th. Details are below. Although we suggested you call the School Board by today to get on the agenda – you still have until Monday at noon to make that call. Would appreciate being informed if you plan to testify - klawson@cleanwater.org/412.765. 3053x240 or gasp@gasp-pgh.org/(412) 325-7382
We have nearly 1600 signatures of concerned citizens on petitions urging the School Board to reduce exposure of school children to harmful diesel emissions by installing diesel retrofit equipment or purchasing new buses which already have this equipment in place.
It is likely that strong language and incentives will be incorporated into the upcoming 5-year contract between the Pittsburgh School District and the various carriers encouraging them to retrofit their buses. We want to assure that the School Board “does the right thing” and signs off on this contract.
Your testimony will help make that happen. Thank you in advance.

Join GASP and Clean Water Action To Cut School Bus Emissions By 90%
Help Urge the School Board to Protect Children’s Health by Requiring School Bus Retrofits
Diesel emissions have been linked to respiratory ailments, heart attacks and cancer. They are most dangerous to kids because their bodies are still developing. There is an available technology, a diesel retrofit, which can reduce emissions by 90%. Because of your support in the past, two major school bus contractors have taken major steps to retrofit their buses. Help us encourage the School Board to require the same for all the yellow buses in the district.

Public Testimony:
Monday, May 18th
7:00 p.m.
School Board Meeting
Conference Room A
341 South Bellefield Street
Pittsburgh, PA

To testify, you must be a City of Pittsburgh or Mount Oliver resident. Please call the School Board @ 412-622-3600 on Friday May 15th to get on the agenda. Please RSVP to GASP or Clean Water Action if you are going to testify.
klawson@cleanwater.org/412.765. 3053x240 or gasp@gasp-pgh.org/(412) 325-7382

Kathy Lawson
Policy Associate
412.765.3053 X240
Clean Water Action - Pittsburgh
100 Fifth Avenue-Suite 1108
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Facilities Study commentary

PURE Reform's commentary on the PPS Facilities Study has now been posted as a Featured Topic on the www.purereform.com website (in draft form so as to make comments availabe before tomorrow's "community dialogue" ). Go to the Featured Topic tab of www.purereform.com and select Facilities Study Commentary.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Audit, PPS HS sports opportunities for girls

On the May "Start a new post," an Anonymous parent wrote:

There is an editorial in today's P-G, "The other Pittsburgh Promise," regarding girls and high school sports. This independent "audit" is a sham. When PPS looks in the mirror this summer, the mirror will crack. This is nothing but more smoke and mirrors.

the parent of a female athlete

- Here is the link to the article:

It says that the auditor is independent and is the athletic director at a HS in Central PA. Anon parent, can you explain why you don't expect a fair evaluation?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"Measurable performance goals"

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

Recently, the PG endorsed Patrick Dowd, stating "He would start with a top-down reform of city practices, replacing managers who aren't doing the right things and imposing clear, measurable goals for future performance. As a model, he points to the contract the school board devised for Superintendent Mark Roosevelt while Mr. Dowd was a member of that body."

The following is the list of performance priorities from the Superintendent's 2005 contract:


A. Year One. The priorities for the first year effective August 29, 2005 are the following:

1. Present to the Board within 6 months, after community input, a comprehensive reform agenda, the primary focus of which is creation and implementation of a plan for improving student achievement across the District, including a plan for significant progress towards closing the achievement gaps.

Measurable, but not met. As of today, we are still waiting for a comprehensive reform agenda.

2. Improved stakeholder engagement with the Pittsburgh School District community.

Does not seem to me that this goal has been stated in a way that can be measured.

3. Financial and managerial leadership, including a balanced budget for 2006.

Anyone know if he submitted a balanced budget for 2006. This is certainly a measurable goal, just not sure if it was met.

4. Demonstrating leadership in evaluations and making staff accountable for meeting District priorities, including strengthening the District’s recruitment, training, and development of effective principals.

I suppose that this is one that he has addressed through the creation of the PELA program (although this program is being funded by and I believe portions of these principals salaries are provided by the Broad Foundation).

5. Development of an educationally sound plan for reorganization and closing of schools, including community involvement.

Is this measurable? Has there been an meaningful community involvement?I suppose that these goals are a step up from having no goals at all, but I believe that they could have been stated with more clear methods for evaluation.
May 10, 2009 11:14 AM

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Report on the April EFA meeting

PURE Reform's report on the April 28, 2009 EFA meeting has now been posted. Go to purereform.com's Announcements tab and click on "PURE Reform Report" for this date.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gene Kelly nominations

Congratulations to Schenley w/ the most nominations of any PPS (despite having to use a borrowed auditorium and as another article noted "looking longingly back at light and sound equipment ensconced in the Schenley building"). Congratulations also to CAPA which received the next most nominations for a PPS.


Does anyone have a sense for the 9-12 enrollment necessary to stage high quality performances of this kind?

Superintendent's goals

On the post started in November 2008 on this topic, Anonymous recently wrote:

He gets a Huge Raise every summer - how can he meet the goals, if he keeps his goals secret. (Typical politician) He has had a 15,000 dollar raise for every year he has been here. In a district that has financial problems. In this economy! All he does is throw out Propangada. All Roosevelt and his numerous newly hired cronies do is manipulate the media. Marky Mark makes sure the promise is constantly in the media. It is the only thing he can hang his hat on. He also keeps the administration growing at the Ivory tower and keeps reducing the number of teachers in our schools. Please research the Broad Foundation, they are not for the Children of Pittsburgh.Sorry for venting.
Frustrated Parent and Teacher
May 6, 2009 4:41 PM (typos corrected for re-posting)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Port Authority to overhaul transit service

From today's PG:


"[T]he Port Authority's first major overhaul of transit service in more than 30 years includes fewer stops, simpler routes and schedules, faster buses.... For now, the consultant's preferred concepts, called Better Radial and Better Radial Plus, would continue to focus on providing most riders with direct service to Downtown and Oakland."

Changes in transit service should absolutely be a factor in the current facilities planning process, particularly at the high school level.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Local education group seeks accountability from parents

From yesterday's PG:


The "Parental Accountability Initiative in Public Education" would mandate parental involvement in public education, including "participating in conferences about their child, ensuring the child has completed assignments, and helping children develop study skills at home."

PPS summer reading list light on classics

From today's PG:


Broad Foundation influence

From the March post on this topic, Anonymous wrote:

Broad Administratos are destroying Christina School District in Wilmington Delaware!

Posted by Anonymous to PURE Reform at May 2, 2009 11:51 PM

Saturday, May 2, 2009

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