Sunday, October 17, 2010

Skill set for school board

Given that the PPS budget is now half a billion dollars a year- could the board perhaps benefit from a few members with some additional skills? For example- wouldn't the district benefit from an accountant, construction manager, or ethicist on the board?


Questioner said...

There isn't anything wrong with any honest work as a background for the board, but there may be holes missing in governance of an entity of this size and complexity.

Other useful backgrounds: statistician, former (successful) principal, or former (successful) CEO of a company of comparable size.

Anonymous said...

Why was my cosmetology original post deleted? That was fast.

Anonymous said...

Wow 2 deletes now. What am I doing that is deletable?

Questioner said...

Sorry, but there is a history of commentators to this blog disparaging certain occupations. Given the importance of CTE a cosmetologist could add real value.

Questioner said...

There are so many backgrounds and skills that could be useful that more turnover on the board- say after a term or two- could also help.

Anonymous said...

I was not slamming the degree, just the degree of power she has within the proportion of a half a billion dollars.

I thought the lack of skill set was the issue. It is the title of the post.

Questioner said...

So your view would be that the board president should have greater qualifications? It's a valid argument.

Anonymous said...


Half a billion for 27,000 kids. That is insane, we all know the money is going to "teacher training", PELA, layers of administration and very little to the kids.

Our board/broad of education is a joke. I don't care if someone has a certain or any degree. I was commenting on the original post regarding more skills may be needed. I stand behind my comments that were deleted.

I would love to see thought provoking people on the board from all walks of life that can see through all the BS and not just fall in line.

I would vote for anyone that has a higher EQ than IQ in this position.

Would you hand your life savings over to this board? I wouldn't.

I find the free pass to Roosevelt mind boggling.

Questioner said...

Here's the original post, now that we have more context:

"Apparently a cosmetology degree is all one needs to be a board president with a half Billion dollar budget.

She is over her head, she will never admit it."

- The board president does also run a small business. The qualifications necessary to be board president is a fair topic for debate though.

Anonymous said...

Given that the PPS budget is now half a billion dollars a year-THIS IS THE SAME BUDGET FOR PPS UNDER THOMPSON AND OTHER Board members.


Is inflation a huge factor?

I will take a contrary approach-

Can you imagine all the Programs that are funded by outside sources-thrown into the mix?

Anonymous said...

Brentley's Great Skill--

This famed computer work as Mr. Brentley elaborates at Board Meetings is the whys the consultants are paid for work at their homes or on another job.

Example Dr Bevan from her location answering emails and phone calls-cost the Board etc. huge change- Go back to the taped meetings for the past year and he argues this question.

That is the reason I investigated-Dr Bevan and her talent for a quarter of a million salary.

AS a wholw th Board is an issue as a voting block.

Majority of Board members-folows the happy trail of the majority-no voices for the City-just their individual represented community and families.

Paymaster said...

PAY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS! I suggested this years ago at a community meeting during the formation of A+ Schools. The sour, shocked and offended reaction that I got from the foundation poobah who was chairing the meeting was classic. Real "noblese oblige" stuff. It would be nice I guess if all school board members could be independently wealthy education experts who are just serving the district out of the goodness of their hearts, but that ain't the real world sister. Reasonable remuneration for a very difficult and important job might actually help to attract a wider range of qualified candidates. What a radical concept!

Questioner said...

Nutritionist, nurse, social worker, child psychologist- there are so many backgrounds the PPS could benefit from, if there was greater turnover.

Questioner said...

Librarian, published writer, retired college admissions officer...

If we were designing a system from scratch, with the interest of students foremost, wouldn't we want to benefit from this type of range of experience on the school board?

Anonymous said...

I agree it should be a paid position. They also need to have more effective, less lengthy, and less frequent meetings. Many districts break up into smaller committees and meet during breakfast or lunch to keep the amount of time reasonable. Having a student board member is also a very effective tool.

I don't feel like Theresa Colazzi represents how I feel, I am also certain she doesn't care. There is no community involvement, town hall meetings or even a feeling that this board and current administration is even a part of the community.

If things stay the same, nobody in their right mind will run for school board!

Questioner said...

If the Board were more efficient it might be possible to have more parents of current students serving. Right now just 2 of the 9 have a child in PPS. Committees organized by Board members, rather than the administration, would be another good way to increase parent involvement.

Mark Rauterkus said...

It would be GREAT if the members of the board would really make calls back to citizens and really engage in an off-line discussions on things that matter to those citizens.

Engagement of parents is critical to the success of a school, so they say. Likewise for government and elected boards.

Anonymous said...

Questioner enjoys censorship, it would appear. She would rather simply ignore the fact that a hairdresser and homemaker are on the board than come to grips with the simple fact that these types of individuals are not qualified to be dealing with half billion dollar budgets, with curriculum issues that affect the achievement of children.
No, it's better to have the appearance of being "proper" than it is to question someone's background.

solutionsRus said...

Anon 7:25

Your comments are unfair and totally out of line. Commenting on someone's line of work in a condescending manner only manages to cheapen the conversation and give dissenters and this blog less credibility. If you want to comment on Ms. Colaizzi's inadequate governance you can do it without disparaging her occupation. If you want to insult her, go to the public Board meeting and do it to her face (although I don't condone that either!) and stop hiding behind anonymity on a blog.

I say, bravo, Questioner! Keep the conversation constructive and civil.

Anonymous said...

solutions, you are disparaging the individual while the other person is questioning the occupation as a precursor to such a huge responsibility. Then you make mention of the anonymity of the person disparaging the position, while you, the person disparaging the individual, are also anonymous.

Am I just missing something here?

The first commentary essentially states that perhaps there needs to be some evidence of experience to be on a school board. Your commentary targets the individual on the school board.

Your logic escapes me.

Questioner said...

As Solutions points out, the problem is "the condescending manner." For starters, references to someone as "a hairdresser" or "a homemaker" reduces the individual to no more than his/her occupation and also implies that a person with these particular occupations would have nothing to offer the school board.

solutionsRus said...

"you are disparaging the individual while the other person is questioning the occupation as a precursor to such a huge responsibility."

I am not disparaging the individual, I am disputing the validity of his/her comment. Plus how can I disparage an anonymous entity? It's not the same thing as looking down on someone's occupation as evidence that he/she is not qualified and referring to that person by name in a public forum.

Maybe we should have a list of acceptable occupations for election to public office. How about we exclude all persons without a secondary degree to the city, state or federal office as well. After all, the state and federal budgets are much bigger than the district's.

"The first commentary essentially states that perhaps there needs to be some evidence of experience to be on a school board. Your commentary targets the individual on the school board."

This is not really the spirit or letter of the blog posted. Here is the original commentary:

"Apparently a cosmetology degree is all one needs to be a board president with a half Billion dollar budget.

She is over her head, she will never admit it."

Having a discussion about one's views regarding school board qualifications is one thing. The above post is another thing altogether. Not going to go on and on with this thread. Much more civil discourse is needed on this blog and in our country.

Questioner said...

Yes, it would be far better to discuss qualifications in general for the board, or for the position of president of the board, or for the mix represented on the board as a whole, than to target a particular individual. Selecting the best person and the best mix of perople will always require consideration of both personal and professional qualifications.

Anonymous said...

I was the one who made the so called "disparaging remarks" regarding cosmetology. I disagree that they were disparaging.

I did not start the post and I replied to the post. "Skill Set"

12:28 is my post too. I am not a snob. I am a homemaker with a messy house.

I would not trust myself with that kind of money, nor do I trust the board.

Is it ok to say that?

Questioner said...

It is certainly OK to say that those entrusted with directing this large sum of money should be required to show their qualifications and financial literacy. Especially given the past history of remarks made by some commentators about occupations, though, the comment that "all one needs is a cosmetology degree" does sound disparaging. Just b/c someone has a cosmetology degree does not mean that is all they bring to the table. That person may also be a sharp investor or businessperson (Philip Pelusi?). We just need to do more to ensure that the individuals on the board and the board as a whole have the qualifications needed to direct PPS.

Anonymous said...

When did my statement "Apparently a cosmetology degree is all one needs to be a board president with a half Billion dollar budget.". Morph into me calling her a hairdresser?

I think I used the professional respectful term for her profession. I didn't expect stating the school board presidents educational background factually was insulting when discussing skill set.

I am surprised that is such a hot button and I had no intention of causing such an issue.

Solution, 7:39 I also am shocked that I should not
question elected officials that carry a lot of power. The only access us peasants have are 3 minutes a month each. This board is so out of touch.

Anonymous said...

I missed anon 7:25 post. That was not my post. I am the anon poster that began the cosmetology post.
10/17: 11:43. 11:45 11:51.

10/18: 12:28. 1:39 11:28 & 11:49

I post anon by choice, and unless you want real names everyone is posting anon in one form or another.

Questioner said...

Anon, I think there is total or near total agreement that we must question elected officials carrying this much power and overseeing such large amounts of money. Especially in this time of experimentation, when changes are no longer made incrementally building on past arrangements and where money is flowing to new and different outside entities. And it is a sad but telling commentary that most people feel they are best off posting anonymously.

Anonymous said...

Now do you think Bill Isler is qualified for his job?




Anonymous said...

Thw problem is Isler and Sumpter are running the Board-and the others that run with them.

Havng a degree and a well-qualified job-not on this Board-well connected poltical ties.

TRY to run against Isler or Ware-and you will be shocked of the Democratic mone that pours in for them. One would loose the election-try it and see.


Questioner said...

Let's not get personal about any board member's style, etc.

Anonymous said...

It's not personal-it's businees-the famed movie quote.

Their verbatuim-keeps the hidden agenda a reality as voted Board Policy minutes.

Everything is done behind closed doors and the board meeting is a staged production of yes, yes, yes-wth clueless explanations-when asked by an educator or parent-the Board member runs like Floyd McCrea.

Brentley has to work-to earn a paycheck-the others seem to call their schedule.

I want to see change on the East End.-and throughout the Board.

Changing the Board President is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

Changing the Board President is not the answer-we would be stuck with Isler or Sumpter-the steamrollers of the Roosevelt t Express. They would be the next Presidents. Leave her there-at least she is human and is real.

My concern how much debt are we in at the PPS Board?
For example- wouldn't the district benefit from an accountant, construction manager, or ethicist on the board?
That might present issues with invested interest on construction contracts, etc.
Many business people stay clear of elected positions because they already have ties through the political democratic parties. That is the problem-people cannot run against many of the Board members because they lack the political Democratic ties and backing of the party.
This has been a huge issue in suburban schools.
The skill necessary-the DEMOCRATIC OR UNION backing.
Alternatively, hitting a home run from scratch-the COMEBACK Kid.

Questioner said...

Working for a company that does business w/ the district hasn't stopped other board members- but the conflict situation is best avoided. It could be a construction manager of a company that does not do school related projects (for ex, one that just does residential work); or a retired manager.

Anonymous said...


Let us go back Memory lane.
To really see just how myopic the political machine can be in this town, we have to go back to the May 2003 primary that cost Ms. Harris her seat on the School Board. Ms. Harris was decidedly unpopular at that point. The community had come together to find a different candidate in Mr. Dowd, and had largely rallied behind his campaign. And yet the Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsed Ms. Harris over Mr. Dowd by a vote of 83-4.

Getting such a landslide endorsement from the party machine was child's play for someone like Ms. Harris. As Judy Wertheimer wrote in the Post-Gazette at the time, the fix was in for Ms. Harris:

It turns out; District 2 is comprised of voting districts from eight city wards. Each ward has a chairperson, and the chair people run the endorsement vote. Of the eight chairs in District 2, one is Darlene Harris, one is her campaign manager, John Morgan, and one is Len Bodack Sr., who employed Harris in his office for years when he was a state senator. Not surprisingly, when Dowd asked to address the committee on the morning of the vote, his request was denied.

One thing people involved with the endorsement process seem to agree on: It's important for candidates to connect with committee members prior to the vote. One way to do that, in addition to phone calls and personal visits, is for candidates to attend committee-sponsored candidates’ nights typically held by individual wards.

Unfortunately, Dowd did not learn of the 26th Ward event until after the fact; Harris chairs the 26th Ward. As for the 11th Ward event, Dowd learned of it too late to personally address the gathering.

Anonymous said...

Sorry my spell checker went.

The last post gives an insightful practical view of the political dyanmics.

We should look at the political affiliations and coomunity and business affiliations of our current Board members.

Dowd was a rare breed-great Board member? He made it to a paying job.
Basically following the monetary purse strings of the PPS endowmnets-he was a great voice box for that communiity.

DO NOT ASK THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY-THE TAXPAYERS--TO PAY BOARD MEMBERS-THEY WILL BECOME PENSION PLAN MEMBERS OF PSERS-and think logical-many Board members have personal agendas to fave their family members acquire emp;oymnet--hey it is a government job with great benefits- a PPS job- but look at the big picture.

Other than acquiring a paid job in the PPS-what else is left?

Power and maybe a real concern for the education of our children-I believe is the core rationale for all the Board members to be there.

Historically, school Board members jump to other political jobs-they consider their Board work-as community service work-a great stepping stone in many political careers.

They learn the skills and are better political forces in their other new political jobs working for the people-their voters.

Questioner said...

If all it took was Democratic party endorsement, and the Democratic party backs DWare, then HArnet would not have waited to resign until a date when her seat would be filled by appointment- rather than by an election.

Anonymous said...

Was not D Ware Allen appointed by the Mayor?

Questioner said...

Yes she was. But if HArnet had resigned a bit sooner her seat would have been filled by an election.

Anonymous said...


As the political rationale for Ware--Raventhstal needed her for his brother Adam running in WALKO’S SEAT-IT IS A NORTH SIDE THING-Ware was selected more for her work with CTE-and her titled daily job position. She was highly suggested by board insiders for their purposes.

So, given the disaster that she was on the School Board, just how on earth did Harris end up on City Council?

The simple answer is that the Democratic Machine simply rolled over the rest of us, trampling our best interests at the same time.
You see, this was a "special" election. There was no primary election held. The party committees simply got together in the classic smoke-filled room (literally, if Harris was present) and selected the candidates who would appear on the November ballot. Of course, with all her connections, the fix was in once again for Harris. The Democratic committee wasted no time at all in selecting her to as their candidate. In addition, in this town, of course, even Santorum would win if he appeared on the ballot with a "(D)" next to his name-only in the city of PGH. There is no need for another party-it is democratic in Pgh.
She made it a second time-with the right political mastery-and new making it down the road with mistakes like agreeing to close Spring Garden and Bon Air-as Board President-she was going to make it on the right road-and she did a great job-going on the right road-surrounding herself with the right political staffers..

Anonymous said...

Arnet had to leave and played the game to the tee-Brentley tried to openly disucss Arnet's leaving and moving into Mt.Lebo and why are we waiting around for her to annouce her departure.

Arnet was a waste-another egotist-and yes it was a political game as Anon stated in the last post for Ware-District 2-holds the same communities as for Adam Ravensthal to win-where Walko had ties.

A very logical move-to win AS an EAST ENDER-YOU NEED THE NORTTH SIDE-THE MAYOR'S SIDE OF THE NORTH SIDE-Luke's homegroen teritory-
not Onorato's side.

For a North Sider to take it an unpaid job-no Luke people want something for no pay.

In reality-a North Sider should take it back.

Anonymous said...

Questioner, let me say this: the anonymous slant teachers take on your site is understandable. It would be career suicide to do it any other way, especially in a district where you have more than a few supervisory types who, on the first day of school, approach principals with the query, "So, who are we going to focus this year?" Again, there is a spirit of vindictiveness and spite that emanates from a great number of individuals--especially women--in the upper reaches of this district these days and for the life of me, I cannot determine where it comes from or for what reason.I've heard one longtime administrator recently call it a "hatred" for teaching staff.
And when I see people like Rhee, I pick up the same vibe.
This is the era we are in, and as a parent or community leader, you can choose to believe or choose to see it as exaggeration.
Just walk a mile in our shoes.

As for the school board, I tend to think the positions should carry a salary and be full time. I tend to think that more than an educator or two should be on that board.
But I also am old school. I tend to think that union leadership and school administration should naturally be adversarial. It's healthy to have spirited debate.

I tend to see the school board in the same manner, as adversarial to the superintendent but cognizant of the idea that coming to consensus after discussion and debate for the good of constituents is the ultimate end.
We don't have that in our union and we don't have that on our board.
what we do have is capitulation and back room wheeling and dealing (and that's not an exaggeration either.)

Paymaster said...

Besides Dowd, who was the last school board member to move on to a paying job as an elected official? Some school board members might fantasize that it's a stepping stone to City Council or whatever, but I think that history does not bear that out.

Anonymous said...

Darlene Harris

Anonymous said...

Valarie McDonald

Paymaster said...

Thanks. Darlene Harris. How could I forget? McDonald was on the board a long time ago. Anyone else?

lisa said...

Jake Milliones