Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advisability of a national search for superintendent

See the first letter to the editor, PG:


Questioner said...

In addition to the points raised by the letter- also consider:

At some point in the future, if the only candidate interviewed for a position is a white male will we be as comfortable with the process? Especially if the Board at that time is composed mostly of white males?

Anonymous said...

The letter to the editor make several "dead on" points. Our current Board appears to be incredibly naive in avoiding the process. It was a missed opportunity to broaden and deepen their own understanding, experience, even expertise in ways that were clearly not within their reach during the past five years. To assume that any one entity has all of the answers (whether it be Broad, Gates, PDE or USDOE) is narrowing and limiting and as we have witnessed to the detriment and disadvantage of our students.

It is not the job/responsibility of the Board to be indiscriminate cheerleaders who advance a "PR" spin that subverts the purpose of education.

Total trust by a Board that is watching achievement deteriorate dramatically is not the better part of wisdom. Informed, intelligent questioning on behalf of children is clearly indicated.

How can we encourage and facilitate the best in education for our children?

Anonymous said...

The board gets Broad Training, they invade, inflitrate and will take their toys/money away if the school board does not play by their rules. This is not about the students, it is about posturing, politics and getting job placement for Ivy league kids during a terrible economy.

It has been discussed on this forum.

I would venture to guess that 80-90% of qualified great superintendents would never apply to a school district being run by Broad and Gates. The percentage most likely increases to 100% if the candidate is outstanding. They understand the BS and they know their opinions are no longer important. It is a figurehead position.

Being superintendent in a Broad/Gates district very well could weaken a resume.

Great leaders are not puppets.

alldone said...

The new superintendent followed the agenda of the old. Her future choices possibly could be influenced by her experiences before she became an administrator.

On the other hand, the plans are pretty clear and only minor tweaking could be possible. There is a lot of money at stake and any major redirection would be equivalent to shutting down construction of the tunnel to the North Side.

If you could back-burner any portion of the reform agenda in progress what might you choose? Based only on what I read in the paper and what I hear from neighbors I would pick the Teachers' Academy. Based on reporting, others might choose the single gender academies. What each of those choices have in common is the question "do we really have the number of kids needed to suggest we need each of those choices?" For the teacher center for instance couldn't a more incubator model accomplish similiar goals in practice improvement? Without construction costs?

Questioner said...

Why not just conduct the teaching programs whereever there is excess space? At a construction cost of $0?

Anonymous said...

This district is all about the spin. How many districts do you know that would hang a banner on Bellefield Avenue announcing that they made AYP even though in the aggregate they are still one of the 30 worst districts in the state? Delusional.

The academy, like the PELA program to train administrators before it, is premissed on a very poor understanding of demographics. The 10 year facilities study included demographic projections. Even with a health Promise factor, the study showed that enrollment will continue to decrease.

As enrollment continues to decrease, the district should need proportionately fewer teachers and administrators. In fact, the Gates proposal itself found on the district's website makes no secret that the reform will have to be sustained by increasing student:teacher ratios and closing schools. It is in the grant application, go read it.

So the real question is, in the face of a change in Harrisburg likely to not be very friendly to traditional public school districts, a spiking PSERS rate (even after the "reform" bill), a most expensive teachers contract, a pledge to decrease teachers and close schools, plus declining enrollment, what the heck is the district going to do with the teachers trained in the academy?

Or is this really why the last superintendent ran away, because he outkicked his coverage?

Questioner said...

It is however worth considering why PPS enrollment is dropping so much more quickly than the slight decrease in the school-aged population in Pittsburgh. The facilities consultants assumed continuation of the trend (which is caused in part by students moving to charter schools). Must we accept that trend as a given? Should we asknowledge and plan for increased charter enrollment?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:57 says: ---- plus declining enrollment, what the heck is the district going to do with the teachers trained in the academy?

Or is this really why the last superintendent ran away, because he outkicked his coverage? ------

It's a mystery isn't it, how they are suddenly going to be able to predict a year ahead of time what they'll need teacher-wise. That may be somewhat true of middle school math and high school math and science, but even there I don't think the numbers warrant the money being spent.

They've said teachers who leave before x years will have to pay back what they are paid while at the academy.

What about teachers who don't succeed at the academy? That is, they do the year's training and PPS doesn't want them? (Or are their training methods so advanced that they make no mistakes in hiring these new people?) Or they get the year's training and there aren't jobs for them?

Questioner said...

The idea always seems to be that things will just work out. And when they don't work out, just act as if there are no problems.

PPSParent said...

Anon 8:57am: I agree that MR looked ahead and saw more of the same -- scores staying low and not closing the gap with the state, grand, but non-reality based plans that spend the money saved by closing underenrolled schools, opening new underenrolled schools, more and more students leaving.

I'm afraid if things continue as they have, that in 5 or so years the district will be past the point of no return. The only students in the schools will be those whose parents/family have no other options and the teachers left will be those that are waiting out a year or two to retirement and brand new teachers lasting 0-3 years each, getting out as soon as they can.

Just as Pittsburgh finally seems to be doing better at attracting young, 20-somethings to live in the city, we're creating a school system that those same people won't use once they are actually in the schools, seeing what is happening, rather than just reading "news" stories.

20 years ago we had the opposite situation -- many, many places where a child in Pittsburgh could receive a complete and enriching education, but newspaper articles that made it sound like it was impossible and maybe even dangerous.

That's not to say that all students were being well-served at that time, either. However, I'd argue that instead of pulling up the kids who need the most help, we've only pulled down the top bar, not raised up the low bar. All the while describing it as rigorous and excellent, of course, while removing vo-tech opportunities, electives, etc.

Anonymous said...

docragoiUnless the teachers' academy will provide a training ground for teachers and an agency within the district admin to find those teachers jobs out-of-town do we really need it now? And as for PELA, the same could be true, train and place grads into positions outside the district and become Broad for teachers and principals.

Anonymous said...

The point of no return seems imminent. The city needs to see reality and people of influence must coalesce to bring the reality to light with a plan that can reverse this egregious decline in education.

The new superintendent surely does not want to be a failure____but needs strong support in broad educational philosophies, systems, and specific strategies and techniques applicable and successful in large urban areas. It is being done, despite belief to the contrary. However, one size does not and will not fit all.

It really only takes success in one place, one classroom, one school to demonstrate an appropriate philosophy and model.

Is Pure Reform or the African American Community in a position to coalesce a group influential enough to persuade the new superintendent that she is on the wrong path.

Anonymous said...

Did everyone read the article about governor-elect Corbett's transition team? Specifically about the make-up of the group responsible for education?

Funding will play a big part it what can be supported in the long term.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Charter Schools have arrived! And the four groups who presented their proposals before the Board in December were well done and supported by many, many influential people who came forward to testify on behalf of each Charter_______doctors, lawyers, judges, chief of police, professors, superintendents, consultants, businesses, social service entities, etc.

Governor Corbett's team includes Larry Jones, President of Charter School Association as well as Pitt's Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.

Anonymous said...

The district is likely already beyond the point of no return. In November they approved a waiver of their residency requirement so that an employee overseeing summer school efforts could work out of her new home in Washington, DC.

How out of touch is that with reality? Is that the work experience that most taxpayers and parents in this city have?

Do not forget for a second that such a request would have directly from the new Superintendent, since human resources reported directly to her at the time.

Shameful. How do you supervise summer school when you are four hours away?

Anonymous said...

If you notice, most of the appointments for Project Directors or Managers were created for bright, white, young and very literate "Broa" residents who write and speak brilliantly, lucidly bur have difficulty citing experience or evidence since the work is fiction created in isolated ivory towers. There is a traceable, documentable pattern for these highly-paid positions.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:08

Seriously? They gave a DC employee exemption? Is it a real employee or Broad?

I would consider a class action suit if I was an employee of the district and was forced to move. I am not an employee or an attorney. It seems very unfair.

Anonymous said...

"Why not just conduct the teaching programs whereever there is excess space? At a construction cost of $0?"

December 20, 2010 8:33 AM

We may be in trouble ;)
If admin reads this blog they will assemble an excess space committee which will hire consultants who will suggest our children are worth more than $0. That will lead to a excess space taskforce run by people that have no educational or space issue experiences. (private dorm does not count.). The new excessive space taskforce team
will hire more consultants that will help us poor Sycophant's that our children are worth more than $0.

I believe this administration, including Dr. Lane has based their business model after the children's book, "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie"

I vote for the "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" business model.

Anonymous said...

Correction: will hire more consultants that will power point us poor misguided sycophant's into submission that our children are worth more than $0.

Then they will agenda review it to a long painful death, followed by the usual, the district spent 800,000 or more in consulting fees alone to prove why we now need a Deputy Superintendent of Excess Space, and why this department must be expanded to fill the excess space.

Of course this is all tongue and cheek, however, it is how they roll.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what makes you think that they would stop at just hiring a Deputy Superintendent of Excess Space. Remember, this is a district that not only has a Chief of Staff, but is now looking for a Deputy Chief of Staff.

There would be a presentation where everyone claims there is no "capacity" to "do the work."

By the time all is said and done, they would add a Coordinator of Strategic School Closing Communications, 2 Project Managers from Broad, a Project Assistant because they are so busy.

Three of them would work from home half of the week (which is what happens now with the Promise Ready Team).

These are your tax dollars at work.

Anonymous said...


In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania there are only 10 School Districts that qualify for that corrective ACTION II, the LOWEST of AYP categories. They are as follows:

Woodland Hills


York City


Chester Upland

The Pittsburgh School District is among the 8 LOWEST-ACHIEVING School Districts in the State of Pennsylvania. It ranks 496 out of 500. There are, in fact, only four (4) school districts that rank lower in Academic Achievement than Pittsburgh Public Schools. They are Reading, (where the new Superintendent is the former PA Secretary of Education, Dr Gerald Zahorchak), Chester Upland, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia (which are under State control).

Anonymous said...

As a parent who was active during the six months Dr. King was acting superintendent I remember most that he wanted to trim administrative positions. It was the one area where he earned praise. It could be that grant money supports some of those positions and we would be in violation of the award agreement if those positions were not part of the design. That could not possibly be true of a deputy chief of staff though, right?

Anonymous said...

Dr. King never let an opportunity slip by to address academic achievement and the means necessary to achieve that end. Dr. King knew well and loved well the district and its people____all of its people.

Dr. King was about the best education for Pittsburgh's children. It was a student agenda, not an adult agenda.

The District is currently weighted down in adult agendas which are negatively impacting any opportunity for advancing academic achievement for our students..

Anonymous said...

If I were Dr. Lane I would meet with, in no particular order:

JohnThompson, Andy King, Regina Holley, Randall Taylor, Alex Matthews, Liz Healey Marge McMackin, Johnson Martin, Rich Gutkind, Richard Wallaceand John Tarka. Swear everyone to secrecy, make them your round table. These are some of the most knowledgeable people about the District. They ALWAYS put the Children and the District first.

Questioner said...

Have to queston Johnson Martin's support of the very tenuous CTE plan put out last year.

Anonymous said...

Some folks are still in the 60's and 70's where "gifted programs" and "gifted schools" with "trade programs" and "trade schools" 'purposefully' limited the potential, the possibilities and the progress that should be accessible to ALL in equitable educational venues.

We should have advanced far beyond this, but sometimes people get stuck in time and.or place on the journey. It all adds to a more informed and reflective task analysis.

Anonymous said...

You should take John Tarka off your list

He Drank the Kool-Aide a long time ago

He is not an expert of any kind, he sold out

Anonymous said...

50% of that list should be removed icluding Tarka.

Questioner said...

Re: Anon 7:37's post- none of the proposals seem to be aiming at limiting any student's potential- it's just that the career training could be better.

The people who have spoken out in public forums praising the excellent training they received in PPS in the 60's and 70's seem to be all in favor of strong academics- they just want to see quality career training as well.

Anonymous said...

Proposals are rarely "aimed" at being limiting; it usually happens by default since choices are narrowed by a lack of open design and access.

Questioner said...

What is an open design?

Access is an issue- for example, only students in the South part of the city have access to auto repair CTE, while only students in the North part of the city have access to whatever limited building, welding and carpentry might be available.

Anonymous said...

Wow, After reading over the comments on this blog and other ones, and attending some recent meetings in which PPS teacher leaders were congregated around the reform agenda, I have definitely decided not to send my children to the PPS.

I am a parent, and a professional with experience working with and within public schools and with urban kids in and out of schools. I understand the challenges of teaching in an urban setting. But time and again I see burnt out and angry teachers who are not willing to change what has not worked in the past.

People--what you are doing has not worked. You need reform, you need to change, our kids need teachers who are not jaded. The attitudes on these posts make me believe there is no hope for our schools, because if these are the attitudes of the people working in them, they should quit and find new careers.

I was considering applying for a job with the Center for Teacher Effectiveness. I do have the experience both in the school, in the community, and I bring those skills that everyone is railing against here, to actually make our school system results oriented. But there is no way I would work in this snake pit.

Do you know, hopefully where those trained in the teachers academy should get jobs? In the PPS when we get rid of those posting on this website.

PPSParent said...

Anonymouse 10:11:

I agree with several of your conclusions, but find the causes in different places than you do.

I would sadly agree with your not putting your child into the PPS at this point. There are one or two schools and a few programs that are still high-quality, but even that is likely to change, as they are forced more and more into a rigid, and so far unsuccessful, reform agenda.

There are a couple (and honestly, I think that's about it -- 2 or 3) teachers who post here that do sound bitter and honestly, toxic. HOWEVER, they are not at all representative of the teachers that I know personally, either through being in the schools or as a parent.

The great majority of teachers in this district are trying to keep their heads down and teach well. If it means having to hide their creativity and hard-earned knowledge during observations or walk-throughs, that's what they do.

If it means working longer and harder and doing more because they have to do all the required (and often ridiculous) demands and THEN do all the things that they know are important and vital to a good education, that's what they do.

Some post here too and more read, but you don't see them, because they don't call attention to themselves the way the few do.

If you truly think a top-down, highly controlled and rigid management style is the best way to run a district (or a school or a classroom)) then I would encourage you to put your kid in the PPS. The fruits of that are what you see.

It's hard to count the number of people, people devoted to both Pittsburgh and public schooling in general, long-time advocates of the PPS, who now can't say that anymore. I'm one of them. I'd have laughed at the idea, 10-15 years ago that you couldn't get an excellent education in the PPS, the equal of any in the area, public or private. Now, though, that's absolutely not true. And a lot of is due to ill-conceived, one size fits all reforms being shoved onto the system. Reforms that had acknowledged the strengths that were here and built on them? Didn't happen and now there's little left to build on.

Questioner said...

Oh come on, Anon, you're not going to decide where to send your kid based on blogs. The blogs can provide useful information not available from the PPS or the newspapers. But then please, go to the schools (there has to be some way to get around the security clearance issue and let parents evaluate their options) and see for yourself. And let us know what you find.

Anonymous said...

I was told years ago that *any* community member could go and tour a school. Now, it would have to be at a time that worked for the school -- meaning someone would have to be able to take you around (if you are with someone who is cleared, you don't need to bring clearances).

When we were looking at schools, one even let my child join a classroom at their current level while I looked around and talked with the principal. Not surprisingly, a school/prinicipal who has enough faith in their school to do that is likely to be a very good school! I know of many older children who have also "shadowed" a student for a day at the middle and high school levels. too

Questioner said...

That is useful information about it being sufficient to be with someone who is cleared! Community members interested in seeing schools in session should be able to deal with the security obstacle by having a staff member walk them to each class; once in the class visitors would be with a teacher who is cleared. And parents making a choice should take the time to visit Pittsburgh public schools, charter schools, private schools- time would be well spent on this important decision.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:11

You could not walk in my shoes. If your so good why don't you teach. It is scary that a person with preconcieved notions wants to evaluate teachers. You do not have a clue.

Thank You PPS Parent, its parents like you and their children that keep me going to work every day

Old Timer said...

Anon at 10:11, let me second the last poster's commentary:

You could not last an entire school day walking a mile in my shoes at my building. Your comments come from somewhere in the upper echelons of the ivory tower. It's funny that the tone echoes the sentiments of so many in administration these days.

For the record, no one in administration--no one--could walk a mile in my shoes or anyone else who toils for the kids day in, day out.

I'm taken aback by some of the comments in this thread (and not by the administrator among us who will no doubt be visiting all of us soon on an upcoming learning walk). It's sad, but it appears that Dr.Lane wants status quo. As one who trumpets her teaching prowess, such a stance is notable.

You see, I can understand why washouts as teachers see the need for vanilla, managed curriculum---they never knew how to build rapports with kids anyway, and they never knew that forming that bond with kids is THE necessary ingredient--but Dr.Lane? Surely, she sees the folly of it all.

But let's revisit the realities of the situation and the hard truth for all of us: no one here has the gumption to tell the millionaires to take a hike, to tell them that their plan is really an agenda meant to push a agenda. Money talks. Who among us has the resolve to say no thanks, I believe in what we are doing, even if it means staying the course in dire financial straits. Not Jean Fink. Not Terri Colaizzi.

Until then, we'll have the group of vindictive females running amok, firing many, forcing others to resign and making Dr.Lane embrace what she likely knows in her heart is wrong.

There's a reason why these current administrators were negligible, at best, classroom teachers. And there's a reason why they can't walk a mile in the shoes of teachers.

Sad times.I actually believe Dr.Lane would be a great leader in any other district.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you are posting Old Timer. I was concerned about your absence.

My son has always thought of the learning walks as some kind of joke. The walkers are there for so short a time that they really don't learn anything at all in his opinion. His thoughts lead me to think that the walks are on their way to being just another task done to say it was done, but has no further value other than to bitch-slap an instructor.

We really need to stop acting like we are a district of 260,000students instead of the 26,000 we have. I'd much rather my son learn a lesson about integrity than to score advanced on any test. Presenting a new plan to the Gates people with more responsible spending and abandoning the wild ideas like teacher centers and designing more career ladders than can be supported by the number of students we have would be a good start to getting back on track.
A new plans should also include an initiative to put decision-making administrators in direct contact with students on a weekly basis and they should have their performance evaluated based on feedback from students.

Questioner said...

The teachers' centers could potentially cause such great disruption that we really need more information on how they will work in practice- how many teachers from which grade levels at which schools will typically be out for how long. And once a tentative schedule is prepared there should be an opportunity for information from parents, teachers, etc. on any issues that should be addressed and revisions should be made. This is really an area where a pilot would help- for example, by starting with a single grade level at first.

Old Timer said...

Anon, Questioner, your points are well taken. Please know this where both myself and undoubtedly most veteran teachers are concerned: until the Roosevelt Admin and the advent of Gates/Broad, I can honestly say that only a couple of principals/central admin types had 'adversarial' relationships with teachers. To most of us--teachers and administrators alike--we were fighting on the same side. The last five years has seen a complete paradigm shift in this regard, and it began with Gates, then empowered the university types at places like Pitt's IFL, groups heretofore looked upon as being out of touch with teaching in general, let alone urban teaching.
Now, boat loads of money have put these types of people in command, has pushed good administrators out to pasture and formed a new corps of administrator more in line with the very ivory tower thinking--that paints teachers as the impediment to good education--that was looked upon with disdain less than a decade ago.
Amazing, isn't it?
Not only is this type of thinking vindictive and accusatory in its approach, it is accomplishing nothing in terms of student achievement.
All it is doing is placing teachers under the boot of administrator, an individual who more often than not could not carry that teacher's planning book.
It's salad days for these types of individuals. Career ladders are built with them in mind at the PPS level, and one look at the list of consultants making thousands to maintain this plan is, again, amazing.
I cannot see an individual stepping up to question what this money has wrought. When you have a Mark Brentley sounding like a voice in the wilderness, when you have a Randall Taylor throwing up his hands and saying 'Enough', well, you realize what is going on.
Again, I personally like what I have heard and read about Linda Lane, pre-PPS. I simply don't expect her to ask central admin and the board to take a long, hard look at what has transpired. Not at 61. Not when she has no allies on board.
Questioner, I've heard Brashear parents are up in arms about the change at their school next year. Apparently, they're not enthused about their kids acting as veritable guinea pigs and if that's true, I can't say I blame them.
Your kids are the best barometer of what's being taught and both its usefulness and effectiveness. And they're the best barometer of what pressures are being exacted upon teachers.
We've placed the least worthy individuals in charge of our schools via PELA. Sad as I am to say it, this is only the beginning.
Listen to what Gates is saying.

Questioner said...

You have to wonder why, if there are going to be so many summer camps and summer programs, teacher training can't take place over the summer so as not to disturb regular scheduling.

Old Timer said...

Well, think about how government contracts work in this regard. On one hand, spend it or lose it. On another, provide the window dressing for your expenditures.
As stated previously, Roosevelt did nothing I did not expect. The man was a corporate head and understood PR.
PPS wishes to continually look progressive, even if the long term implications are unknown.

Anonymous said...

One does not have to signin-but a beautiful cookie cut image of the Mark Roosevelt family.

This should have been his repetoire in Pittsburgh. One must take a gander at his new approach.I feel it is a must-the picture is worth a thousand words.

He moved fast and quickly-out of Pittsburgh.

College presidential family finds home in Yellow Springs

Yellow Springs News

By Lauren Heaton New Antioch College President Mark Roosevelt moved to Yellow Springs this month with his family to begin a new chapter in higher education. ...

Questioner said...

This may be a better link, for the picture at least.

Anonymous said...

I guess Roosevelt was afraid to send his daughter to a PPS PreK and onto the Colfax ALA.

A gorgeous family portrait-this would have been a better PPS

Yeah no way..

He left Pittsburgh fast and quick out of his SQ. HILL home and acquired new digs very fast.

Nice to have such venturous board members.

Anonymous said...

Is Mr. Chester gone? Did he leave with Mr. Bergie?

Questioner said...