Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Public hearing/ administration numbers

From another post:

"I like the recommendation of creating a list of all the over 100K administrators at BOE and attaching a chart of their titles and "ranks."

Add to this a list of consultant contracts over the past x years, with type of work and cost.

Present these findings with at least 20 people present supporting the speakers at a board hearing, giving the list and a press release out beforehand in hopes of getting it covered on the TV news and in the paper.

That would be a start, then letters to the editor so as to get the word out. People here making some copies of these lists and talking them over with friends, neighbors, parents at sporting events, parents you know from your kid's school.

MOST PEOPLE in Pittsburgh have no clue at all about the insanity of the numbers of administrators, the use of contractors, let alone the curriculum and all.

June 29, 2011 11:26 AM"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fresh Slate proposal

How about this approach for right-sizing central administration and consultants:

We start w/ nothing on the table. We put back the highest position- obviously, superintendent. We determine what the superintendent's responsibilities are, which she should handle herself, and which are too much for one person and clearly must be delegated to the next level of employment and managed by the superintendent.

Then we put back the next position, again determining what that person's responsibilities are, which he/she should handle on their own, and which are too much for one person and clearly must be delegated to the next level of employment and managed by the person who ranks just below the superintendent.

Continue in this manner until all responsibilities are assigned or cannot be assigned due to a lack of skills. This is where decisions about consultants come in. Decide whether to hire a consultant should be hired to fill a well-defined short term gap, or if someone on the chart lacks the qualifications for their position.

Next look at salary levels- how does the amount each administrator is being paid compare to the pay received by people in other financially strapped school districts who have similar responsibilities? Adjust for cost of living differences.

Total up the new cost of administration and consultants and compare it to the existing cost of administration and consultants. All of this should be done in a manner fully transparent to the public.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Leaders of the "reform movement" at odds w/ parents, studies about class size

From the NYT :

"Leaders of the so-called reform movement, including Mr. Gates, Mr. Duncan, Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein, say that in hard times, increasing class size is one of the best ways to save money, as long as there is a strong teacher."

However, these leaders and their children have generally attended schools with small class size, and studies cited in the article support the benefits of smaller classes.

A+ meeting on the budget today

Are any of PURE's commentors planning to go? What issues will you raise?

The School District is looking to eliminate $100 million in costs. Where will it come from?

From A+:

"City School Budget: A Community Discussion on Setting Priorities--Next Steps

Find out more from Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane.

Speak up and share what you think.

Join A+ Schools on Monday, June 27th, 5:30PM at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers building on the South Side.

Find out what's at stake for PPS and weigh in on proposed cuts.

Free food and child care!"

Receipt of PSSA scores

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"Hey, parents, out there! Have you received your child's individual scores for this years PSSA?

Dr. French announced nearly two weeks ago that parents would have the individual students' PSSA results in Reading, Math and Science by June 22nd.

Has anyone received these 2011 PSSA scores?

How do they look? Better or worse than last year?

(These individual PSSA scores, with letters to parents, are sent every year in the first 10 days of June to every PA school district for distribution to parents___since 2003!)"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

PPS reviewing policies

From the PG:

Broad Superintendent Academy discussed by Education Week

On another post Anonymous wrote:

Critics Target Growing Army of Broad Leaders
As the number of influential school leaders trained by the Broad Superintendents Academy grows, so does the criticism surrounding the program.
June 7, 2011 - Education Week

“Broad training . . . has drawn impassioned criticism from people who see it as a destructive force in schools and districts.

They say Broad-trained superintendents use corporate-management techniques to consolidate power, weaken teachers’ job protections, cut parents out of decision- making, and introduce unproven measures .

Sharon Higgins, who started a website called the Broad Report in 2009 after her school district in Oakland California had three Broad-trained superintendents in quick succession, each appointed by the state.

She said she grew alarmed when she started seeing principals and teachers whom she called “high-quality, dedicated people” force out. She contends in her blog that Broad superintendents are trained to aim for “maximum disruption” when they come to a district, without regard for parent or teacher concerns.

“Its like saying, let me come to your house and completely rearrange your furniture because I think your house is a mess. . . adding that other parents around the country have reached out to her to complain about their own Broad-trained school leaders.”

Pittsburgh Public Schools has been invaded by the Broad Foundation trainees and "residents" including the current and just previous superintendent.

(More to follow.)"

"More on BROAD:

Superintendents Academy grows, so does the criticism surrounding the program.
June 7, 2011 - Education Week

‘Corporate Training School’
“Likewise James Horn, an associate professor of education policy at Cambridge college in Massachusetts, keeps up a drumbeat of criticism in the blog School Matters. In one post, he referred to the academy as “Eli Broads corporate training school . . .for future superintendents who are trained how to use their power to hand over their systems to the Business Roundtable.”

“In an interview, Dr. Horn said that school officials trained by the program, graduate with a hostility to teachers. . .

Dr. Horn points not only to the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, but also the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, as examples of what he sees as a worrisome trend of “venture philanthropy” in education. Venture philanthropists typically emphasize the imperative of getting results for their investment and maintain close ties to the organizations they fund.”

“What venture philanthropy is doing seems to me to be wielding influence not to help public institutions but to destroy public institutions or take control of them. Mr. Horn said, “This is a dangerous place, where corporations and government get mixed up.”


Friday, June 24, 2011

Comments about layoffs

Fresh thread.

Comments about PPS teachers

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"If there is going to be a teacher bashing thread, can you make a separate thread for those who want to participate? (I don't want to)

I don't know why this thread turned into this hatred, it is sad."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Environmental Charter School expandng to 2 buildings

From the PG:

Some great things can be done with buildings PPS viewed as surplus. Here's a description of the Park Place building the school will use:

"'s a beautiful building, glorious inside, with marble and large stairwells and stained glass windows."

A bit of serendipity for an environmentally based school is an inscription in the stained glass: "Nature finds all children something to do.""

Read more:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


On another post Anonymous wrote:

"Laying off 147"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How we got where we are Part IX (remainder September 2007)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, Part IX, September 2007

Excellence for All would accelerate with an influx of soft money. Latching onto to every great new idea would take its toll on the district later in 2011 when the Stimulus funds dried up and a new administration took the reigns in Harrisburg.

Look beyond the end of the grant and realize that if you continue – and yes, foundations expect that if you start a program with their money that you will see it through – something has to give.

Elementary school students would appreciate this lesson. If you are offered $4 dollars toward a $10 purchase and you cannot afford to spend $6, don't take the $4.

1. September 26, 2007: Heinz gives $75,000 to print the first editions of the District's very own semi-annual newsletter.

The Board approves “Acceptance of $200,000 from The Fund for Excellence (FFE) to support the continuation of an external evaluation of the District's Instructional lmprovement Initiatives.” The contract goes to RAND.

FFE grants $1.2 million for year two of the America's Choice model for ALAs and another $800,000 to fund the first year of the Office of the Chief of High School Reform.

Ironically, another grant foreshadows the over-extension of PPS resources, “Acceptance of $185,761 from [FFE] to support costs associated with an Executive Director of Development position. This individual will enable the District to achieve all aspects of Excellence for All, which requires considerable supplemental funding to be raised swiftly to assist the District in meeting its performance goals.”

Broad provides $25,000 to support “costs associated with school board training to be provided to the Pittsburgh Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools by The Center for Reform of School Systems...around the area of Board governance, especially with regard to enabling the District to significantly and positively impact the lives of students and the Pittsburgh community and to realize the goals of the District's ambitious Educational Reform Agenda-Excellence for All.” Note that a robust package of school board training for nine members and one superintendent is available from the PA School Boards Association for less than $1,000.

Broad gives $1.8 million toward the costs of the first four years of the Pittsburgh Emerging Leadership Academy (PELA). “The goal of PELA is to attract and retain a highly qualified, diverse and committed pool of principal candidates that will form a pool of talent...for principalships and other administrative job openings that occur throughout the District. The District anticipates a large number of retirements within the coming three years, so PELA is necessary, preventative strategy related to Human Resources...”

We would spend the next four years watching new positions being created to keep PELAs in the district when there was no naturally occurring placements for them. The district, which barely a year earlier had to offer a retirement incentive to thin the ranks because there were 22 fewer schools after Right-Sizing, never needed a “pipeline,” it needed a back flow preventer. The incentive pulled forward to 2006 most natural retirements that would have otherwise happened in 2007 and 2008. Hence we had PELAs popping up all over central administration until other jobs could be created, such as “Directors” at schools.

Dr. Paula Bevan receives another contract, this time for 15 days of work at a cost not to exceed $42,000.

A crew of Secondary School Reform Interns is hired to support the activities of Dr. Lopez's new office.

The Heinz parent engagement grant is increased by $190,000 to fund the initial Welcome Back package and a district calendar.

Travel waivers are approved for a small schools tour of New York City. An earlier Gates fad was small high schools, which they abandon when the results did not support the hypothesis."

Clayton student records found in dumpster

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"This is unreal.. Clayton student records found in dumpster. "

Interesting plan for Detroit schools

From the NYT, money will be saved in an unusual way:

"The system will not have a school board or a central administration. Principals will be in charge of hiring teachers, and they and their staffs will handle day-to-day operations."

Resignation of John Tarka Pgh Fed Teachers Pres

On another post Old Timer wrote:

"John was/is a good man. I am sure that many people in the upper echelons of the union and PPS fit the same character description.
But to me at least, power corrupts and skewers the way one thinks. It becomes less and less about constituency--about the kids, or about the rank and file---and more and more about one's affiliations and personal goals.
John was at no time a scapegoat. I will never know what caused him to forget his rank and file teachers during his time at the top. I am sure that there are things we will never know that for whatever reason, he will not divulge.
I do not believe it was payola, but I do believe in political deal-making. That John and his lieutenants got into bed with this lot is beyond disappointing.
And with this in mind, a complete cleaning of house is in order.
John's staff needs to resign immediately, or at the very least, a special election needs to be held.

Please know this: when Gates brought his $40 million to town, the understanding was that the union had to be in check, on board, etc. This was a guarantee that had to be made.
Now that Gates has provided teachers with misery and made both the public at large and parents look at the district as being "a top district on the national scale", as after all, Bill Gates brought the armored car here---perhaps we can all agree that Gates has provided PPS with a wonderful trainwreck. It's a complete failure/ It's a way to intimidate and remove teachers. It has NOTHING to do with the kids.

Nina....resign immediately.

Questioner--this should be a separate thread."

Meeting this evening: Peabody, Westinghouse, East End schools

From the PG:

How we got where we are Part VIII (August and partial September 2007)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, Part VIII (August and partial September 2007)

As Superintendent Roosevelt was ready to lead Pittsburgh into the third year of his ambitious reform agenda...

1. August 22, 2007: Yet another consultant is hired to train principals and coaches on the use of data and this time the winner was University of Pittsburgh's Partnership for School District Improvement to the tune of $149,000.

The Board authority around the $7.4 million Federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant is clarified. In addition to bonuses for principals and academic central administration, the grant supports contracts for RAND, Paula Bevan, Institute for Learning and Focus on Results ($127,403 in training for four Executive Directors – no, that is not a typo).

The District reaches a settlement regarding “the allowable technique” change orders related to the lack of proper planning and bidding time for Right-Sizing work in the amount of $475,000.

Three early childhood classrooms are opened at Bon Air, a school closed during Right-Sizing.

Over $2.1 million in delay claims on the Colfax addition project are approved. The PASBO Facilities Study would point out earlier in the year that much of the district's woes in change orders were directly related to unreasonable and unrealistic expectations for turnaround time on design, bid and construction cycles (the cost of “I want what I want when I want it.”)

A principal position is opened for the “Suspension Transition Center.” In fact, South Annex becomes the home for one of these centers. On a good day the centers would see about as many students as adults that worked there.

A lead principal job is created for the PELA program and a project manager is hired for the principal bonus program.

This pattern would be repeated over and over with “capacity” becoming a major buzzword at Bellefield.

With every new initiative came a new set of staff to hire a new team (or perhaps rather the same trusted bank) of consultants, rather than the new important work of the district displacing some other no longer necessary or less important work of the district.

The Board would have a hard time arguing with the strategy at the time, because they would typically start as funded by soft grant dollars. In private, the leadership would promise that the offices and functions would go away when the money did. Our current sustainability crisis paints an entirely different picture, however, of a district that created a structure befitting a much larger school district (which most Gates and Broad districts are much, much, much larger than Pittsburgh).

Some in central administration would justify this by explaining that it was like they were running two districts, one carrying on the routine business of the district and the other pushing forward with the reform agenda.

Lost in this worldview is a commonsense approach that lasting reforms generally require genuine buy in from all stakeholder groups and are implemented from the ground up. Those hired to run the reform agenda typically had little or no K-12 experience to ground their plans.

2. September 19, 2007: The Fund for Excellence provides $79,425 to fund a study by Mathematica of the district's math programs. Although at first glance it appears that this contract breaks a string of no-bid awards to RAND by offering a no-bid contract to Mathematica, the mystery is solved: the principal researcher at RAND with the Broad family connection took a job with Mathematica."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How we got where we are Part VII (June and July 2007)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, Part VII, June and July 2007

The district's eyes were on the prize in June 2007, focusing on increasing compensation for administrators, sympathetic consultants and expanding the central office:

1. June 28, 2007: The Board accepts the $7.4 million federal Teacher Incentive Fund. The grant supports the district's partnerships with – surprise – the Institute for Learning and RAND. Not only is RAND responsible for providing design of key program elements, but they are to conduct the evaluation of the project (what incentive would they ever have to find that their design work was anything but outstanding?). By year 5 of the grant, the district's local match reaches 75%, with year five being July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. By year 6, this is entirely locally funded.

The curriculum shuffle plays a new tune, with a $100,000 contract with the Write Tools, including two days of training for 1,500 employees. The Board tab brags that their materials are color coded.

Superintendent Roosevelt responds to declining enrollment by hiring two consultants to begin designing additional high schools.

The Board reallocates some of the funds for the amended Kaplan curriculum contract to provide an addition $1.4 million contract – surprise - for the Institute for Learning. Superintendent Roosevelt explains that they have the “capacity.”

Before the vote, Board Member Randall Taylor urges this change to be presented at the Education Committee meeting in July 2007. The transcript would reflect Taylor at a later point in the meeting exclaiming that “the point I am trying to make is that we must get away from people being able to hand out contracts to whoever they desire.”

In terms of personnel cost, this is one of the richest months on record for the Roosevelt/Fischetti/Lane era.

A Customer Service Manager position is created in the Communications department (Office of the Chief of Staff).

The number of Executive Director positions in the Academic Office grows from two to four AND the Chief of High School Reform job is created, along with project managers, research analysts, etc.

Sam Franklin is hired as the Project Manager for SciTech.

Andy King retires (with a settlement).

2. July 25, 2007: Woops, the Board amends the contract with CEP that was originally listed as $3.5 million to add $2 million that is expected to arrive from State funds (this anticipated annual funding source never materialized) and nearly $300,000 to be paid from Title I.

The Focus on Results contract grows by $100,000, with the purpose still being to “enhance the urgency and the cross-department processes necessary for accelerating academic performance” and “build teamwork and identify tools that will assist with monitoring the timeliness and quality of work for greater accountability and higher levels of customer service.” Nobody points out the obvious that in a school district, this is the Superintendent's job.

Another no bid contract is awarded for the Communications department, this time in the amount of $28,818 to assemble packages, while the previously awarded Jpapa receives a new gig in the amount of $16,000 for about 80 hours of work on Customer Relations Management.

Compass Learning receives nearly a $1 million contract for reading and PSSA prep curriculum. To even the most diligent observer, it is really impossible to tell how this fits with Wilson, Read 180 and all of the work that Kaplan did for the district. On another front, about $70,000 in bids for promotional items are awarded.

The contract for asbestos removal is increased by $500,000 for preventive remediation at Schenley.

The personnel agenda reveals another round of upward reorganization in the the Curriculum and Communications departments.

Derrick Lopez is hired as the Chief of High School Reform, while Julia Stewart is appointed as the Executive Director of Career and Technical Education. Dr. French and Dr. Lippert are also appointed as Executive Directors."

How we got where we are Part VI (February to May 2007)

On another post, Anonymous wrote:

"Infiltrating Bellefield with Broad-friendly employees and consultants was the business of the day from February to May 2007:

1. February 20, 2007: The Board approves that Christiana Otuwa be reimbursed an amount not to exceed fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) for appropriate moving and temporary living expenses.

2. March 21, 2007: The curriculum and professional development shuffle picks up speed with ETS Educational Testing Services and Paula Bevan landing a $107,700 contract to collaborate with other consultants (RAND and Institute for Learning), train principals, including a train the trainer model. The trainer would apparently never be trained, as Dr. Bevan would continue lining up for PPS contracts to this day.

A new class of employee is created, with the Board approving a 260 day work year and 10 vacation days for Broad Residents that participate in the Broad Resident Program. One Broad Resident is hired.

The Board contracted with Bernard Komoroski to serve as Acting Principal, Allderdice effective March 26, 2007 to July 31,2007 at the per diem rate of $600.

3. April 25, 2007: Another Broad resident is hired.

May 23, 2007: Meade Johnson is hired as a marketing consultant ”to convene/direct PPS staff and other outside consultants/vendors for the development and implementation
of action plans/timelines” and “to provide strategic counsel to ensure brand-alignment visually and through consistent messaging.”

The Board also approves a contract with “Vanessa Orr, freelance writing consultant. The writing consultant's primary role is to provide parents/family with the appropriate understanding of the District's new Welcome Back approach for engaging families and community through back-to-school events and through a Welcome Back information package, which centrally houses start-of-the-year information in an easy to use format.”

The Board renews “the contract for the Institute for Learning (IFL) for the period of July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008, in the amount of $700,200.”

On top of the IFL contract, funding is approved for $326,612 from the Fund for Excellence to support two post-doctoral fellows for a period of two years to provide ongoing, job-embedded training for principals and coaches.

GVA Oxford is hired to provide development services around the sales/disposal of twenty-four (24) identified closed buildings. Their activities would lead to the sale of zero buildings."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Arsenal principal retiring

From the PG:

Education Meeting Tuesday June 21 at Faison

Posted on another thread by Randall Taylor:

"Education Meeting
Tuesday, June 21

We must stop the this nonsense!

Come out let's get Organized!"

Italian classes/ overcrowded classes at Colfax

This week's Agenda Review also had an extended discussion about whether the district should continue to offer Italian as a foreign language option at Brashear. The discussion was sparked by a vote on an order for new Italian testbooks. Administration reported that about 200 students study Italian at Brashear and that it is a very popular offering.

Board members discussed what languages PPS should be offering, expressing a strong preference for Spanish and Chinese. Board member Sharene Shealey remarked that one of her children was to be placed in a 30 student class at Colfax next year and so she could not support the purchase of books for Italian classes.

This topic raises many issues for discussion.

First, would it really save significant money to discontinue Italian? Let's say the district replaced the Italian teacher with a Spanish teacher (if one could be found); it is still paying for a teacher and still paying for textbooks. Also, at last word the Italian teacher also taught French. Would the school really be better off replacing an Italian and French teacher and limiting students to just Spanish? And where exactly do the cost savings come in, and how much is saved?

Another issue- if classes are so crowded at Colfax, but there are empty seats in other schools, why are school assignment lines not being redrawn and students transported to schools where there is excess capacity?

Displaced Brashear teachers heading to Westinghouse

A concept behind Westinghouse was that it would be staffed by teachers who were interested in single gender education and really wanted to be there, right? Kind of like how ALA's were to be staffed by teachers committed to the ALA concept.

Word is however that teaching slots are being filled with teachers displaced from Brashear, who have no particular interest in a single gender setting and/or would prefer not to teach under the new schedule with the school year beginning in the summer.

Meanwhile, long-term Westinghouse teachers who know the kids and are happy to be there are being assigned to other schools.

How we got where we are Part V (January 2007)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"By January 2007 the work of the reform agenda was in full swing.

Despite being handed a comprehensive and totally independent road map on how to trim administrative cost and improve service in the form of the 2005 MGT by the Commonwealth's Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (they defined the scope, selected the vendor and paid for it – 100% independent), Roosevelt never cracked the spine on his copy, instead preferring to bring in strategic teams from Broad or the Council of Great City Schools to re-study what MGT did over a 6 month period of time in just 24 to 48 hours, providing in written format the conclusions our Superintendent needed them to reach.

1. January 24, 2007: The Board approves the contract with Community Education Partners (CEP) “to create an alternative education program for 432 disruptive and low performing students in grades 6 through 12. These students are at risk for dropping out of school, possible referral to special education programs and not graduating. This program will provide an educational placement for these students, offering them a fresh start with academic and behavioral interventions culminating in their return to their sending schools better prepared to learn and be successful. The annual cost of this contract includes all educational and behavioral services for this population of students. In addition, the annual cost of the contract includes the amortization of building renovation costs. District staff and Ira Weiss's Office will continue to work with CEP staff to finalize a formal agreement outlining the details of this partnership. The operating initial term shall be from September 1, 2007 to June 30, 2013. Total cost not to exceed $3,500,000 annually for a period of six years.”

The District would never reach 432 students at the school and it remains a great mystery on how the number was arrived at, especially given the enrollment decline projections from the Commonwealth. Even if 432 was the right number in year one – it was not – how the Superintendent could justify keeping the estimate flat over six years perhaps helps to explain the very same poor grasp on statistics that would be exercised in the creation of the Principal Emerging Leadership Academy (PELA) or the Teacher Academies proposed for Brashear and King.

Public relations were central to the mission, with the Communications department receiving approval for “a contract with Fredette & Associates. Establishing a clear and uniform identity for the Pittsburgh Public Schools is an important component of our Excellence for All agenda. Currently, there are inconsistencies in District letterheads, envelopes, business cards and web sites, including use of different colors, layouts, and logo placement and design. Branding campaigns help organizations to develop consumer awareness and loyalty. Branding is becoming more common among school districts as we face increasing competition and
decreasing revenues. Fredette & Associates, with more than 20 years' experience in creative design, will work with Communications & Marketing and Technology to create an identity package that includes print pieces and website templates for schools and offices.”

$3 million in change orders approved, many stemming from the “allowable technique” deployed for right-sizing, reflecting the impatience of a Superintendent to provide adequate lead time to design and bid appropriately and to an agreed upon educational specification.

Thrilled with her performance, Roosevelt extends the date of Cassandra Richardson Kemp's contract as principal of Allderdice to June 30, 2007.

Without a formal request for proposals, the Board appoints the Law Offices of Ira Weiss as Solicitor."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New technology contracts

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"Important new thread:

PPS agenda review material

Has anyone else noticed the vast array of technology equipment moving on PEPPM contracts instead of local bids?

PEPPM has always been a good price for a single item, not for bulk.

Here's a real gem from the June agenda: a 5 year contract at almost $2 million a year with Xerox to "consolidate" copiers. The contract is charged to "various" accounts and is supposed to save a million a year.

Well, if you look at the PPS budget, the entire cost for copiers is less than $1 million today!!!!!!!! And that includes the cost of two staff positions to run the central print shop.

Is every board member asleep? Ask for the account lines, all of them and with it a five year detailed report in those accounts of the copier transactions.

Also tucked away in the report is a "donation" of time from Microsoft K12 to study the district's processes. This isn't a donation, this is a sales call for a new human resources and financial system.

Start looking backwards at the conferences CIO Mark Campbell has attended; something here really stinks."

And then anon2 wrote:

"Ordinary people sitting at home for a few minutes on the computer after sending the kids to school and before heading to work are dumbstruck by posts like the previous one from anonymous 6:27. Perhaps it is time for A+ Schools to stop watching the board and direct some energy and time to delving into the area of fiscal responsibility at the district."

Link to Rand report on summer learning

The report can be read online for free:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Suggestion to reorganize PPS into smaller units

On another post Mark Rauterkus wrote:

PPS got here, in part, because of its bigness All the layers of middle management make student decisions and the system interactions too much to deal with Hence, families pull out and un-engage

Just uploaded an more expansive blurb to my blog:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How we got where we are Part IV (December 2006)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, 4th installment, December 2006:

1. December 4, 2006: Prophetic comments from Board Member Randall Taylor at the reorganization meeting: “But I really do want to say to my fellow board members, I do believe that the lack of this board of asking questions, which is our basic fundamental responsibility here to ask questions. I feel that this board has failed to do that. And in that failure, they have failed not only this board in your responsibilities. I believe you failed our superintendent, administration. I think you failed our taxpayers and the public. I think most importantly, you failed our students.”

2. December 13, 2006: The District's empowerment plan is approved, including goals to improve academic achievement and specifically reduce the achievement gap.

Nearly five years later, neither our rank among PA school districts in high stakes testing has substantively improved, nor has the achievement gap shrunk.

Dr. Linda Lane is hired as Deputy Superintendent, enhancing the influence of the Board Foundation in the district.

3. December 19, 2006: $152,000 in grant funds are dedicated to Kaplan for professional development.

Essex 3 is hired to tabulate the results of the parent survey approved in November (I imagine contractor Matter and the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff were simply overwhelmed).

Another PR firm is hired to do print and website logos and templates.

Focus on Results receives its first contract from the district “to meet with selected staff to: 1) enhance the urgency and the cross-department processes necessary for accelerating academic performance, and 2) build teamwork and identify tools that will assist with monitoring the timeliness and quality of work for greater accountability and higher levels of customer service”, for $237,000, funded by a grant.

Although the grant would dry up, this FOR would milk the Pittsburgh cow for a few more years.

The Communications team hires Jpapa to “to complete an assessment and develop a comprehensive customer service plan that will increase the District's ability to provide timely and consistent responses to parent/community inquiries, minimize staff duplication, and capture data for analysis of common issues and trends to shape other district initiatives.”

Reductions are taken with the 2006 budget, although almost entirely in the Operations divisions (e.g. maintenance).

Right-Sizing seemed to have no impact on academic administration or the office of the chief of staff, other than to increase central office staffing.

Paulette Poncelet is hired as Chief of Research, although this seems to have no change on the amount of research contracts awarded to RAND and subsequently Mathmatica (once the Broad Academy connection migrated from RAND to Mathmatica).

MORE TO FOLLOW. Enjoy the reading; sorry today's history lesson is comming in pieces, there is a character limit to submissions. Installments 2, 3 and 4 comprise the 1st semester of the 2006-07 school year."

How we got where we are Part III (October 2006 - December 2006)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, 3rd installment, October to December 2006:

1. October 24, 2006: Apparently very satisfied with the early results, the Board approves a change to the Kaplan contract for curriculum writing, advancing the rate of payment by $170,000 more for the 2006-07 school year.

A special hourly rate of pay is created for teachers providing workshops within the district of $46.64 per hour. There is no offsetting reduction to contracts with folks like the Institute for Learning, but this becomes a handy tool to reward folks loyal to the reform agenda in general and more specifically to the Executive Director for Professional Development.

Highmark provides a $1 million grant to start a crisis intervention model for student services by funding contracts with various providers; the initial program was supposed to transfer knowledge to PPS employees and therefore be sustainable, but in practice the added cost would remain in the PPS budget long after the grant money dries up (a common them during the last five years).

Roughly half a million dollars in Right-Sizing change orders, although by the time, special counsel Weiss becomes to suffer from amnesia that it was his opinion on an “allowable technique” that got this ball rolling in the spring.

Cassandra Richardson Kemp is hired as a contracted principal for Allderdice.

2. November 15, 2006: RESOLVED, That The Board of Public Education of The School District of Pittsburgh hereby accepts the recommendation to change the status of Lynn Spampinato from her full-time role as Deputy Superintendent to outside consultant and approves the Agreement and Release with Lynn Spampinato as submitted. The consulting agreement will be effective November 16, 2006 through April 15, 2008, for an amount not to exceed $213,333.00, which will be charged against account no. 4000-010-2360-323.

Spampinato would later produce a report on Career and Technical Education, drawing on resources including Dr. Johnson Martin's original plan and the Chartwell report authorized in September.

5. November 21, 2006: The contract with the Law Offices of Ira Weiss is expanded, appointing him acting solicitor, in addition to other legal work performed as special counsel, special tax counsel, etc.

Board Member Mark Brentley points out that “I think we may be moving just a little bit too fast with this item.”

Bud Bergie is hired as Chief Information Officer (technology); Bergie brings to the district the same amount of K-12 experience as Roosevelt, Fischetti and Chester.

Jean Matter is hired by the Communications department to conduct a $61,600 telephone survey. She, like Fischetti, served for a time at Ketchum.

Board Member Randall Taylor argues that the amount is excessive for the scope of work. Taylor points out that the polling should be done in such a way that the work can be easily replicated by staff over multiple years so that the results can be tracked and compared, much like the Central Office Satisfaction Survey, which, by the way, was ended the year that the Superintendent's and Chief of Staff's functions appeared at the very bottom of the survey's results.


How we got where we are Part II (Aug 2006 - October 2006)

On another post, Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, 2nd installment (August to October, 2006-07 school year):

The 2006-07 school year was an exciting time to be in Pittsburgh. The material is so rich that we are presenting a review of the first semester today:

1. August 15, 2006: Right-Sizing contract change orders are in full swing, as the Board approves $723,839 of additional cost for projects that were not allowed to be properly designed and publicly bid with any semblance of reasonable lead time.

Frank Chester is hired as Chief Human Resources Officer (no K-12 experience).

The RAND Corporation receives yet another no bid contract for $40,000 for additional analysis, included PSSA test scores. No one seems to notice or care that the principal researcher has a connection to a fellow Broad Superintendent's Academy “graduate.”

The Communications department, fresh off of its 2005-06 expansion (it would grow even more later in Roosevelt's tenure) tests the waters of adding consultant support, this time a $33,276 for the High School Reform Task Force.

2. September 27, 2006: The Board agrees to use the $159,000 Project 720 grant to “audit” the District's CTE programs, including an exciting journey for staff members to travel to Charlotte to see their programs, notwithstanding the fact that award winning career and technical programs can be found elsewhere in Allegheny County.

Chartwell Education Group is hired for the study at a cost of $67,000. For five straight years Roosevelt would respond to the decline of Pittsburgh's vocational offerings by conducting further studies and repackaging the very same PowerPoint slides over and over.

Heinz Endowments gives the Communications department $200,000 for parent engagement, kicking off a steady stream of glossy postcards thanking the Superintendent for his leadership.

Surprise – a $191,741 contract with the RAND Corporation to evaluate key elements of the Excellence for All reform agenda. Once again, no one seems to notice or care that the principal researcher has a connection to a fellow Broad Superintendent's Academy “graduate.”

$3.4 million in facilities' change orders driven by the Right-Sizing project for work that was not allowed to be properly designed and publicly bid with any semblance of reasonable lead time.

The school district's Solicitor retires, opening the door for the district to fund the same services at several fold the cost through an external provider.

A Chief Information Officer (technology) position is approved.

The Communications staff, apparently overwhelmed by the amount of PR Mr. Roosevelt's ego required, hires a Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff.

Added to the personnel agenda are the buyout of a senior curriculum officer (Briars) and a resolution authorizing discussions with Mr. Roosevelt about his contract.


Friday, June 10, 2011

How we got where we are Part I (July 2005 - July 2006)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"This lack of planning is nothing but the fruit of a tree planted in 2005. Perhaps we should slowly, but surely trace the roots of how PPS landed in the fine mess it now finds itself in.

Here's a short list of the greatest hits during the 2005-06 school year:

1. July 27, 2005: Board hires Mark Roosevelt as Superintendent of Schools. Roosevelt had no formal experience as a Superintendent.

2. September 28, 2005: Board breaks its contract with Andy King, demoting him from Chief Academic Officer to Special Assistant to the Superintendent. This will lead to the first of a series of expensive HR settlements.

3. November 22, 2005: Roosevelt begins his stream of carefully controlled studies, hiring the RAND Corporation to prepare a school closing analysis for $97,400. Like so many to follow, the underlying models assigning ratings to specific schools would never be made public, only the conclusions and a summary of the findings.

4. February 28, 2006: Board accepts a $1.5 million grant from the “Fund for Excellence” for start up costs for the Accelerated Learning Academies. Like so many programs during the Roosevelt, the Board would chase the immediate cash and give no regard for the long term sustainability of the program. America's Choice is hired for $3.6 million to support implementation of the ALAs. This is the same night the Right-Sizing plan is approved.

5. March 22, 2006: Kaplan is hired to write curriculum for $8.4 million.

6. April 26, 2006: The Institute of Learning receives a $400,000 contract to provide professional development to principals. An IFL or successor contract would become an annual item; the first one is funded by a grant, hiding the district's long term ability to support it. Expansion of central office in full swing with the creation of a Chief of Research.

7. May 26, 2006: The primacy of all things marketing begins with the Board opening positions for a Media Relations Manager and Community Relations Manager, all in the same year that 22 schools were slated to close.

8. June 21, 2006: The curriculum shuffle progresses with the DSF Charitable Foundation giving $1 million for new pre-k to 5 reading materials. Math wars remain with $120,000 spent for a Harcourt pilot and another $600,000 to other publishers. $50,000 is awarded for construction curriculum software at the same time that said CTE offerings were beginning to be phased out.

9. July 19, 2006: The Pennsylvania Department of Education hires PPS to run the Duquesne City School District. PSSA scores would drop dramatically during Mark Roosevelt's tenure as Duquesne's Superintendent of Record.

Next up: 2006-07"

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New plan for teachers

From the PG:

"At least initially, the clinical resident instructors will focus their efforts on principals and teachers who formally evaluate their peer teachers.

"That's the unique piece of this model," Ms. Lane said. "You're going to reverse training to have teachers training principals and other administrators.""

Read more:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Training existing teachers

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"School district salvages piece of teacher academy concept


June 8, 2011 5:24 PM

"Anonymous said...
Burning more money."

Broad drawing criticism

On another post, Mark Rauterkus wrote:

"In other news:

Broad and critics. Get out."

PPS considers closing more buildings

From the Tribune:

Monday, June 6, 2011

A+ schools quarterly report card

From the Tribune:

Friday, June 3, 2011

"Waiting for a school miracle"

NYT Op Ed piece by Diane Ravitch:

"... the accounts of miracle schools demand closer scrutiny. Usually, they are the result of statistical legerdemain."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dlopez moving from PPS to HCZ

PPG article on the announcement that was made by John Wallace last week:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


On another post Anonymous wrote:

P"ELAs are gone after this year. And good riddens., we will not have VPs and Directors now. The board is getting rid of VPs and replacing them with PELAs because they have to give those PELAs jobs. Because they can't just kick out VPs and replace them, they decided to pretend to cut the positions and give them to the PELAs but call it something different. A terrible loophole.

June 1, 2011 10:10 PM"

Teacher Academies nixed

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"Training academies for Pittsburgh teachers won't open.

I wonder if GATES is happy about this>>>>"

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"Fiscal Challenges. Once again the District makes a late decision and tries to spin it as though they have done something worth applauding. The Central Administration today announced that they were not going t6o move forward with the Techers Academies at Brashear and King as a cost savings, but no mention of the fact that these projects were already bis through the states Co-Stars program and that the contractor's that won the bids will most likely have to be paid for the projects anyway, another waste of more than $300K. Also, apparently the way to save money is to announce a hiring freeze and then advertise for not one, not two, but three new Directors positions for the Technology Department. Typically Directors positions within the District start at approximately $90K a year. If three Directors are needed, what exactly is the Chief of Technology going to do."