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:


Questioner said...

The district does seem so large and bureaucratic that it is hard for families to become involved. Does it really make sense to ask a family in Homewood to travel to Brashear or Perry for a parent engagement event?

Someone else recently suggested dividing up the district by region: North, East and South/West. These proposals run counter to calls for consolidation of PA's many school districts, but may nevertheless make sense. Maybe there is an optimal size, say about 8,000 students, for a district.

Questioner said...

As an added benefit, smaller units might enable us to lose Broad/Gates and career, school hopping administrators, who tend to focus on large districts with big budgets.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Thanks for putting the ideas I floated in its own thread.

Back in the day I coached at a school district that was named as The Best Public High School in America, New Trier High School, just north of Evanston, north of Chicago.

That was a High School only school district. They've jumped from one to two to one high school again over the years. But regardless, the school is often on the list as a top high school.

No doubt, the district(s) serve some of the most affluent areas to be found.

In Pittsburgh, I think we need more local control.

And, with more identity to our respective corners of the city, we might find some areas thrive. If a certain part of the city gets it right with regard to the schools and education of our younger kids, people in that area of the city will have better retention as well as more demand for housing, development and such.

Networking is also a strain if not impossible when there are so many schools and people in the city. In suburban Pittsburgh, over the years, folks get to know one another. They spend years in the same system and mingle in the same school events. They all grow up together and you get to learn as to who can be trusted, who is good at different roles, who is who, period. I feel that the bigness of the district crushes the positive networking that citizens can leverage to battle against over-reaching policies that are rotten ideas.

The bigness can be a positive at the high school grades allowing specialization from around the city (Sci Tech, IB, Vo Tech, Auto Shop, Robotics, Creative & Performing Arts, etc.) Kids that want to specialize can and should have those options. So, a unified district for grades 9-12 and optionally 13, makes sense.

But on the other hand, our wee ones should NOT be going far from home for school in the early grades. We want them close as they are younger. We want them to have a more general and safe educational setting.

The right-sizing, if done in a regional approach, rather than 22 schools zapped at one blink, could have been better constructed with more input and more engagement.

They don't generally close high schools in suburban districts, unless we are talking about Homestead High or Turtle Creek High -- back in the day. The closing we know happens mostly in the too big urban district or with the Catholic Schools and the Bishop.

Anonymous said...

This plan can only be supported and considered if the level of service delivered to students was improved and costs either remained the same to the taxpayer or decreased.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Of course levels of service delivered can be improved when the parents/families have a better grip on the school, the administration, and the school board(s).

Perception can also be a big part of the change. Ownership increases.

At present, PPS families are YANKED AROUND too much. This effort of smaller districts by age and by region limits some of the boundaries for that YANKING sensation.

So, some of the big upside resides in NOT 'better services' but in a situation that is less vulnerable to wacky, system wide changes that have repercussions on the negative side.

Central planning advocates generally love command and control situations. This turn to a different direction. Smaller, more localized and even more specialized board policy realms.

The biggest PLUS to the jumping of school board members from 9 to 45 (or more) is that School Board Members are NOT PAID. That's where we need more engagement: volunteers. The political landscape changes as well as there would be more elections, more voices, more votes.

Now, with a few changes to the board, and with a few donations by the politically connected / elite, the board can be controlled. Five seats give a majority at present. A few Elsie Hillman type (generalization and example) campaign donations and the board is controlled by wire-pullers.

Of course 5 would win a majority, but, there are to be 5 different boards where now there is only one.

There is less of a threat for the power-hungry to dabble in the new situation as it is too hard to influence so many.

Anonymous said...

Three words, friend.

Never gonna happen.

What part of this shell game are you missing? Make moves that benefit a small portion of the population, make sure your cronies keep their jobs, line your pockets while you're at it and influence thinking by utilizing the public relations angle.

And you think that somehow, someone is going to de-fragment the district?