Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How we got where we are Part X October to November 2007

On another post Anonymous wrote:

NEW POST: How we got where we are, Part X, October to November 14, 2007

On November 14, 2007 components of Roosevelt's high school reform agenda were written right into a state-mandated Improvement plan, really with shockingly little opportunity for public input into the process.

Inept concepts, such as re-creating a robotics lab at Peabody for the formerly Schenley students to use (why not just use the labs at Allderdice instead of spending $3 million on labs that would hardly ever be used?) and keeping Schenley (without IB) intact no matter how few students would graduate from Reizenstein (how mortifying were the paltry class offerings for the remaining Spartans?) were born from the plans initiated and/or approved in the window of time.

Keep in mind that by the fall of 2007, the Broad Foundation had not yet called off its grand plans around small high schools being the end all and be all, so PPS' Roosevelt/Fischetti/Lane/Lopez team could not develop such concepts and spend enough capital dollars on them quickly enough. All at the same time that our enrollment numbers were continuing to plummet.

So much else has been written here that I do not need to repeat, just mention in passing: do you really think the students at Milliones/UPrep are any better off than they would have been as Schenley Spartans? Could we have saved Schenley if not for the millions spent creating lots of little high schools when we had plenty of pretty empty high schools already? Is it any wonder that these smalls schools have left our comprehensive high schools devastated?

October 4, 2007: Focus on Results receives a $198,000 increase covering about five months of work: “Approval for Focus on Results current contract to be extended through March 14, 2008, with an additional cost not to exceed $198,000 for a total contract not to exceed $551,500. The purpose of the contract is also extended to include Executive Coaching for Executive Directors, Mentor Principals working with Principals in Training, and the Deputy Superintendent in order to support full implementation of the Principals Performance Evaluation Metric and the PULSE system.”

Keep in mind that for roughly $40,000 a month PPS was receiving only part time support from three consultants, not really even one FTE. It would not be until a new Squirrel Hill company was formed nearly four years later - on the very day that it was starting work for Pittsburgh Public Schools - that we would see a richer contract on an FTE basis (Two Bell LLC at roughly $50,000 per month).

November 14, 2007: The district buys additional space for CAPA for $2.2 million and hires no less than eight architectural firms for work related to High School Reform.

Also approved that evening is the District Improvement Plan which was required to be filed with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Roosevelt and Lane spend significant time at the meeting deflecting the connection Brentley and Taylor draw between the numerous high school reform actions listed in the improvement plan and what Roosevelt refers to as “the Schenley matter.”

Brentley summarized: “it is a little misleading to the public to include that in any document, that we are voting on, that is going to govern this board or to be used to govern this board in its improvement, when a lot of these issues are still unanswered? It clearly gives the indication that there is an attempt to backdoor this whole high school reform.”

The juxtaposition of the “delamination” crisis and the announcement of whole host of 6-12 programs in the district is nothing short of remarkable. Roosevelt explains: “There is a significant body of research we believe supports the creation of 6-12 learning communities.”

The commentary at the table is quite rich. As it relates to Sci Tech going into Frick, Taylor argues: “So I ask the question, why would you spend 15 million dollars to create space, when you can easily accommodate a science and technology at Westinghouse high school?”


Anonymous said...

Parents who do not have the same insights as those closer to the district operations can spend a lot of time wondering about the true motives for actions taken. Was opening Milliones an attempt to make Mr. Brentley happy about something? Was creating a bogus need for consultants a way to generate jobs for those with credentials but no paychecks?

Anonymous said...

Welcome back!!

Questioner said...

Mark Brentley was totally pro-Schenley- he understood that U Prep would face problems.

Randall Taylor said...

One of the most egregious abuses of this city was the creation of Sci-Tech. This is a great school, but the students in it were doing great just where they were. This school was unneeded and unthought of. Mark Roosevelt's politics with the universities lead to it creation. They not only wanted a school(why?),they insisted that it be located in Oakland.

They pulled 20 million in bricks and morter off the table, including A/C, they put a headstart(daycare?) in a 6-12 building. The District always placed headstarts in K-5 to encourage continuity headstand K-5s.

They also took the Frick name off the building over the objections of the History and Landmarks group. The sham was the school naming which had a sci tech sign hanging outside BEFORE the school was officially named.

The biggest shame was that if you insisted on doing this school it could have been placed in Westinghouse, provide transportation, and you would see that people will go anywhere their is a good school(ie CAPA and Homewood Montessori). This would have saved at least 18 million. Again, it was the responsibility of the Board to protect the taxpayers from Mark Rossevelt's politics. We know whom they chose.

Randall Taylor said...

Mark Brentley had nothing to do with the creation of UPrep. This was another example of Roosevelt's politics. The university of Pittsburgh school of ED. at that time thought they wanted some poor kids to play with, so Roosevelt gave them some. PITT soon found out you should be careful what you ask for.

Questioner said...

MR always gave Board members some ostensible reason for going along with his proposals. And then there was always the fallback that we couldn't hold MR accountable if we didn't give his proposals a chance. But has anyone ever held him accountable anyway?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Motivations: When original rightsizing happened, many of the schools in The Hill were closed. So, Mark Roosevelt owed some political pay back to open a school there. Roosevelt thought he was doing good by them and that yardstick.

The other factor, a University school, should be sorta close PITT. With that, Sci Tech is better and same w Schenley. But UPrep is too too far.

Questioner said...

Just about any Hill resident you ask, that is not part of an organization that receives money from the district for training, or an after school program, or a preschool program etc., will tell you they would have preferred to keep Schenley.

Anonymous said...

"Mark Roosevelt owed some political pay back to open a school there. Roosevelt thought he was doing good by them and that yardstick."

"will tell you they would have preferred to keep Schenley. "

Those wouldn't be contradictory for Mark Roosevelt. He just knew he was right and that whatever he did was right, so people would be grateful, sooner or later. If they weren't, it was just an indication of how dumb they really were.

That basically sums up his entire tenure: I've planned what's best for you, so shut up and enjoy it.

I don't think it ever occurred to him that a Pittsburgher of any color would have any better ideas than he had. But particularly the black residents. It really upset him I think, that they didn't think he was going to be their knight in shining armor.

Anonymous said...

Maybe next time (which may not be too far off) we need a residency requirement- 10 years in Pittsburgh in order to be considered for the superintendent position.

Anonymous said...

I think it had more to do with his personality/Broad training/surrounding himself with yes people that was the problem.

A proven ability to listen to opposing views and change plans accordingly would be a lovely requirement.

I do remember with the first set of school closings thinking how much sense they would make IF you had no idea of how Pittsburghers move around the city and which parts they consider "close by" and which parts they consider "very far and different."

Those things don't show up on a map, but they do make it so that you can't just close one school and expect everyone there to go where you want them to go.

The worst part was that they did it again with the whole UPrep/Schenley/Reiz thing and look to be doing it yet one more time.

Learning from mistakes is another good quality. Of course, I guess you have to admit you made a mistake to even hope to learn from it.

Questioner said...

Along the lines of "you can't just close one school and expect everyone there to go where you want them to go"- it sounds like U Prep enrollment is shaping up to be less than expected, despite limited alternatives.

Anonymous said...

Would it be wrong to predict an increase in the dropout rate?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Big nods to Randall above about the creation of Sci Tech.

Frick worked. It wasn't PERFECT, but it was a better middle school than most.

Sci Tech should be in Westinghouse. No doubt.

So, questions: How is Sci Tech doing vs old Frick. And, how is Sci Tech doing vs Pgh Obama?

Questioner said...

There won't be any sci tech 11th grade test scores until next year- but it will be possible to compare 6th, 7th and 8th grade scores by next month at the latest. And enrollment as a percentage of capacity can be considered as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing Sci-tech is going to do as well or better than Obama. They started strong (and actually got rid of some students, like the one who started a fire). It had good word of mouth and attracted a diverse bunch of kids.

Also, it let teachers have more say in curriculum. Check out sometime when they're looking for teachers -- and the schedules for those helping plan the still upcoming grades.

Mark Rauterkus said...

In due time, SciTech gets to have exits at 11, 12, and after 13th grades. That is huge, imnsho.

Questioner said...

It will be interesting to see if any exits after grade 11 actually occur. Remember the big plan presented last year for early college at Oliver?

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to throw a wet blanket over Sci Tech, but I'll be surprised if they are 'up there' with Obama, but that's a conversation for another day.
I'm a little taken aback by the comment about Sci Tech having say so over their curriculum. I could see that in science and perhaps math, of course, but in all other areas, too, and in a district that relishes compliance.
And Obama being an IB school---the IBMYP program--you mean teachers must adhere to the ridiculously poor and agenda-serving curricula set forth by Pitt's IFL??
If that's the case, this district is even more horrible than I thought.
I just don't like forcing children--forcing them--to think in some direction, and PPS curriculum clearly carries an agenda.

Anonymous said...

Will the early childhood center operate again at Sci-Tech this year?

Questioner said...

Early childhood placement at sci tech seems to be intended as permanent. The auditorium was removed in order to make room for ECC (strangely, at the same time that an auditorium was being added at great cost to Milliones to replace an ampitheatre or whatever it was called).