Sunday, August 7, 2011

How we got where we are Part XVI (April 2008 continued)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we got where we are, part 16

April 23, 2008: The Board approves “Submission of an application for $1,248,491 from the U.S. Department of Education would support the new University Preparatory School's development as a "Smaller Learning environment in which a group of teachers and other adults within the school knows the needs, interests, and aspirations of each student well, closely monitors each student's progress, and provides the academic and other support each student needs to succeed"...Funds will be used to 1) provide ongoing professional development for teachers on the implementation of research-based math programs that are part of the Johns Hopkins Talent Development High Schools Model (Geometry Foundations and Algebra II Foundations) to work with students whose math skills are below grade level; 2) enable students to participate in two college campus visits per year; 3) cover the cost of stipends for up to 3 full-time KEYS Service Corps Americorps members who will provide tutoring and mentoring services; 4) contract with the University of Pittsburgh for the provision of Master of Teaching interns who will decrease the ratio of students to instructional staff; and 5) contract with the University of Pittsburgh for the provision of student tutors. The funding period shall run from August 1, 2008 to July 31, 2013.”

Wouldn't you just love to hear an assessment of this partnership from the Pitt's perspective?

If Gates can admit that small learning communities have been a failure, why can't PPS?

Do you really think the non-IB students were any better off not having Schenley stay intact?

Architectural contracts are authorized to prepare the Milliones and Reizenstein facilities to receive high school students. $2.5 million in construction contracts are awarded for Peabody to receive the Schenley robotics program. $3.7 million in contracts for work at Milliones. $2.8 million for Reizenstein.

Pause the tape for second – presuming Schenley was not inhabitable, wasn't the most cost effective strategy to combine the Schenley and Peabody feeder patterns and simply move Schenley intact to Peabody? This would have avoided all of the costs at Reizenstein and Milliones.

Mark Brentley calls this one right too: “if the issues are still somewhat undecided as to the finalizing the issue at Schenley, why do we continue to move forward, and spend, and spend, and spend...if we are looking at a temporary move, why not use the facilities that we have that are available? And we have available a ton of unused space in Westinghouse High School, we have space at Peabody...much more dollars less than this. And so my question is again: Have we, and why have we not, explored the possibilities of moving
those Schenley students to the Westinghouse facility?”

The Board also entered into a contract with “Rachel Curtis, former Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning in the Boston Public School District...her expertise is being sought to provide program evaluations and recommendations for the Leadership Academy and Pittsburgh Emerging Leadership Academy (PELA) as a means of informing our work as we plan year three of the reform initiatives around leadership training.”

The contract with Curtis was approved the very same night that the Board hires a lead principal facilitator for the PELA program.

Brentley points out the duplication, “it appears to be some duplication of services here...with the serious financial situation we are facing, I would think we would be able to find a better use of those dollars.”

The Curriculum Shuffle returns, with $900,000 spent on a buffet of elementary math programs.

The Board approves a Gifted Pilot for five elementary schools. It's almost impossible to believe, but the model proposed is more expensive than the pullout program, which almost no districts in the Commonwealth or across the country deploy simply because it is too expensive."


Bulldog Forever said...

...another quality submission by the Westinghouse Alumni Association makes me proud...

Anonymous said...

The robotics program was just moved to Allderdice. What did that cost?

This is incredible the waste of money, the PELA program has cost this district way to much money in the past and know making positions all theses clowns.

Anonymous said...

What impact has the rise of PELAs had on discipline in our schools?

Dedicated Teacher said...

I guess we always have to follow the money.

Did anyone notice the iPads on PPS TV?

Think its any surprise that Apple has announced a partnership with the anti-union Teach for America:

Mark Campbell's outsourcing of PFT technical-clerical positions (e.g. telecommunications) is a logical extension of this philosophy.

John and Nina, when are you going to take action and file an unfair labor practices case?

Disgusted Taxpayer said...

Watching the announcement of the new school closing plan reminds me of an article that ran in Tulsa last year:

There is a bit of an in-your-face tone to the administration's quotes in this article.

Take, for instance, the explanation of why high schools were not included:

"Pittsburgh closed only elementary and middle schools, and intentionally so, Fischetti said.

High schools have larger natural political bases in students, parents, teachers, staff, neighbors and alumni.

The emotional stakes are much higher when you go to close a high school.

"It's never easy to close schools, but it's easier to close elementary and K-8 schools," Fischetti said. "The emotionalism of closing a high school is very different.""

With high schools in the mix this time, does that mean Dr. Lane is planning to retire soon? Five years in the PSERS system is just around the corner for her.

I'm guessing she announces her retirement shortly after the November 2011 vote on these school closings.

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder how much deliberation on this school closing proposal has already taken place in private with the Board.

The recent court actions around the Highlands School District's flaunting of the Sunshine Law - at Solicitor Ira Weiss' guidance - makes we wonder if Pittsburgh has also been busy behind closed doors.

Read more here:

Puzzled Parent said...

Maybe the Curriculum Shuffle paid off for the district.

As part of the July 27, 2011 Legislative Meeting, the Board received a financial projection that showed a budget deficit of $52.5 million for 2012.

Clearly by July 27th the effects of reducing the capital program, not opening the full teacher academies, the adopted state budget, trends in real estate collections and the June furloughs would already have been taken into account.

Just a week later, on August 4th, the deficit is now reported in a press release as being only $41.2 million for 2012.

How exactly did the financial forecast improve by $11.3 million in one week?

How does a taxpayer get some answers about the difference? Why was there no explanation of the improvement?

Which number is right?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Question: Which number is right?

Perhaps neither.

What makes you think that any number used so far is the 'correct' number.

My point: None of the above should always be an option. Even in elections.

Anonymous said...

I can tell anonymous that the PELAs have had a great impact on the discipline in our schools. In one K-5, over 50 students have left because of lack of consequences for students who are disruptive to the learning of others, the PELA principal hugs and kisses these disruptive students and parents have left with 2,3 or 4 children.

Anonymous said...

Yes, PELAs seem to have gotten the message that all a child with difficulties behaving in school needs is a friend. And to be that friend, it seems they don't want to set boundaries or enforce basic rules necessary for learning. Instead they provide positive reinforcement not for positive behavior, but for negative.

It's very sad, too, because old school principals were able to combine being a loving presence in these kids lives with structure. They worked hard to set limits and change behavior. They weren't mean or loud, but persistent and consistent.

Kids don't respect adults who treat them with kid-gloves, they keep pushing to find the limit. They actively disrespect these people in hopes that at some point they can find a core of an adult who can truly help them.

Most PELAs seem unable to provide that.

Randall Taylor said...

The question of moving all of Schenley into Peabody was voted down by the Board. I wanted the foolishness on the record. When I asked Mark Roosevelt why could not Schenley move into Peabody and keep the same teachers and programs, he said "Peabody can only hold 1200". I said when I went to peabody there were over 2000 students there. We could have relocated and maybe preserved Schenley.Amazing

Questioner said...

But of course MR had no interest in preserving Schenley- he wanted to experiment with a university prep school.

Anonymous said...

It is certainly revealing and certain disheartening, (if not downright criminal) to learn, here, what has and is occurring in PPS, with lots of sarcasm for emphasis; however, its is useless with plans of action for solutions that address these problems.

Is there anyone out there who can coalesce the critical mass and critical influence to successfully set this situation right?

Anonymous said...

Correction: Certainly disheartening . . . It is useless without plans of action . . .

Anonymous said...

Anon: I am quite certain that WAA compiled a 40 point action plan to address the budget gap.

It was shared with Dr. Lane and a pretty wide distribution, including this blog.

So far, no response from the administration.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am aware of the fine investigative work of WAA. However, I believe you do have the response . . . business as usual. And clearly, the Board, the PFT, the Foundations, and the citizens of Pittsburgh have given the administration carte blanche without batting an eye.

How will WAA and their supporters gather the influence and momentum to change the course toward the demise of PPS a once proud and productive district?

Anonymous said...

How will WAA and their supporters gather the influence and momentum to change the course toward the demise of PPS a once proud and productive district? **

I think every person who is concerned about the direction of the district, the misspent money and the insanity of having no overall plan needs to TALK ABOUT IT at every opportunity.

Hanging around in the neighborhood? Kids at the playground and there are other parents around? Church picnic? People at work live in the city, but not have kids or not have kids in the schools?

TALK to people.

Oh, and go to the public hearings, write letters to the editor, email your board member (and cc all the rest of them).

Until people who only read the newspaper or only know the broadest outline begin to get a sense that our schools are on a collision course with utter disaster, there isn't going to be movement.

This is a CITYWIDE issue, not a parents only issue, or a parents of kids in PPS issue. Without a decent public school system, the city will NOT be able to attract young people back, will not be able to attract businesses, etc.

Anonymous said...

The public hearing should be interesting. Seven schools does not sound like many until you thinkg about 2 being high schools. When we think about they studies, audits and consultants who came through PPS since 2001 (the year my child started school), many have failed and misled. In 2002 one audit by a private firm suggested costs be contained in areas like administration and cell phone management and employee travel, but, although we operated more buildings than districts our size in the northeast, it did not suggest closing any buildings. Other times the "intelligence" reported after an audit was ignored. How does this happen?

Anonymous said...

In response to the Gifted Pilot schools. I believe that two of those, Northview and Fort Pitt will be closing in 20012-2013. Colfax and Dilworth have programs in place with Colfax sending the
6th -8th grades back to the Gifted Center. Grandview also has a pilot program. What is the distict's plan with regard to the gifted and talented children in the district. The pilot schools are serving some gifted but not talented students who need to be challenged in the classroom and that means going off script and enriching the students with challenging work. Children are gifted 5 days a week, not just the one day they go to Greenway, when are the curriculum gurus going to see this.

Older Teacher said...

It's been said here many times before, but what bothers me most is how out of touch the "curriculum gurus" are with the needs of our students. It's troubling to me as a teacher that essential district personnel--from janitors, to tech people, to teachers themselves--have been and will continue to be sacrificed in order to keep such individuals employed.

In this regard, Dr.Lane has failed the students of Pittsburgh.

I think that to a large degree, we can attribute the various moves documented in these pieces to even more talking heads who dwell in the ivory tower and are sorely out of touch with the needs of kids and the community. Schenley did not need to close. Programs did not need to move or be closed. It's shameful, and representative of thinking that does not take into account Pittsburgh students and families.

I constantly reflect on past leadership and ask, were we better off then? Were we better off under Louise Brennen? Most assuredly. Were we better off under John Thompson? Amazingly, yes, without a doubt.

History will look upon Mark Roosevelt and at least so far, Linda Lane, as individuals who cared more for corporate style leadership and public relations than the urban Pittsburgh student. To me, there is little doubt that thanks to this type of "leadership", the last nails are being pounded into the PPS coffin.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that I have seen mentioned before is creating a flow chart showing "chain of command" and the layers of administration and duplicated services. I agree that this could be a powerful visual for the average Pittsburger who has very little idea of their wasted tax money and where it actually ends up. I wouldn't mind working on such a chart, but where do you start? I have limited knowledge of the real workings of the system, and it difficult to get real answers. Anyone: any idea on where or how to start a project like this?

Stephanie Tecza said...

Check out this chart. It looks like we are playing chess with our kids. "Ok who has the next move?"

Anonymous said...

11:38 -

SO TRUE! Please do not fail to mention the insightful leadership of both Drs. Helen Faison and Andrew King! They each CARED DEEPLY about ALL of Pittsburgh's STUDENTS. And knew enough to surround themselves with Pittsburgh's finest educators.

Pittsburgh's EDUCATORS (those certified in academics and rising from the trenches) are among the best in the nation and served our children with knowledge, honesty, creativity, and intelligence. We will ever see their like again in top PPS leadership roles?

Anonymous said...

I can see issues with the "Receive back students from private placements" even though I do not have any experience in the area.

Does anyone know how things are going with the cost containment strategies coming with the start of the new school year? How is that transportation plan coming that would cut costs getting kids to and from school? If there are to be stricter rules to qualify for specialized transportation as had been discussed at an A+ sponsored budget meeting when will the parents impacted hear about it or will that phase not be implemented until 2012?

Older Teacher said...

A couple of side notes that pertain to this series:

-Preliminary PSSA scores will be released tomorrow.

-The PFT has just sent a short digest of propaganda to all members. Like her predecessor,Nina Esposito is touting her desire to continue to "empower teachers."

A question to all colleagues out there:
Does anyone working in a classroom in PPS feel empowered??? If so, how? Do you feel empowered by bland, faceless curriculum? Do you feel empowered via the RISE process, which essentially can have you replaced or fired at any whim of an administrator?
Please share your thoughts. Just who feels empowered, and why to PFT top staffearn paychecks via PPS and make their personnel listings for taking "paid leaves of absence"???
Why is PFT brass getting a PPS paycheck?

Randall Taylor said...

I recently looked at Mark Roosevelt's right-sizing plan of 2006( I am sure it can be tracked down somewhere). It is amazing how much of that plan changed, for instance Weil, Vann, and Miller were all made K-8, it is incredible haw much of that changed in 5 years. Does long range and strategic planning exist?

Questioner said...

Word us that Weil and Miller are fairly underenrolled- one may need to close. If 6-8 had been left in those schools rather than spending money to renovate Milliones and move them to that building, it would have helped enrollment. Over and over we see money spent on renovations when there was nearby excess capacity.

Stephanie Tecza said...

Regarding the comment about "Receive back students from private placements"
If these are students with IEP's the district cannot just simply MOVE them back without parent permission. There is a process to change a special education students placement. I hope the district is doing this right and issuing a NOTICE OF RECOMMENDED EDUCATIONAL PLACEMENT DOCUMENT for every student. HUMMMMMMMMMMMM but also letting the parents know they have rights to disagree with the district recommendations.

parent1 said...

Older Teacher 2:19, I am only a parent but hope someone more knowledgeable can verify my understanding of the PFT brass and "paid leave of absence". At a meeting once the subject came up at our table that the situation you describe was suspect and we heard that the PFT pays back the school district for the amount of the "paid leaves of absence" people but for paperwork purposes it is recorded as you mentioned in the personnel report. There is likely a more appropriate way to descrbe the process but we swallow any answer to move on to the next question.

Lisa Jones 4 School Board said...

Please check out my website. I recently posted a response to the recent school closures,titled Breaking News. I've included statistics from Allegheny Institute's most recent audit. They report a similar trend in office space to classroom space as nonteaching positions to teaching positon. Basically, that office space has doubled over the past ten years as the nonteaching positions doubled. Meanwhile, classroom space continues to drop as teacher ratios remain level.

The blog is lengthy but I address other recent developments also.

Older Teacher said...

Thanks Parent. I just don't think this district can afford the many non-teaching positions that it currently staffs, and this certainly applies to individuals like Nina Esposito, Bill Hileman and Mary van Horn, who have not been in the classroom for years and who do nothing for students whatsoever.
Lane's commentary in today's PG is again, very disappointing. I had high hopes for her when she was appointed because if nothing else, she had a background in education. Sadly, she sound like just another politician.
Close schools. Fire teachers. Yadda, yadda, yadda, tough decisions, yadda, yadda, we don't make decisions like this lightly, yadda, yadda, class sizes will know the double talk.
To Lisa Jones, please know that the public deserves a look at ALL administrative positions within PPS. Taxpayers deserve to see what they are paying for and should be allowed to make comment. From what I already know, numerous administrative positions should be eliminated, from central office "staff" to individual departments that are often 8 positions deep if not more, to those over at Greenway who do nothing but plan professional development.
How do you fire teachers or close schools and keep these people employed????
Dr.Lane, you owe taxpayers an explanation.

Anonymous said...

Worse yet, the people at Greenway a very short on qualifications to plan Professional Development. Check their experience and credentials. But, then they were selected by people in Central Office who are also void of the necessary experience and credentials. PPS is on overload with people "in charge" who are not even minimally qualified for their positions. Are there any guidelines or standards in Human Resources?

Anonymous said...

Read the qualifications on the new Human Resources positions and you will have verification on why there is a serious, serious problem.

Anonymous said...

I am married to person that worked 70 hour weeks and aged 10+ years in 6 working in central office. My spouse was " let go " simply by being honest and was not " on board" with the "Ego Express"

They Broad, Gates..(Roosevelt/Lane) don't want anyone that "thinks" For themselves, has an opinion, or has morals. It is a foreign concept for anyone to question them and their goal. I met both Lane & Roosevelt and I was astounded at their lack of social skills. Translation: they did not give a dam.(n). At all.