On another post Anonymous wrote:
How we got where we are, part 25, December 2008
For the silver edition of the series, we pause for a moment of deep reflection....
December 17, 2008: Central Office expansion continues with the promotion of a Principal on Special Assignment Nancy Kodman to Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives. Holland O'Donnell is hired as Manager of Afterschool Programs.
The financial statements again warn that “significant efforts must be made to reduce operating costs”, urge “an even greater premium on cutting expenses”, and call for sale of closed school buildings to be a “priority.”
The minutes reveal a pretty fascinating discussion around a fairly small dollar contract. An intern is hired to work with one of the Board residents on the issue of enrollment decline. “That the Board authorize, this year, the District to began efforts to research the reasons for declining enrollment in the district and to develop a 3 year plan to address declining enrollment....Marni Pastor, a Broad Resident working in the Office of the Superintendent, is leading plan development.”
Mark Brentley notes that “If you talk to some parents openly and honestly, some will share their concern that most of the initiatives in this city, over the last two and a half years, has either been Broad endorsed or initiated somehow, some way, by those individuals with Broad certification.”
We start to witness Superintendent Roosevelt backpedal from one of the initial goals of the Pittsburgh Promise. “But the point here is to identify that percentage of folks whose decision making we can effect....a majority of people, and our initial data leads us to conclude that, are leaving for reasons beyond our control.”
Let us not forget as we watch this unfold that in 2007 McKinsey projected that an “unmanaged outcome” would result in the school district having an enrollment of just 22,000 by 2014. It will be interesting to see just how much better the Broad/Gates driven outcome is three years from now.
Fast forward from 2008 for a moment to 2011. It has become clear that while Pittsburgh's schools under the Roosevelt/Lane/Fischetti/Weiss regime have continued enrollment decline, while charter school enrollment has grown quite aggressively (Pittsburgh Tribune Review, “More parents picking charter schools for their kids” August 28, 2011).
Seeing our charter school enrollment increase while Pittsburgh's student count declines should be a wake up call to action for the community and for those of us who care so deeply that we will continue to relentlessly fight and advocate for quality schools in the city.
The market is speaking and quite frankly it should be telling us that the experimentation with school configurations (we have them all, including a fixation with 6-12), deep partnerships with national foundations, managed curriculum and oversold professional development that hamstrings the creativity of our staff, PELA principals, and relentless public relations machine are not meeting the demands of Pittsburgh families.
In this sense, the “How we got where we are” series is in part designed as a road map to re-engineer our school system or perhaps shed it of expensive and corrupting influences. We lost 1,616 students from the beginning of the 2007-08 school year to the beginning of the 2008-09 school year. This should have been a signal that something was wrong, very wrong.
We might do well to apply Occam's razor or at least the wisdom of French novelist Honore de Balzac: “During the great storms of our lives we imitate those captains who jettison their weightiest cargo.” "