Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Here is a theme school/ after school program with a reason for being

"Stax's legacy is reborn after school"

- Happens to be a charter school, but it could just have well have been a themed public school.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is a learning specialist?

On another post Anonymous wrote:

What is a learning environment specialist? Trib:

Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers' task: Make schools safer

School superintendent gives up $800k in pay

As referred to in several earlier posts:

"... the man who started his career as a high school civics teacher, who has made anti-bullying his mission, hopes his act of generosity will help restore faith in the government he once taught students to respect".

- We could sure use some restoration of faith in government here in Pittsburgh.

How we got where we are Part XIX (June 2008)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"June 25, 2008: In the face of continued enrollment decline, the Board approved:

- Opening “a new 6-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) focused magnet school at the Frick facility. The STEM school will be phased in beginning with grades 6-9 for the 2009-10 school year." Oh but wait! What happen to the Westinghouse Science and Math program (SAM) that was so successful? After investing millions of dollars in the renovations of Westinghouse, including the state of the art science labs, PPS decided to abandon them. I hear now some of those expensive class room rooms that were set up as science labs are being used to teach English and other non science courses. What a waste.

- Opening “a new 6-12 International Baccalaureate (IB) school focused on language and culture. The IB School will be phased in, beginning with grades 6-10 for the 2009-10 school year and be located at the Reizenstein facility at least through the 2011-12 school year. The IB offers a continuum of high-quality education that encourages international-mindedness and a positive attitude to learning.” This is a great program for the few. But the reality is less than 20% of the students who are actually in the program get the IB Diploma. There are major barriers along the way for completion to include the cost of sitting for the exams.

This IB item was amended to include language that “The Board will work with the Superintendent to create a committee to include Administration, Teachers, Students, Parents, and Community Leaders to determine the best permanent home for the IS/IB Programs.” Or better put, lets create a IB site selection committee and take over the Peabody building. But first we must put the Peabody neighborhood feeder pattern kids out of their own building because they are not good enough to be in the same building with the IB students.

PPS tried blending two schools. This short lived experiment was with the remainder of the Schenley students from the hill, with the new IB students who had come over from Frick. There were a few Schenley student loyalist who didn't leave Schenley once PPS broke up their school. But PPS didn't feel the blending worked and it was doomed for the start. PPS separated the Schenley students from the IB student by floors, staff, principals and Pods. So what can we do with the students from, Larmer, East liberty, Garfield, Bloomfield, lawrenceville, Stanton Heights, Morningside and friendship. We have to make way for the new East liberty development and Highland Park? Someone had a brilliant ideal. Bingo! It was decided to send the remainder of the Peabody students to Homewood, i.e. Westinghouse, or the Hill, i.e. Uprep, which began the process of re-segregating the schools. But no one will notice or care, will they? Did they notice how PPS did Schenley?

- Closing “the Schenley facility for use as a school effective June 30, 2008. Pursuant to 24 P. S. 7-780 of the Public School Code of 1949, as amended, the Board conducted a public hearing on November 27, 2007 in order to take public comment on the proposed closing of the Schenley facility.”

This item was also amended to include language that “The Board will work with the Superintendent to create a committee to include District, community, and other governmental representatives to work together to pursue several long-term options for use, investment and/or renovation of this historic landmark.”

- Relocating “Pittsburgh Schenley grades 10, 11 and 12 and to establish Pittsburgh Schenley as a 10-12 school at the Reizenstein facility beginning with the 2008-09 school year. The Pittsburgh Schenley school will be reduced by one grade per year and remain at the Reizenstein facility until its last class graduates in 2010-11....To allow the students of Pittsburgh Schenley to remain together at the Reizenstein facility until the final class graduates in 2010-11.” This way we can eliminate the Schenley alumni and legacy because they may rise again as they gave us a little scare. For a minute there it looked like they were going to put up a real fight to save their school. It was only one of the most diverse schools in the district, and lords knows we can have that.

Architects are approved for the temporary relocation to Reizenstein and the Frick renovation for Sci-Tech. And big time money is about to be spent so we can't go back now. Plus why not get the Reizenstein building really ready for who we want to sell it too, with tax payers dollars since we are moving the IB program to Peabody. We just want to make the IB site selection committee think they have a real say so in where they will move the IB program to. Even though PPS paid the Dejong group, a facilities study company, $500,000.00 to tell PPS what facilities were the best and they ranked them. Oh did I say that the Dejong advised that the IB program stay at Reizenstein? Sorry its a secret.

Board member Randall Taylor remarks, “I think it's a very, very historic meeting that we have this evening, and some of the decisions that this Board may have I think may have long-term implications for this District, and it may have again long-term impact on the type of services and the type of choices that we like to be able to offer our students. The District, as we know our finances are not in the greatest of condition, and I believe that some of the proposals on the table this evening are going to exacerbate our I think very poor financial position.”

Mr. Taylor makes a motion to move Schenley into the Peabody building. He notes, “So I think a proposal of Peabody is financially a better proposal than the administration's proposal, and I think educationally it's a better proposal because it preserved Schenley High School as the excellent facility all their teachers and all their programs in another building.”

Mr. Roosevelt contends that Peabody is too small and perhaps it is here that we see why former Chief Operations Officer Richard Fellers was exiled and forced to retire.

Mr. Taylor continues, “It's a senior person very much involved over the years with our school closing and the number they gave me was 1,700 or 1,800 students that fit in Peabody High School. Absolutely.” Oh Randall you don't know what your talking about do you? Opps let me be quiet I forgot he went there and knows Peabody can hold the students, because that's what it had when he was there, and the building didn't shrink did it?

Solicitor Weiss' comments that the Board has already approved construction contracts for Milliones and Reizensten; his opinion holds sway over the majority. Therefore the thought is I guess we better spend that money now before the people find out that in 2011 and...... we will be broke and having to lay off over 300 people and close more schools. Naw that cant be true can it?

Taylor's motion is defeated 2-7."

Certain PPS among schools that qualified but did not apply for school improvement funding

Anonymous wrote:

"I do not understand the explanation given by French. PPS is in debt big time...

"Education chief slams 101 schools
Grants released for 26 institutions that applied, but most eligible ignored the funds... Edit

Local grants awarded announced on Tuesday were $1.29 million each for Highlands High School and Pittsburgh Faison PreK-8 in Homewood and $3 million for Big Beaver Falls High School... Edit..

In addition, in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Murray, Northview, and Arsenal elementary schools and Arsenal Middle School qualified but did not apply. In the Philadelphia School District, more than 50 schools qualified but did not apply.

Jeannine French, chief of school performance for the Pittsburgh schools, said the district was "very strategic" about its applications in the second round of the funding because it wanted to ensure that it successfully manages all of the grant money received last year and this year."

Can anyone explain this juggling of funds while laying off teachers & closing schools?"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"More parents are choosing charter schools for their kids"

Article in the Tribune, not very well researched statistically and containing somewhat random quotes but at least raising a topic that should receive attention. The header indicates the article is part of an occasional series examining the Pittsburgh Public Schools (the PG wouldn't touch that topic!).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"How to fix our math education"

Link to NYT article by two experienced math educators suggesting a math curriculum that focuses on real-life problems:

Under this proposal, the sequence of algebra, geometry and calculus would be replaced with a sequence of finance, data and basic engineering.

Friday, August 26, 2011

GPA required for sports/ activities

Anonymous wrote:

From the Pittsburgh Courier:
"Other speakers attended the public hearing to voice concerns with the district’s athletic program. Specifically they expressed disproval of the district’s change to the GPA requirement for athletic participation."

“We’re trying to encourage kids to raise the bar and while we’re trying to raise the bar, you’re lowering the GPA to 1.5,” said 17-year-old Nigel Ash who was also there to promote his group Kid Nation’s Honor Roll Tour, which rewards students for their achievement in schools around the country. “When it comes to kids, we need to be inspired. Lowering it to 1.5, it’s really cheating the kids.”

How does lowering the GPA for next year advance the following PPS stated goals?

1. Closing the egregious achievement gap
between Black and White?
2. Making students "Promise Ready?"
3. Achieving the PA minimum requirement
of 72% for Reading and 63% for Math?
4. Moving PPS toward (at least) the AYP
standard of accountability for PPS?

Since it appears to be an adult problem that is negatively impacting students, why doesn't the Board just acknowledge that and suspend the 2.0 requirement for LAST year ONLY (with provisions for "interventions" to continue student participation)?

To the LOWER the standard for one day, one month or one year creates even more serious problems for the year ahead! Just does not make sense. (If anyone can make sense of this please do so here. Thanks)

Mr. Brentley, as is generally true, is RIGHT ON!"

Message from Lisa Jones 4 School Board

From another thread:

"I am challenging Sherry Hazuda, PPS Board President, in this Fall's election for Board Director in District 6. I do not own a rubber stamp nor do I plan to buy a rubber stamp. I do, however, own a feather duster, broom, and dust pan and I am not afraid to use them!

Just click on Lisa Jones 4 School Board by my picture to find out more about me.

If you live in my district, i'd appreciate your support by voting for me. If you don't live in my district, i'd appreciate your help in any way you can."

What is really going on w/ new building sales provisions?

This week's Board meeting goes on for quite a bit about procedures for sale of closed buildings.

Prediction- the "December 31" provision will be used to justify a weak but quick offer by Pitt for the Schenley building.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lawn furniture for Linda Lane

On another post Anonymous wrote,

"This actual email speaks for itself:

McMullen, Jeanne on behalf of Superintendent Office

To:Operations Office‎; zz-Admin Bldg Only-Offices‎; zz-Budget Development‎; zz-Communications and Marketing‎; zz-Executive Academic Cabinet‎; zz-Executive Cabinet‎; zz-Facilities-ServiceCtr‎; zz-Finance‎; zz-Human Resources‎; zz-Office of Strategic Initiatives‎; zz-Office of Technology‎; zz-OTE‎; zz-Payroll‎; zz-Research Assessment and Accountability
Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:15 PM

Dear Central Office Team,
Thanks to the purchasing prowess of Leon Webb, I am pleased to announce the acquisition of low cost lawn furniture for the Administration Building courtyard for your use. With the cooperation of Mother Nature, we hope to have several months of pleasant weather to still take advantage of this option this year. I appreciate the extra mile folks are going to compensate for the loss of many valued individuals over the past two months. We all recognize that fresh air and sunshine do wonders for the soul, and the good news is that they are free!
Thanks to the “New Staff” group who met last year and provided this suggestion.
We expect to have a gas grill added by the end of this week. It is my hope that we can be conscientious about maintaining the grill and its utensils for the enjoyment of all.
Linda Lane"

City League teams to travel significantly more

From the Tribune:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Furloughs of teachers aids planned

From the PG:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Articles on the start of school at Westinghouse

From the Tribune:

The article mentions 700 students but word is that 500 - 600 students attended today.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Public hearing on school closings

From the Tribune:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

This event has been canceled or postponed, but uh...

The event that was to be held on August 22 and 23:

"The entire school community at The Academy at Westinghouse is calling for 'All hands on deck' as we organize a two-day event to prepare our 320 young men for a change in school culture, high expectations, and in their overall educational experience...."

What happened to the new policy that a single gender activity may be offered only if students of the excluded gender are offered "a substantially equal" activity? Did anyone think about a two-day event to prepare the young women? See page 111 on.

Friday, August 19, 2011

How we got where we are Part XVIII (June 2008)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

How we got where we are, Part 18, June 2008

"The June 25, 2008 meeting has so much rich material it might take two or three parts to post it all.

We open with another prophetic comment from Randall Taylor: “Mr. Roosevelt may be who knows where, and we'll be still dealing the ramifications of a lot of things that came here...”

June 25, 2008: It was a good month to be in the managed curriculum business.

The Board approves the renewal of the Institute for Learning contract in the amount of $425,000 “to support: a) development of pre-K-12 curriculum coaches; b) Content Focus Coaching additional training for groups of coaches who serve one of the following areas: pre-K K-8 math, elementary literacy, secondary literacy, secondary math; c) Disciplinary Literacy course on how to immerse low performing students with low academic skills in rigorous content and habits of thinking that will accelerate their learning and develop their academic skills on pace with the rest of the class.”

Not to be left behind, Anita Ravi is hired as an independent consultant for 120 days of work at the rate of $1,000 a day. Yes, that is right, $1,000 per day, more than the mayor, governor and even Superintendent Mark Roosevelt.

The minutes note that “Anita was formally with the Institute for Learning but is now independent. Consultant contracted work includes the following: (1) Continued curriculum work with Social Studies writers, grades 6-12: This includes ongoing training of the writers, overseeing the revision process, directing the review and feedback process of all curriculum documents and coordinating district wide professional development for teachers. (2) Collaborating with High School Reform Team on course development, implementation and professional development, including the cultivation of external community partnerships such as Heinz History Center. (3) Designing and delivering district and site based training to include: Executive Directors, Middle and High School Principals, Assistant Principals, Instructional Teacher Leaders. (4) Coordinate and oversee development of an African American History Course and training for the course.”

What would managed curriculum be without fidelity? The PELA program was the second them of the evening (who cares if we would actually have enough administrative vacancies to justify the program?).

The Coro Center for Civic Leadership is hired for $48,000 “to support training for emerging leaders in cohort 2 of Pittsburgh's Emerging Leadership Academy 2008-2009.”

The Board approves the renewal “of the contract with Duquesne University (DU) School of Education to design and deliver the principal certification courses as a component of Pittsburgh's Emerging Leadership Academy” for $212,000.

The dinner bell also rings for the International Center for Leadership in Education, at the rate of $4,000 to $6,000 per day “to provide training to the emerging leaders in Cohort 2
2008-2009 of Pittsburgh's Emerging Leadership Academy.”

Expansion of central office continues, with a non-school based Curriculum Coach hired for ALAs, along with the creation of a position called Gifted Coordinator. The principal is hired for SciTech one year before the school opens. He would leave the district one year later, before a single day of class is held.

The monthly financial statements again urge “an even greater premium on cutting expenses.” The statements also remind the Board that “No utility costs are programmed for the 2009 forecast to accommodate retention of closed, unutilized school buildings. Sale of these assets must be a 2008 priority.”

To be continued...stay tuned, this Board meeting only gets better..."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dealing w/ the situation at Langley

From the Tribune:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

PPS giving additional "glimpses" of PSSA performance

From the PG:

- The article notes that at U Prep, two thirds of students are below proficient in reading and math. No word on what exactly will be done to make U Prep a "flagship school."

PPS proposes to ignore promise to form Schenley re-use committee

From the PG:

- Reassurances of community participation regarding the Schenley building were based in part on a committee the Board voted to form back in 2008. PPS then ignored repeated requests to actually form the committee and now proposes to sell the building without committee input.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How we got where we are Part XVII (May 2008)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"How we go where we are, part 17, May 2008

May 21, 2008: Pittsburgh Public Schools remained focused on student achievement..., wait, make that Communications and Marketing, with the Board approving “a contract with Ms. Michelle Galterio to develop a comprehensive graphic standards guide to help all schools and departments of the District, as well as all external organizations that are approved users of the District's logotypes and colors, to present a consistent District image inside as well as outside the District. To achieve this work, consultants will review a sampling of materials from schools and the District for the past year. Work will include discussions with school-based and central office staff. This guide will include how to use the District's logo family (PPS logo, Excellence for All, 9th Grade Nation, Pittsburgh Promise), type style recommendations and guidelines, color palette guidelines, 4-6 common design templates, and production procedures and printing specifications to follow when developing or designing any printed, published, or visual materials which convey the image of the District. Production procedures and printing specifications will help staff facilitate conversations with graphic designers and printers to ensure consistent graphic and printing results. All information will be available on the District's website.”

Another Broad Resident is hired. Based on her less than two years of on the job training, Mr. Roosevelt would later promote her to Director of Recruiting and Staffing in Human Resources.

The financial statement highlights urge a “greater premium on cutting expenses.”

The Pittsburgh-Mt-Oliver Unit becomes a new revenue stream for friends of the Curriculum Shuffle, with the Board approving “Staff of Bevan Educational Solutions will provide a workshop entitled, "Framework for Teaching" for approximately forty (40) Intermediate Unit staff members on August 22, 2008.”

After 30 of the first 34 pages of the transcript are filled with Board members taking shots at Mr. Brentley's take a father to school day event, he reminds Board President Isler “regardless of what folks may think about me, I am a Board member, I am an elected official, I have just as much to say at this table as anyone else, it would be helpful, sir, for you to stand with me on good items, just like you would rush to the aid of others, when there are other issues.”"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More administration positions posted!

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"Off topic: 3 "Human Capital Manager" positions posted today on the PPS website. Starting salary of 70k."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

PSSA info sort of released

From the Tribune:

School consolidation/ PG article

From the PG:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Exciting movie news

Thanks to the efforts of the WAA, it looks like the story of the black Pittsburgh valedictorian will be made into a movie called "Validated" (great title!). Word is that Alicia Keys will be involved; other stars have also shown interest. Pittsburgh will receive additional national attention. Stay tuned!

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."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"School closures represent a loss of identity"

From the PG:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Oliver and Langley slated to be closed

From the PG, as expected: