Wednesday, November 14, 2012

PPS fiscal cliff

On another post Anonymous wrote:

PPS' Fiscal Cliff

it took a long time for it to get to this point. now, how do we fix it?


Questioner said...

There is a lot in the article about revenue that has been lost and cuts pps has made for example:

"The district so far has kept taxes steady despite the fact that it has lost more than $12 million a year since 2007 -- a total of $77.1 million -- because the state shifted part of the earned income tax that had gone to the school district to the city to help relieve its financial problems.
Also, in 2007, the district began losing $4 million a year it formerly received from the city's Regional Asset District to replace the mercantile tax.
To save money over the years, the school board has closed schools and reduced the number of employees as enrollment dropped."

But what about areas where pps has increased spending for example large contracts with consultants, upper level administration and salaries and marketing?

Or where money was wasted- $15 million plus to renovate reizenstein for only three years use and move robotics to Peabody for three years. These renovations are not listed in the article's discussion of debt service for capital improvements. And what about the projects at sterrett concord millions and sci tech- isnt there debt service on those?

Mark Rauterkus said...

So, PPS lost 10,000 students in 10 years. So, about 1,000 kids (and their families) vote with their feet every year. Only a few go to charter school. Most are going to suburban districts. The opportunities in the city and the opportunities in suburban districts are not similar.

Mark Rauterkus said...

When 1,000 students exit PPS every year, I figure that is very much like a loss of the following from the ranks of PPS student body:

2 x 75 member football teams (Freshmen, JV, Varsity) (+150)

2 x 50 member swim teams (+ 100=250)

4 x 20 member waterpolo teams (+80=330)

3 x 15 member tennis squads (+45=375)

2 x 25 member soccer teams (+50=425)

1 x 25 member hockey squad {+25=475)

1 x 40 cast musical (=515)

1 x 100 marching band with dancers, cheer, flags, colorguard (=615)

6 x 10 member chess and debate squads (=675)

1 x 25 member (insert favorite) club sport (=700)

+ 300 siblings = 1,000 students.

Anonymous said...

I honestly believe the financial cliff was planned. PPS goes down the drain and the vulture capitalists (Broad/Gates) get their charter schools. Privatization of public schools step 2.

Anonymous said...

The Gates grant funding does play a large part, all this empowering teachers is costing way to much money with very little return. Why do we need all these people at 341 Belfield Avenue time to trim the fat. Office of effective teaching, give me a break? There is so much waste. The Bloat at cental office is Increadible. Its full of people who's main goal is to validate their pointless jobs.

Anonymous said...

Over at The Pittsburgh Comet there is a post about Pittsbugh emerging from Act 47. Can the school board ask that the $4 million/year be shifted back to the school district? Perhaps with the provision that it will be used to cover part of the increased contribution to the state retirement system. However it is used should be agreed upon prior to the shift so we don't just use it to hire more consultants. Not that consultants are a bad thing, only grossly overused in these tough financial times.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:53 PM is right on - it was planned. Bye bye PPS. Hello charters and big business.

Anonymous said...

"In recent years, Pittsburgh has been the recipient of major grants -- including $40 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and $39.5 million in a federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant -- aimed at the district's Empowering Effective Teachers initiative.

In future years, an increasing portion of the annual costs will need to be shouldered by the district's general fund if the initiative continues as planned."

Why would we continue to pay for this if it is not working?

Questioner said...

The standard answer is that more time is needed.

Anonymous said...

"The standard answer is that more time is needed."

Right you are. The top people at Bellefield will not admit to any fundamental errors, because that might trigger demands for a change in administration.

So instead they are playing a prevent defense.

The longer they can keep this charade going, the more money they'll collect (in salary), and the bigger their pensions will be.

Anonymous said...

We have to match the Gates grant, we are paying about 7 Broad residents 100+ a year, spent millions on failed school ideas, Westinghouse, moving programs, open closing schools, consultants consulting consultants, millions on iPads while knowing this fiscal cliff was imminent.

This was either done by design or sheer stupidity. The level of negligence is alarming.

Teacher said...

"Empowering teachers?" Are you kidding?
Please explain how we are being "empowered."
Each month, the board minutes are full of forced resignations and terminations as never before.
Teachers are being intimidated like never before.
They are being constantly assailed, constantly harassed.
Where is the empowerment?

Let's have a true "state of the district", shall we?
It's a complete train wreck. Absolute catastrophe.

Despite the Rooseveltian style of PR, parents aren't buying.
Despite the outrageous 50% policy that destroys academic integrity, nothing is changing.

When will parents cut through the propaganda and take a long, hard look at who the culprits are? They aren't in front of classrooms.

They all steal their pay as employees who work at Bellefield Avenue or Greenway.

When will someone ask why this district needs upwards of 700 administrators, many with their own staffs? When will someone ask why we are not cutting the fat in terms of needless administrators who have absolutely NO impact on student achievement? When will someone begin to ask Linda Lane the tough questions and not fall for the standard answers we get each time???

Yes, we have a fiscal cliff and it's outrageous to know that once again, this administration will seek to save its own first and foremost.

It's a ponzi scheme that is out of control.

Anonymous said...

5:19 is SO right!-- 49 pages of RISE to "empower"-- and gee colleagues being exited and why are the scores low?
Here's an easy budget cut-- if a person doesnt hold a current PA teaching certificate-- bye bye!

The Truth said...

Questioner, on this you may rely as being gospel...

I am on the verge of retirement and literally have friends and colleagues all over the district. In the last month, the new "Office of Teacher Effectiveness" has sent out a number of individuals into all of our schools but I can vouch for three, in particular. Within those three alone, I can tell you that a number of teachers have been put on improvement plans (also known as the oblivion express) after random visits.

Each of those teachers have more than 25 years of experience.

The reasons behind some of these decisions have been that "the teacher spends too much time in front of the classroom" and, "the teacher needs to establish a rapport with students." Can you imagine having spent 25 years or so as a teacher and being told this?

And someone calls this "empowering?"

To veteran teachers, I have no doubt whatsoever that chipping away at the financial cliff will be done via eliminating salaries of those at the higher end of the pay scale.

You will have to excuse me in saying that these tactics are simply dirty. These types of actions--cold calling teachers by sitting in their classes for one off observations without any knowledge of the class, the teacher, the lesson plans---and having the subsequent power to place teachers on improvement plans is pure and utter insanity. Having read all of the RISE documentation, I can tell you that this was NOT supposed to be part of the package and is now being used as a weapon.

I can tell you that I know the individual in charge of this office and had no use for her as a principal, let alone with such unchecked authority. Her view of effectiveness has been to always obfuscate the truth regarding fellow administrators...and to come down hard on teachers just because she had the power to do so. And now she has carte blanche to put literally anyone on an improvement plan without reason???
Insanity, indeed.

The point is that RISE is clear---it's a wonderfully open ended way for administrators to target and fire any teacher at any time. Having pored through the materials over two years now, I defy anyone to tell me how any teacher is empowered by the process.

That's a lie and it is an insult.

Let me say again that these tactics cross the line into a personal attack on someone's livelihood.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:48, you are 100% correct, in every respect.

Today's PPS teachers are asked to do much more with much less, while under constant threat of an "observation" by the RISE Gestapo.

And I put "observation" in quotes because it's really not an observation, but a macabre game of roulette where a losing spin means the end of your career.

The union is of no help. We all know that. I would only suggest that targeted teachers somehow band together and GET LEGAL REPRESENTATION.

Don't even bother to ask for legal help from the union. They are quislings. They have sold out the membership for a chance to be part of the grand RISE experiment.

Get independent legal help. Talk to lawyers who understand the PA School Code, and will investigate why so many senior teachers are being targeted.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a way to live and work. Any parent who is not taking the time to convey gratitude or compliment a teacher should take the time to do so in this season of Thanksgiving. You'd have to direct it to the principal and not the teacher. When my kids were in school I realized teachers are not good at tootin' their own horns. And teachers, keep journals.

Anonymous said...

9:48 p.m. Thank you for speaking the truth. It is heartbreaking to see adults and students being destroyed by these processes for the sake of visions of glory others have about their ideas of what good looks like. Eleanor Chute in today's paper, unlike you, has once again downplayed the gravity of the situation and the bold truth telling of Noguera. Fear is keeping people silent. This makes injustice possible. Thank you for not being afraid to speak truth to power.

Anonymous said...

We work in constant fear of losing our jobs.

Teachers are subjected to what is basically harassment.

Speak or step out of line and your targeted for Rise observation.

Do not question the insanity that is going on outside of your classroom. Stay in your room do not go in to the halls untill they clear. Go along to get along. Forget about the hallways or the kids sneaking into the back of the building though the same door constantly. Forget about not having the proper things a teacher needs in their class room. Forget disipline there is no such thing for a teacher. Forget about the constant smell of weed in the halls and rest rooms.

I despise everyone involved in running this district at Central Administration, they have killed our School District.

Anonymous said...

The post at 6:09 put a lump in my throat. Those of us who are merely pedestrians and not in school buildings everyday have no idea what it is like. It is often mentioned that we are losing a lot of experience in retirements, does anyone do exit interviews?

Has anyone seen the word MORALE in the RISE documents? The district should take a clue from the 100 Best Place To Work In Pittsburgh. What we see now could not have been the design, could it? While teachers must be doing a great job of preventing trickle down stress to fall to students, our kids are not oblivious.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:00, you made some excellent points.

Morale means nothing in today's PPS. It is almost like today's PPS is following the old Soviet method: We'll beat the workers until they love us.

For your own information, let me give you an idea of what a RISE evaluation is like.

Sometime during one of your clases, a group of three or four raters will march into your class, with laptop computers. They will then fill in an electronic RISE form as they observe you.

The key point to remember is that RISE is very subjective.

Here's what I mean. If a rating point was something like this: "Students will work in small groups 50% of the time", you would know how to meet that objective. In a 40 minute period, you would plan for 20 minutes of small group work.

But no. A RISE objective is more like this: "Lessons will be student-centered and not teacher-centered."

So what does that mean? It means whatever your raters want it to mean!

If you are not one of your principal's pets, you could get a bad rating for giving out detailed instructions at the start of your class.

That's because when the teacher is talking, the class is not "student-centered." But maybe the lesson that day is the quadratic formula, and the class might really need those detailed instructions!

And that's another terrible part of RISE. It takes away the teacher's ability to use his or her good judgment. You must not give detailed instructions, even if you know the class needs it.

Here's another example (they got me on this one): "student work will be prominently displayed."

I always posted many examples of student work, even before RISE.

But evidently I did not put up enough examples, or they weren't "prominent" enough.

Fortunately for me, my rating was just lowered. I wasn't put on an improvement plan.

A colleage of mine challenged his rating and was told he was not a "team player". He is now on an improvement plan.

Oh, and one more thing, the "improvement plan" is just like the regular RISE process, very subjective. If you get another bad rating while you're on an improvement plan, you can be fired.

Anonymous said...

I've completely lost all respect for Linda Lane and mind you, I gave her a chance after the charlatan left for Ohio. Clearly, this is a woman who is simply more of the same and truly, no friend of teachers whatsoever.
That she continues to harp on the need for teacher effectiveness programming is beyond regrettable and lends credence to what has been said in this thread. That is, we are going to fire even more teachers and close even more schools rather than right size our out of control administration numbers.

As has been said here a thousand times, a school district will never be a corporation. The idea of upper management and assembly line employees simply cannot work because unlike the corporate model, the most important employees and the ones who must make daily decisions are those "assembly line workers," that is, teachers.

I have watched Lane provided PR nonsense time and time again, whether we are discussing school closures, teacher furloughs, the outrageous RISE process or the covering up of sexual misconduct of security, teachers, or administrators. I have watched her do exactly nothing to narrow the achievement gap and less where raising the overall academic achievement of the district is concerned. Instead, she and her staff continue to provide puff pieces through the auspices of the PG, where we can read about the Pittsburgh Promise or hear about how wonderful things are going to be during "state of the district" events that are such exercises in lying that even a child would not believe what is being pushed forth.

Dr.Lane, you have failed the students, families and teachers of this district miserably. While I can only speak for the latter, it is regrettable that we had such high hopes for you and relied upon your integrity. Instead, you have continued the work of your predecessor with a cavalier mentality that continues to point to teachers as the problem while making it clear that with a financial cliff ahead, teachers, especially veterans--and not bloated administration numbers--will again be the target for budget cuts.

Anonymous said...

There is no morale left in our district, it just a survival game.
Its a very cut throat enviroment and a very hostile enviroment.

I used to love my Job 6 years ago, no a hate going to work.

student centered lesson what aload of horse crap, the scripted curriculum is horrible.

Anonymous said...

A problem with student centered lessons is that no one is explaining to students why their classes are being taught this way. My child keeps asking why some teachers do not teach. There are lots of discussions among students but they can seem aimless. Is this really the best way for students to learn? Would you want your doctor trained in this way? How much learning is really happening?

Anonymous said...

Unless one of the students in the class/group is superior in knowledge and intelligence (and a number of other critical skills) lessons cannot and must not be primarily student-centered.

It is wonderful for students to interact and reinforce creatively to a lesson already presented/taught; but, often much is required in a teacher's presentation for students to grasp new skill. The articulation of skills and concepts must be initially presented in substantive ways by the teacher in order for students to learn NEW skills and concepts.

Otherwise we would not need professionally trained and equipped teachers or schools! Would we?

Perhaps, the student-centered approach is why student achievement is falling from the already low levels in the majority of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Anonymous said...

Judy Johnston and PELA and certainly Margaret Danielson and RISE would say otherwise, of course. Teachers are the problem. They don't know how to reach kids. They simply want kids to parrot them. They have no clue about higher level questioning.
To this lot, teachers should stay out of the equation and let the kids teach themselves.

So, do you know what?

Fine. These people are in control...and the parents just don't seem to care.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen or heard from Nina Esposito and the PFT????

What a complete and absolute joke she and this "union" are. Why in the world do we pay $800 for this representation? It's almost criminal.