Monday, December 3, 2012

New school board president

On another post Anonymous wrote:

New post please…...Pittsburgh Public Schools vote Sharene Shealey to be new president

Read more:

I'm very disappointed. As a parent that either attends every board meeting or watches them on PPS Tube, I believe Dr. Holley would have been a much better choice.

My question: Since Ms. Sheeley's term is up, if someone new is elected in her place, what happens? Does the Board vote again or does one of the vice president's step up? 


Anonymous said...

Can she get the job done?

Anonymous said...

I like her. She's fair and reasonable. She has taken a lot of abuse from Brentley and has always remained classy.

Anonymous said...

Look at who voted for and against. She's party-line all the way (administration-line, that is). She came in not knowing much about the district at all and has been informed by those in charge. That's all you need to know.

During the changes to Westinghouse, she made no friends among the community there.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are discounting her intelligents. Don't you think she has a mind of her own? She has 3 children in the school system so I think she has a foundation of knowledge and she should be entitled to her own opinion. The blind anger on this site regarding Central Office is sometimes counter-productive.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the concern is not so "blind" since it is based on direct knowledge and/or observation.

It is not about her it should be about facts and reality outside of Central Office which is productive info as opposed to counter-productive PR.

Anonymous said...

You cant blame the chaos in schools. And situations such as no schedules etc atcWestinghouse on teachers...or...students..or parents so we are running out of options. So of course, taxpayers are looking to Central Office and policies and yes PELAS. No one in Central Office has put forth a plan to establish order in our schools. No one has considered that principals taking notes on laptops shut in classrooms, while students of all ages roam free is not the best policy.
So yes we are saying-- hey board member when people tell you this stuff or you read it-- question and check it out.

Anonymous said...

"Order" comes from good teaching and learning, good curriculum, good relationships, good achievement due to providing kids with opportunities that develop thinking, creating, problem-solving and succeeding.
These are the basics for good schools and good education and these are missing in action in PPS.

Anonymous said...

we are in for another year for business as usual. Look at the vote. It was black v white. All white board members went with sharene and all black board members went with Holey. I dont know what that really means but its worthy of observation. This is still a divided board on ideas and solution. We are in trouble.

Sharene was elected in order to give Linda lane another contract. Also now we can blame the total down fall of PPS on AA right? Thats how it will all play out it the future. The next move must be to move an AA in charge of the budget to really concretize the deal. Very very Clever Isler. I love it.

Anonymous said...

Most of the votes are along racial lines these days. Nobody notices, nobody writes about it, nobody touches it.

Anonymous said...

12:21 said:
Order comes from good teaching and learning, good curriculum, good relationships, good achievement due to providing kids with opportunities that develop thinking, creating, problem-solving and succeeding.
These are the basics for good schools and good education and these are missing in action in PPS.

The items listed above are not valuable unless kids show up ready to accept a good education.

Anonymous said...

Kids are always ready to ACCEPT a GOOD EDUCATION.
if they are not accepting, it is missing essential components.

Anonymous said...

To answer the question posed at the original post, I would think that if Sharene Shealy does not get re-elected that the position would fall on the first vice-president, Thomas Sumpter.

Questioner said...

The end of Shelaleys one yr term as pres would pretty much coincide with the end of her four year term on the board.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but you cannot pawn the continue problems of this district on teachers, period. Central administration has made all teachers swallow hard and teach scripted curricula across all subject areas. It continues to be an incredible, remarkable failure in all regards.
So if teachers are all using the same script, then how can teachers be the blame, especially when each curriculum asks teachers to do minimum talking and allow students to essentially teach themselves.
Please, explain the logic of how this can be a teacher problem.
At the same time, we are talking about a district that "empowers" its teachers by threatening and brow-beating them via a subjective RISE process that seeks to place them even further under the boot heel of administration.
The message is, do as the administrators say.
Again, this is a teacher problem?
Finally, central administration continues to take care of its own, firing 300 teachers last summer (and countless more via the RISE process) with nary a central administrator even having to take a pay cut.
Teachers are the problem?
Please, before you embarrass yourself with that tired old line, try to come into the reality of the 21st century in PPS.
We've literally had the hell beaten out of us without even a word of dissent from local media or parents.
You can't have t both ways.

Questioner said...

This whole thing with asking teachers to turn the talking over to students is very disturbing. What is the research on this technique, and was the change ever discussed with parents and teachers ahead of time? Is it another Broad/Gates magic bullet? Can you see this technique working in a school of medicine, accounting or engineering, ie any area where accountability is clear?

Anonymous said...

"So if teachers are all using the same script, then how can teachers be the blame, especially when each curriculum asks teachers to do minimum talking and allow students to essentially teach themselves."

This. This this this. It's particularly striking now, because the schools that had the most administrators in them, watching for "fidelity" to the script are the same schools that saw big drops this year.

At some point, they have to OWN that they themselves have screwed over the district. And it's the board that has to figure that out and CHANGE the administration, going from the top as far down as necessary to get rid of this influence.

Anonymous said...

As usual Questioner, someone has conducted studies in the PPS ivory tower and found that this notion of students talking with other students and thereby broaching brave new worlds of discussion and deeper level questioning is the soup du jour, so to speak.
Sorry, but it doesn't work, from CAS to PSP.
I have no problem with occasional pair work or group work and in fact, I think it teaches kids to build upon ideas, but the thinking within the upper reaches of PPS is as always, pound a nice idea into too much of a good thing.
And you bet that Gates buys into the notion, as he is a top-shelf critic of teachers.
I'm always taken aback by those who want to scream "racism" in this day and age. Where are these people in addressing the current curricula, that comes from under the control of Pitt's IFL? The message seems to be that urban students cannot learn in traditional ways, and that this new methodology--coupled with the insane 50% grading policy---will make everything alright.
Given the fact that the make-up of our student body is largely African American, you will excuse me for saying that the powers that be completely misrepresent the abilities of students, especially minority students.
I don't see this type of instruction taking place at the college level and as such, I can only wonder how we are "helping" our kids.
Maybe Ms.Shealey can get to the bottom of it.
Sorry to say, I doubt she will even try.

Anonymous said...

As far as the change ever being discussed with parents and teachers, the answer is a resounding "no." This is a district that needs no input, especially from teachers, the avowed enemy of the superintendent and especially, the assistants around her. (Isn't that an amazing notion.) Teachers are the people who needed to be pushed out of the way. Teachers were the problem. Hey, Bill Gates says so.

Anonymous said...

I have recently heard the term "student driven" (I think). Is that what we are talking about?

Anonymous said...

PPS now wants to raise taxes. The amount of money wasted chasing idiotic programs and school shuffling with the amount per pupil spent and horrible results it is going to be a tough sell!

Anonymous said...

Since when has this site had any regard for the tax payers of Pittsburgh?

Questioner said...

Why wouldn't those posting on this site be concerned about taxpayers, given that most of them are probably taxpayers themselves?

Questioner said...

PG article on the tax issue; lower assessed values may to some extent offset an increased tax rate:

Questioner said...

PG article on the tax issue; lower assessed values may to some extent offset an increased tax rate:

Anonymous said...

I heard she's not running for re-election. true?

Questioner said...

It appears that due to redistricting of school districts her residence is no longer in her current district so she would not be able to represent the district that includes all or most of Homewood.

Anonymous said...

While some schools do not get much turnout at PSCC meetings, the EFA meetings many of us attended when our kids were in school pulled in a lot of parents. There was an EFA last night. Did anyone question the new method (turning over the talking to students)? Really, the person who came up with the idea should have been the one to go to a class and try it out for the first time.

Anonymous said...

Where do you find the new district boundries? Also if it is true the sharene's new boundrie does not cover the homewood district I really feel sorry for those schools over there now because there is no incentive for Sharene to do something about it. Therefore is she is going to run again in her new district, that is where she will focus her attention. Funny how that works.

Anonymous said...

I can't find the boundaries either.

However, I don't think Homewood will miss her. What has she done to help them exactly? If they're lucky they'll get someone who actually knows that neighborhood and community and who WILL advocate for the students, not the administration.

Anonymous said...

Who is the Board member (currently) who takes on the Homewood region for which S. Shealey has responsibility?

What is the new District # and boundaries for Homewood?

Anonymous said...

We see a lot of comments here about scripted curriculum and student directed learning which are not really compatible at all.

So where (what schools) are these strategies in place? It can't be happening at all schools since they would seem to be mutually exclusive?

Do the two Assistant Superintendents have different ways of managing schools or curriculum?

Can anyone provide clarity on these two strategies?

Questioner said...

Turning the class over to the students could be part of the script.

None of these new approaches begin in Pittsburgh; there is probably some feedback out there of experiences schools have had elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

This link|&NodeID=1938

will take you to the district website page for the Board and you can select each boardmember's district to see a list of the schools they represent and a "map" of the district with no markings of boundaries. Problem is you can't tell if this is old or new. Maybe the parent hotline will have an answer.

Anonymous said...

Why is it confusing? The script says things like "form students into small groups to discuss ______."

In elementary math, it tells the teacher to have students "work together" to complete problems x,y, or z. It tells the teacher to circulate through the room, but not to offer help or mini-lessons at that time.

Anonymous said...

A map without street names and clear boundaries...isn't really a map! I think those are the same maps that have always been there though, so old boundaries.

I'm guessing that Shealey lives at the edge of her current district and now her house is in Isler's district.

Questioner said...

Yes now her house is in islers district he may not want to run again either

Anonymous said...

12:26 - If what you quote is true, it seems that is only a small part of the scripted lesson and it is a good thing, not so terrible as what we are seeing on this blog.

Does the script offer lots of suggestions about how to involve students in the lesson that the teacher has presented? Why not? Sounds like a good thing.

Questioner said...

That's a question, is the time allowed for presentation of the lesson becoming minimal? Parents only have anecdotal information. We need more information an examples of what lessons are to be presented in how much time. Do students really learn much from long bull sessions?

Anonymous said...

Right, it's an example of a helpful and useful classroom technique being overused to the point that it crowds out other learning.

For instance, several days of lessons and practice on a topic in math, could well warrant a day or two spent on solving a larger sort of problem that requires the skills learned in those lessons. That's a way of both practicing the learned skills and applying them.

Similarly, using games or activities as practice for skills is a "student-centered" technique.

However, in both cases, teachers need to be adept classroom managers to insure that *all* students are actually involved and on task. It requires that the students have prior learning to use in the tasks.

If the teacher can work with a small group of students who need more teaching while those are going on, even better.

BUT, that's not what the scripts say. The scripts often 3/4 of class time devoted to "student-centered" activities. Add on a 5 minute prescribed/scripted warm-up activity and soon the "lesson" part of a class is being given in about 5 minutes.

Questioner said...

Why, why, why? Is it try anything and see if something sticks?

Anonymous said...

Why do the PPS District officials claim that there is NO SCRIPTED CURRICULUM?

Do some schools have it some schools not?

Is the PPS Curricula required for all classes in all schools?

What type of adjustments or autonomy is permitted and for which schools? And WHY?

Anonymous said...

Yes, the curriculum is required for all schools.

A few years ago the district supervisors were saying that the curriculum was like a recipe that must be followed, same amounts in same order, with teacher decision making like that of choosing "to add raisins or not." However, in the last year or so they have said that it's not a script and that teachers have some leeway in timing etc.

However, at the elementary level, there are (required, same for everyone) tests every 6 days in reading and a set schedule of about 10 days for math units, again with a district made test at the end.

SO, it can be both things. A school with good scores is likely to have the fewest visits from district officials looking for fidelity. If they are not following the script to the minute and letter each day, but rather using what they see to inform when to speed up or when to stop and reteach, they have more of an ability to do that.

They likely wouldn't do that in front of a supervisor, right? They would be more likely to adhere more strictly, right then, to the "pathway."

In PELA run schools, the principals are generally less sure of themselves and their teachers and more likely to require strict adherence as well. If you are doing EXACTLY what the district says is good, you can point to that when you are blamed for your bad scores.

In schools with better/more experienced with how kids really learn principals, the principal and teachers may meet to discuss what works and what doesn't and come up with ways to "tweak" the order, the emphasis, etc. That principal, if his/her test scores are okay or good, is more likely to be able to explain in terms that sound good to the administration why they are making good choices.

Anonymous said...

anon 1:35

"Sounds like a good thing."

That's the problem. A student-centered, scripted lesson sounds quite good. Very modern and all that.

But except in limited cases, these lessons are dangerous time-wasters.

Permit me to explain.

A student-centered lesson only works when the lesson is opinion-based. For example, suppose the lesson is: "Should the United States have fought in Vietnam?"

It would make sense for the teacher to divide the class into small groups for discussion. Most groups would arrive at reasonable conclusions.

But suppose the lesson is: "What is the force equation for an inclined plane?"

That lesson needs strong teacher direction! There is only one right answer, and the teacher must guide the students to that answer.

If you ask students to "discover" the correct equation, many will become frustrated, and many will arrive at the wrong answer.

By the way, the inclined plane example is from my own experience.

For this lesson, I was told to divide my CAS (gifted) science class into groups. The groups had one class period to "discover" the correct inclined plane force equation.

I was told to walk around the room, but to give no meaningful help.

Most of the groups got the equation wrong. That's no suprise. Most scientists before Newton got it wrong.

End result: One day was wasted. I had to spend the next day carefully correcting all the previous day's misconceptions.

No, it wasn't worth it. If student-directed learning was so fantastic, schools of engineering and schools of medicine would be using it. But they sure don't.

And make no mistake about it. One day wasted in my class means one less science topic my students get to see by the end of the school year.

I want my students to be 100% competitive with students from the rich suburbs and the fancy private schools.

But they won't be competitive when I have to waste half the class's time on the latest educational fads.

Discovery learing is important, especially so in science and mathematics!

But do it where it make sense: in the lab and in the study halls.

Anonymous said...

Thank you TEACHER at 6:33 for so astutely delineating, by example, the difference between optimal use of the two types of teaching/learning methods.

Your response has addressed, very cogently, the comment "Sounds like a good thing," which was stated to generate your response as an effective teacher. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the teachers who are so intelligently responding here to the issues that taking our students in the wrong direction with seemingly deliberate speed.

What is really the end game here? Charter schools? Private schools? Cyber Schools?

A hasty demise of Public Schools?

More prisons for uneducated, urban children who . . . ?

Advancement of the Broad/Gates Agenda, whatever that might be?

More and more external programs and funding for students failing in our schools?

A lot of people accumulating wealth on the backs of poor children?

Anonymous said...

"A student-centered lesson only works when the lesson is opinion-based. For example, suppose the lesson is: "Should the United States have fought in Vietnam?"

It would make sense for the teacher to divide the class into small groups for discussion. Most groups would arrive at reasonable conclusions."

I'd argue that would be a huge time-waster as well IF it weren't at the end of a unit about the Vietnam War.

Students cannot have a good discussion of their opinions of they have no knowledge (aka content) about the topic. And a 5 minute "introduction to the Vietnam War" isn't going to cut it!

Anonymous said...


That really is the big question. One that I struggle to convey to people if I find myself in a discussion like this!

I think that there are at least two different "aims" -- I'll call them market-based and idealistic.

The market people have to portray education as dangerously bad in order to sell their products -- initially software (think Neil Bush, ages ago!) and other programs and now charters and privatization. Walton family money, Pearson testing, textbook and publishing, computer hardware and software vendors all jumped in here.

These people saw a huge pile of public money just waiting to be taken.

The "idealistic" are those people who really think that they are valiantly helping the poor, dumb students in their poor, dumb communities, just like all those great movies about heroic teachers amid a sea of uncaring idiots. You'll know them by their condescending attitudes and their adherence to "research" that isn't really research. They also realized that, shoot, you don't have to be poorly paid to do this either, you can spend a year or two in a classroom (or not!) and then lever yourself up into some well-paid administrative position.

Think Teach For America, Gates, Broad.

Somehow, both these sides ended up intertwined and here we are. Suburban and rural districts? Not quite as affected -- smaller districts mean smaller pots of money to spread around.

Big, urban districts? Perfect breeding grounds.

The answer to the question "stupid or bad?" is both. Not always intentionally, mind you, but that's the result.

Anonymous said...

anon 7:34

"I'd argue that would be a huge time-waster as well IF it weren't at the end of a unit about the Vietnam War"

I'm the 6:33 poster, and I completely agree with your comments.

Students cannot rationally discuss any issue until they know the facts behind the issue.

And these facts should be presented by the expert in the room, the teacher.

But the PPS leadership evidently thinks otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Yes all good but back to our new board president. She is the most clever of them all. She was able to pull the all time upset and got the presidency over more senior people and better quaified people. She understood she only had one more year to get the things done she wanted for the area in which she lives and is now zone for.

Does anyone really think she cares about the least amoung us needs or are concern board members who speak on their behalf says. Look at the schools in the district she was elected from, larmer and Homewood? She has done nothing but out smart everyone by pulling off the big caper. Now not only will lane be told how great she is so will Ms Shealey. Please Keep patting them on the head they love it and will do what we please.

They are both laughing behind our back, and boasting on how the district is run by two sister girls. But lets see who gets the last laugh when we lost the district under there leadership. Way to go Rosevelt and board, you passed the torch just in time.

Anonymous said...

bad choice.