Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Welcome to Pittsburgh, Mr. Roosevelt. My address to the Pgh Public School Board and Administration

My words: Welcome to Pittsburgh, a city where politics matters, as it should. But where what matters in politics isn't as it could be.
Statement before the Pittsburgh School District and its Administration, September 19, 2005

Statement before the Pittsburgh School District and Administration
September 19, 2005

From Mark Rauterkus, 108 South 12th Street, South Side, 15203
412 298 3432 Mark@Rauterkus.com

I'm a parent of two students at Phillips Elementary (PPS), a community activist, swim coach, former stay-at-home dad, and a ballot candidate:
-- for PA Senate (May 2005),
-- for mayor, city of Pittsburgh (May 2001), and
-- expected candidate for City Council, 2006.


Welcome to Pittsburgh, Mr. Roosevelt. (I too am Mark R.)

We both are self described non-traditionalists with shared interest in education and politics.

Politics is a part of life. Only the foolish choose to ignore it.

In my opinion, Dr. Thompson tried to ignore politics. Upon Dr. Thompson's arrival to Pittsburgh, like those before him, I wrote him a note saying we had a dysfunctional political landscape. In computer-speak one could say, “garbage in, garbage out.” I hinted that the life of a school superintendent would bound to be full of frustrations as long as this Pittsburgh political quagmire persisted. Dr. Thompson was not interested in actions in this realm. Suffering in our community continues.

Three on city council formed an alliance to exert influence in school board elections. These were no friends of public education. (Diven, Motznik, Ricciardi)
A+ Schools is a resume builder for Michael Lamb and certain factions and special interests.
A wealthy gatekeeper for school board elections has been Elsie Hillman who can stroke $10,000 checks for lawn signs so as to win the day.
Religious leaders, such as Rev. John Monroe, are going to work themselves into a state of frenzy and protest – perhaps with another extended prayer in the public school's board room disruption's sake.
The teacher union leader, the late Mr. Fondy, never was known to speak to non-Democrats without an abundance of profanity.
Mayor Tom Murphy only came to the school administration when he was seeking a TIF (tax break for a new development). That robs the present incomes on the hope for the future – but they have not pulled their weight in the slightest.
Bob O'Connor spoke in all seriousness when he said, if he was mayor, every school student would have his homework completed by 6 pm. Yeah right. I guess he has an after school magic pixie dust.
The state situation is no better as Gov. Rendell can't understand why 80-percent of the school districts in the state didn't swallow his plan for gambling incomes.

Pittsburgh's dysfunctional political landscape comes from neglect.

The good news, with some attention, the potential for improvements exist. Great strides can be made with some time and energy investments – and a new attitude. Benefits are sure to touch the lives of the students and school performances – and city-wide wellness.

Politics and voting are significant elements of the American way. We need an open minded approach that is inclusive and educational. The decision logic for voting in Pittsburgh is frail. Sadly, ignorance rules.

A solution suggestion:
I would love to either lead or assist with a coordinated effort from the Superintendent's office to create an extensive position paper. Perhaps it should be called a “PINK PAPER on Pittsburgh Politics and Schools.”

Better policies on politics can be established after wide debate:
Where are:
- school assembly opportunities,
- TV debates (with cable and public TV),
- policy talks with web streamed delivery, and
- zones for politicians and issue discussions at and following PPS sporting events?

A handout from a suburban school district invites citizens to meet the candidates for school board at a school function. Those type of events are rare in Pittsburgh.

Furthermore, suburban districts have the distinct advantage of being smaller and more intimate in terms of knowing candidates. In the suburban districts, neighbors have better chances of knowing one another. Pittsburgh's larger, urban district has 10 times the schools and neighborhoods yet the same number of board members. City-wide, Pittsburgh needs many more opportunities to meet the candidates, but we have less.

Another problem stems from petitions. Petitions should be dealt with in a simple and direct manners – and not treated as if they were plans for the overthrow of a dictator.

Another larger solution suggestion for the political landscape of Pittsburgh and schools is to end the stepping-stone trend.

I'd love to see a rule/law/charter addition that is similar to the one in place with Allegheny County Council. Twice, the voters of the county upheld a charter provision that makes a resignation necessary before a member of county council can seek candidate status for another elected office.

If you are on county council and you want to run for state senate, you need to resign your seat on county council before you are a candidate for the other office.

People like this rule. It imposes a clean purpose. Those with ambitions elsewhere need to leave their present positions first.

The same would work wonders for Pgh Public School Board Members.

I think those on the Pittsburgh Public School Board should be IN-ELIGIBLE for any ballot position for two years from the concluding date of their tenure on the board.

We have a history of others using the school board as a way to increase in power and and personal influence. This career advancement uses the school board seat as a stepping stone to other jobs.

Valerie McDonald and Barbara Burns moved to City Council after being on the school board.

Once the elected school board members – and the public know that these positions were TERMINAL and not a pathway to advancement -- then a different flavor of behavior and different style of candidate for these seats for arrive.

We need politics in the schools, about school matters and beyond. We do not need to continue the flooding that rage from a litany of other political factors appearing in our school decisions. Now it is as if the tail (politics at large) wags the dog (our schools, educational efforts and children's best interest). This happens because of ignorance by design from the main body.

Education reform might work without any political process reform. However, education reform that occurs with political reform, in parallel, is what I desire.

Reform should be like a pitched fork – with multiple prongs, one being politics.
Or, the dog can be whole, tail and all. But each needs to be aware and engaged and grounded.

Welcome to Pittsburgh, a city where politics matters, as it should. But where what matters in politics isn't as it could be.

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