Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pondering Pgh Public Schools

Statements to the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Ed and Administration on Nov. 13, 2007

Mark Rauterkus
108 South 12th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203-1226

412 298 3432 = cell


I'm a Libertarian who believes in public education.

I understand that people often vote with their feet by moving to suburban Pittsburgh because the opportunities in the city schools are not like what is provided in the burbs.

My oldest son, Erik, joins me today. He is in 7th grade at Frick Middle School. He studies Spanish and may attend Schenley High School. His brother, grade 4, hopes to attend Frick in two years.

My personal and professional life has revolved around schools and education. My wife is a professor. My father is a retired Pgh Public School teacher. I coach swimming and have been in many suburban and city settings. As a coach in Illinois, I coached swimming at the #1 team in the state while it was reported as the best public high school in the United States (Town & Country Magazine).

Should you go down this pathway of consultants, high school reform, and closing Schenley, you'll enter a battle. You will get soundly defeated on an economic front and nailed in political settings, time and time again. We will not forget. Your careers will wane. The dark cloud that hovers – be it in the US Virgin Islands or elsewhere – will be the Red and Black of Schenley. I'll insure it organizes over you.

This Schenley fight was fought two years ago. It was NOT prudent then. It isn't prudent now. The options and alternatives are horrible.

Mr. Roosevelt felt the wrath of the residents of The Hill communities in the aftermath of his bogus 'rightsizing plan.' Perhaps he felt he needed to toss a crumb off the table to “the hill.” Setting up a new high school in an old, middle school building was thought to be a political win-win. Think again. Folks in The Hill, and folks throughout the city, want Schenley, for all the right reasons.

We all know the top factor in both a child's education and that of a community is “engagement.” Parent involvement is a critical key. We need lifelong learning. We need student, teacher, community, family involvement. We need ownership of the problems and the suggested solutions.

We don't need consultants.

Consultants should not be hired to set in place a plan to destroy Schenley High School.

Rather, consult with us – the voters, taxpayers, parents, stakeholders. We are the customers. We are the ones who pay the bills. We are the one's that empower you. We are the ones that will dash your aspirations.

The first step of so-called “high school reform” was called “The Pittsburgh Promise.” It was a lie. This isn't the first lie. It can't be ignored. Fix it. Apologize. Re-tool the promise so that those that enter Kindergarten have a scholarship fund when they graduate in 13 years. Otherwise, the best you can do is provide pencils. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Promise could fund bus tickets to our graduates so they can return home after flunking out of college.

Hire a real-estate agent to assess, market and sell this building. If you want cash from property, this is the building to auction and/or sell. Don't sell Schenley. Besides, Schenley has new windows.

1.Develop a Vo Tech High School as promised.
2.Advance the discussion and open the Vo Tech High School next, as a top priority. Do the Vo Tech now – before any changes to Schenley.
3.Save Schenley High School. Fix, maintain, and rehab what is there.
4.Consult with the people of the city – now, always, and in open ways.
5.Deploy an open source mindset.
6.The asbestos claims are not believed. Publish them. Prove it. Debate plans, don't dictate them. Creditability has vanished.
7.Publish all reports online.
8.Be thankful of news leaks, not vengeful. Understand that this is my district. Not Mr. Roosevelt's. By the way, Mr. Lopez understanding of listening and talking seems to be upside down.
9.Don't rush the board to vote for spending more money simply because departing members are sealed and delivered.
10.Sell the Board of Ed building in Oakland, if you sell anything.
11.If necessary, put Schenley's 9th graders in 2008-09 at Frick Middle School. Do a temporary reduction to the student and faculty at Schenley to make room for repairs. Frick has the capacity.
12.Understand that the “Pittsburgh Promise” is a big fat lie. Fix it. Be realistic.
13.Fix the long-standing lie that Conneley Tech would be 'replaced' too.
14.Replicate what works.
15.Fix what is broken. What about the 'drop out factories?' What about Oliver, Carrick, Langley, Peabody and Westinghouse? What about Vo-Tech too!
16.Make a second Rodgers. Replicate it. If you must, move some downtown. But keep an East Rodgers. Make a West Rodgers too.
17.Putting all the IB at Reisenstein is too far away. Buses won't go there from the south and west. Students and families won't go there.
18.If you must, move the administration to Conneley or to Resisenstein.
19.If you must, establish a second I.B. Program at Resisenstein, in addition to the one at Schenley.
20.If you must call the second I.B. Program a 'Metro Magnet.' Attract students from Wilkinsburg, Penn Hills, Vernona, Shaler, and locally in the city too.
21.A second I.B. Program, as a charter, could attract ESL students from the suburban districts.
22.Understand that afterschool programs, sports, arts and community programs in the district are weak, generally. They need to be factored in the plans. Think about sports and performance facilities now. Those items are expensive, but worthy investments.
23.By the way, the “Rightsizing plan” failed to account for Duquesne schools, as I requested.
24.What is the attendance at the ALAs? What about August enrollment? The grades are still out on those failures. K-8 Schools are a flop. Kaplan Curriculum payments were rushed ahead yet the lesson plans are getting an overhaul by in-district people.
25.Don't yank families around any more.
26.Open schools year by year.
1.Start a Science and Tech high school with 9th grade, for example. The next year do 9th and 10th grades, and so on.
27.Close schools year by year as the students depart.
28.High School Reform should start at grade 9 and go to grade 12. Only in Pittsburgh would the high school reform begin with a college scholarship after graduation without any money to provide it.
29.High School Reform is not “middle school reform.” Worry about grades 6, 7 and 8 after the high school problems are addressed. Don't do too much at the same time and continue the folly.
30.The University Partnership School should be on a University Campus. Make the Schenley Spartins the University Partnership program. Make that in Oakland.
31.A Technology School was part of Pittsburgh's recent past – Weil. What happened there? Report upon it. Why was it closed? Why open a new Science and Technology Program after closing one with the Rightsizing Plan? That makes no sense – again.
32.Reform Weil into a Science and Technology Program – again. Or, make the Science and Tech program in Milliones Middle School or Connelley.

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By Bill Zlatos Pittsburgh's venerable Schenley High School, 91 years old and showing its age, would close in June under a reorganization plan detailed ...


Anonymous said...

John K. says: You have a list of 32 standards/guidelines? Brevity has nevr quite been your strong point eh? You did study journalism?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Why did you ask? Can you read?

Brevity might work for snipers. It doesn't do justice for community.

Brevity might work for bigots. Life is slightly more complicated.