Monday, February 02, 2009

Mark Roosevelt talks about spending, principals, foundations and more

Mark Roosevelt, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, talked to a group of Parents at the Excellence for All meeting last week.

I'm a big fan of the public schools. More like a booster than 'brainwashed fan.' And Mark Roosevelt gets three cheers from me today for following my suggestion last week to call for a two hour delay and do it early, so families could plan ahead.

Here is some insights into the school district.

Comments welcomed, of course.

Clip #1: Spending at Pittsburgh Public Schools. This is the big pledge. No new taxes.

The district is spending the same amount of money in 2009 as it did three years prior, upon the arrival of Mark Roosevelt. Fine. Except, the school district is shrinking. Thousands (exact # not sure) have voted with their feet and departed.

An overhaul and reform of the school district is happening. That might cost a bit more than normal. But, it is interesting to watch.

To the credit of Mr. Roosevelt, he has made a great number of changes among the principals within the district. This was needed, and we agree.

Part 1 and part 2 give an extensive story of Principals in PPS. (See clip #2 and #3 in this blog posting.)

In my personal experiences, we are blessed with two great principals. Mr. Netchi is presently at Phillips Elementary School. Dr. Walters is at Frick Middle School. Both men do a fine job. Dr. Barbara Rudiak was the past principal at Phillips. She got promoted a couple of years ago. She is now one of the four executive directors for the district. Dr. Rudiak is a principal of principals for the elementary schools.

Next year, Frick Middle School, a school that works and has good performance, is closing. That school will merge into the new I.B. High/Jr. High. Dr. Walters has been named as the new principal there. That school will be with grades 6 to 10 next year.

To be sure, some have other opinions. And, I am far from being a expert on the principals at other schools. But, this has been a sore spot in the overall district in the past years.

Finally, the talk we've heard in the past and the actions we've seen in the past have not always been hand-in-hand. We've been promised that bad principals and bad teachers would be removed from the district. Often, those promises didn't come true, in the past. There are some key elements within the union contract that have also been slated for changes -- that have not come about. So, all in all, these promises of actions are not what we like to listen for. The promise is an easy benchmark to make. Rather, we are in need of actions. And, a good bit of action has happened with the principals headed into the 2008-09 school year.

At this rate of change, the generation now being born have a good chance of getting a great education in Pittsburgh Public Schools. I'm interested in quicker actions than that.

Clip #4, Foundations at Pittsburgh Public Schools:

I don't like to hear the present superintendent rail against the spending before he arrived. Furthermore, the actions of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Trustees still leaves plenty to be desired.

Principals are graded, and given incentive income, based upon different benchmarks. One is to manage a school that welcomes and engages with the parents / families. Pgh Public Schools is looking for tools that work in these areas. Then they'll replicate them for re-use in other schools.

Clip #5: Welcoming school starts with the principal:

The concept and programs of Beginning With Books is great. But what about the older kids!

Clip #6: Accountability with teachers explained, sorta. A system of teacher evaluation is coming. The Charlotte Danielson Framwework is the trend. But, I've not been able to locate anything yet in my early research on the Charlotte Danielson Framework. Zippo.

See a report from Pure Reform on this meeting.


Anonymous said...

Excellence for All Steering Committee recap

January 27, 2009

Source: Pure Reform.

44 people were in attendance at Frick ISA. The meeting started with Mark Connors’ review of Parent Engagement (PE) activities for this month. PE Tuesdays will be discussing the new African American History course. (see PPS website for times and places of these three meetings).

The members of the Executive Committee for the EFA Steering Committee decided that for this meeting with Superintendent Mark Roosevelt will cover accountability and PPS finances.

I. Accountability-MR states that this is the most complicated piece of the reform process

i. Principals-started the PELA program, funded federally through the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) and through grants from the Broad Foundation. PELA is a program that will recruit, train and evaluate principles for the PPS.

1. PELA has a rigorous application process

2. 8 of 9 graduates from this first class are in schools now

3. Based on the relatively new concept that principals should be “instructional leaders”

4. Principals are tasked with creating a collective educational community. Each school has an “instructional cabinet” made up of teachers, asst. principals, counselors.

5. Principals will be evaluated through PULSE (the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership System for Excellence), a rubric that assesses performance requirements.

a. Four executive directors oversee this process in the schools. Spending at least 60% of their time in schools

b. Principals have a minimum requirement (about 25% of the time) for time spent in the classroom. MR encouraged parents to ask their principals how much time they are spending and what they are doing in the classroom.

6. Misc.-mentor principals must be high performing principals

7. Principals required to create a welcoming school environment where parents will be:

a. greeted warmly

b. given the tools to help parents be partners in their child’s education. PURE Reform asked how this will be done and MR responded that the district is developing these tools

8. Parent from the meeting mentioned the Beginning with Books program that is in 10 schools at this time.

ii. Teachers-the next step will be to start to retool evaluations of teachers

1. Will employ Charlotte Davidson Framework-

2. the district is in talks with the PFT

3. Pennsylvania DOE advocates for this model (aside: MR states that they 520 applications for 30 positions at the sci-tech school. Applicants were from private, charter and suburban schools)

4. consequences for unsatisfactory rating: dismissal

a. professional or “vested” teachers-must receive 2 consecutive unsatisfactory ratings after reasonable time given to improve

b. Temporary (first 3 years)-1 unsatisfactory rating

c. Must be supported with evidence (aside: mentioned excitement over Pres. Obama’s stimulus package and money for education)

iii. Parents-

1. as accountable as teachers for child’s education

2. parents are accountable to the people that they care the most about-their children


1. Can we get to the point when cuts are based on effectiveness and not seniority?

a. We are not at that point yet, but teachers will be evaluated and dismissed/retained based on performance. He stated that PVAAS (Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System-measures growth in one years time) will assist in evaluating teachers. *NOTE-PURE Reform attended the PVAAS training held by A+ School and the officials stated specifically that PVAAS WILL NOT be used to evaluate individual teachers.

2. Can the “eligibility” criteria be changed so that not so much is given for applicants that grew up in Pittsburgh?

a. They will be looking at “eligibility criteria”. It was discovered recently that the district has more power then they thought to define eligibility criteria. A parent argued that it is a good thing to have teachers from the area that knows Pittsburgh and its people.

3. Is PVAAS data available to parents?

a. Yes on the PA Department of Ed’s website.

4. Can we get parents/students involved in teacher/principal evaluations?

a. This is something worth exploring, but it will never happen in the current system (PFT contract has 2 more years and state law does not allow this parent evaluation).MR posed the question “What if the teacher is not liked by parents, but by all other criteria is succeeding?” This will be a be a strike issue.

5. Pam Little from “Beginning with Books” (BWB) stated that it is easy to get the engaged parents to meeting like this and to attend workshops like the one in our schools with BWB. It is the truly unengaged parents that don’t understand the value of education that present the challenge for PE. What is the district doing for these parents?

a. PSCC meetings and PTA meetings are often off putting to some parents. We need to change the processes at these meetings. The district is going to create structures in schools to create effective parent groups. They are also going to undergo a massive recruiting effort for PE.

6. Why does everything have to be “a meeting”? Why not podcast meetings so that all parents can participate? What about one on one parent mentoring?

a. Good points.

II. Finances

a. District will not raise taxes

b. Budget is holding steady at around $530 million for last three years after $80 million increase for 2 years before MR”S arrival.

c. District has reduced central office positions by $1.6 million

d. The district is utilizing $45 million dollars of outside funding for programs

e. Any district employee that comes up with idea/program that costs money, he/she must come up with another idea that cuts costs

f. Deficit projection three years ago was $70 million but we have only a $12 million deficit.

Anonymous said...


e. Any district employee that comes up with idea/program that costs money, he/she must come up with another idea that cuts costs

- Is this really true? This year all costs will be paid for Westinghouse students to attend the prom. Nothing has been said about another idea to cut costs by this amount.