Saturday, January 31, 2009

By gones

Kevin Acklin, then 30 in 2006, a Squirrel Hill attorney, was seeking the nomination for Dave Fawcett's seat on County Council. He hosted a fund raiser in November 2006 at the Duquesne Club, Downtown.

Acklin co-chaired the Allegheny County campaign of defeated Sen. Rick Santorum. He also operated a local volunteer center for President George Bush's 2004 re-election bid.
Do you know Kevin? Is he seeking the R nomination for Mayor in 2009?

Walt Harris possible candidate for local coaching job

Walt Harris possible candidate for local coaching job: "Former Pitt football coach Walt Harris might be coaching at a district high school next season.

Harris is apparently a candidate for the head coach's job at Seneca Valley. Sources said he has talked with Seneca Valley officials about the job.

When Harris was asked yesterday about his interest in the job, he said, 'I have no comment.'

Seneca Valley officials interviewed some candidates this past week and Seneca Valley superintendent Don Tylinski is expected to interview some candidates this week.

Seneca Valley athletic director Greg Caprera said the school board hopes to name a coach Feb. 9."
I know Greg Caprera. He hired me once.

I also know that Walt is missed at some Pitt Tailgates on the North Side in certain Saturdays in the fall.

This might be as productive as Montour's stint with #51, formerly of Da Bears. I'm not sure, but it could be similar.

I never did get to watch a single episode of that ESPN show. Was it ESPN? Is it available via NetFlicks?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dear Public School Enthusiasts,

PURE Reform is collaborating with various community groups in the Hill
District, Homewood, East Liberty, Bloomfield, Garfield and Highland Park to
advocate for a coherent, logical plan for east end high schools rather than the
piecemeal approach taken to date.

As most of you know, the IB selection committee has recommended putting
the IB program at Peabody high school. What you may not know is that no
input was sought from the Peabody community and no one from that community was
on the IB selection committee. Several meetings have been organized by the
Bloomfield/Garfield corporation to urge the PPS district to include the Peabody
community in discussios and decisions regarding their school and their

We are also exploring the possibility of reexaminig the Schenley closure
due to several factors:

1) other schools in the PPS have asbestos/plaster problems (Miller, Vann,
McKelvey) similar to scheleys and have been handled in a much more cost
effective manner without displacing students

2) there is still no comprehensive plan for East End high schools3) the
district is to receive $24 million from the Obama administration's economic
stimulus program for "shovel ready" bricks and mortar projects. If
realistic estimates foir the Schenley renovation are utilized ($40-45 million as
opposed to the inflated $80 million price tag), this money would easily make
Schenley reparations affordable to the district.

If Schenley were open for the IB program, other options for Peabody will
open up that will not require displacing current Peabody students.

Please consider attending the next PURE Reform Steering committee meeting
on 2/12 at 7PM. Also, tune in to see PURE Reform steering committee
members on Black Horizons with Chris Moore discussing PURE Reform issues
including sbestos issues in PPS schools and (see times and stations

CHANNEL 13 Black Horizons Sunday, February 1, 2:00pm

Black Horizons Wednesday, February 4, 8:00pm

Black Horizons Sunday, February 8, 2:00pm

Black Horizons Sunday, February 1, 2:00pm

Black Horizons Wednesday, February 4, 8:00pm

Black Horizons Sunday, February 8, 2:00pm

WQED: The Create Channel (channel 211)

Black Horizons Friday, January 30, 10:00pm

Black Horizons Friday, February 6, 10:00pm

Remember, GRASSROOTS RULE!-- PURE Reform

Natalia Rudiak kicks off city council campaign

Natalia Rudiak, Dem, is seeking a seat on Pittsburgh's City Council. She is young, smart and educated. She is a graduate of George Washington University.

Erik, my oldest son, wants to attend G.W. too, by the way. He got to meet her this prior weekend at RootsCamp Pittsburgh.

Here is her kick-off speech. I loved the part about caring for the kids and a mention of the swimming pools.

The City Paper reported that about 75 people were in attendance. I'm sure Natalia knows the difference between parallel and perpendicular.

(TEMP HOLDER... File is going to be embeded here from both and

2-Hour Delays slated for Feb 2 at these districts

* Pittsburgh Public Schools

* Penn Hills

* Rumor: Johnstown = closed.

Where else?

Two hour delay chatter

Fred Honz Man, KDKA Radio airbag, is talking about the two-hour delay for Monday morning. The Honz Man and I don't generally agree.

Fred hates the 2 hour delay. I love it. But, when you look at his objections, few hold up.

He said, more productive nations are cleaning our clock due to work ethic. Well, I was in Beijing on 8-8-08. The city and the nation came to a stand still. And, rightly so. The sports event is a time to focus and be in the moment. To be present. These are rare opportunities. And, it is historic.

Sports provides lessons for kids. I'm going to keep my kids up to watch the game, guilt free. They'll sleep a little extra the next morning and then we'll get onto our day and learning.

Few people make a living at sports as sport stars, so said the Honz Man. I say, some do. Even on the KDKA news just prior the tourism people in Tampa are happy to have a boost of 60% in hotel stays due to the Super Bowl. That is an economic impact, not just from the players on the field. Lots and lots of people are making money because of the Super Bowl beyond the players. The waiters, pizza makers, soda vendors, tourism industry, t-shirt vendors and so on.

I raised the point that Eat'n Park is going to be closed when the game is on. Fine for them. They are able to do as they wish.

Sports are, in part, about relationships. Another part of sports is 'time.'

While I'm strongly in favor of the 2-hour delay for Pittsburgh, I would not be happy with a National Holiday for the day after the Super Bowl.

An email went to the radio station and was read about making it Super Bowl SATURDAY. Wonderful idea. Why not play the game on Saturday, rather than Sunday. Heck, I'd be happy to have a 3 pm or 4 pm game.

Staying up to 10:30 pm is just too late for my kids. Our normal get ready for bed time has been 8 pm. The elementary school kids are not able to check out at 10:30 and be expected to perform on Monday.

Some of the bars on the South Side are going to be closed on Sunday -- so as to avoid the troubles that might follow in the wake of the game. Fine.

Those with regular jobs who can't get extra time and need to deal with the kids have advance warning with this news, this week. The worst is a 2-hour delay with no advance notice.

Fred should worry more about the yahoos that will take to the streets in a drunken rage to celebrate under the nose of the police, helicopters and road blocks. That's where plans and cool is necessary -- as well as an advance understanding. Get naked and streak will get you a lifetime sanction that won't let you be a teacher, drive a bus nor work in a hospital. Ouch.

This is not about making an 'excuse.' Wrong. This is about being prepared, being proactive, being prudent. There won't be any excuses come 10 am.

I've been very critical of Mark Roosevelt and certain elements of Pgh Public Schools in the past. This is one area where I think he and the cabinet have done a great service to the city and the quest for education. Lessons can and should be learned on Sunday night.

A two-hour delay is NOT like calling off for the day. It is a delay. We do want to make sure that Monday is productive, but that it starts later.

What other school districts have called for a 2-hour delay for Monday, Feb 2?

Leave a pointer or comment.

Tandem whitewater kayak about to hit the marketplace

Like Batman and Robin, Butch and Sundance and Thelma and Louise, Eric “EJ” Jackson is hoping his newest kayak design could be a memorable hit.

With his new Dynamic Duo, Jackson brings to the marketplace a performance -oriented tandem whitewater kayak. Based on the premise that sometimes two heroes are better than one, the Dynamic Duo is based on the Hero, the river running/creeking model in the Jackson Kayak lineup of best-selling whitewater boats.

Besides pure fun, Jackson sees the Dynamic Duo as another arrow in his quiver of market building tools aimed at growing the paddlesports market.
Jackson said the Dynamic Duo tandem whitewater kayak is the perfect boat for schools and individual enthusiasts to teach others to kayak. He believes that twice as many non-paddlers would be willing to try whitewater kayaking, if they knew their first experience would be in a tandem kayak with an experienced guide.
“The Dynamic Duo will be a great way to introduce Class I or II boaters to Class III water with confidence,” Jackson said. He said he also thinks the Dynamic Duo may prove to be a new way for outfitters to offer a private guided experience to the most adrenaline addicted rafting clients.

Dubbed Africa’s newest extreme sport, a number of outfitters offer tandem kayak trips on Africa’s legendary Class V Zambezi and Nile rivers, pairing experienced kayak guides with “no experience necessary” tourists. The craze has spread to Class V stretches of the Kaituna River on New Zealand’s north island.

Measuring 12 feet by 26.5 inches and weighing 75 pounds, the Dynamic Duo is designed for an optimum combined weight range of 265 – 500 pounds. In its conception, Jackson’s longtime design partner David Knight also tackled the challenge of making sure the boat offers good performance over a wide range of weights and distributions.

The stern cockpit can comfortably accommodate paddlers weighing as much as 260 pounds while the bow can fit those weighing up to 200 pounds and as low as 30 pounds.

Available in standard Jackson Kayak colors, MSRP is $1599. The boat is available for purchase at Jackson Kayak dealers.

For further information about the Dynamic Duo and the complete line of Jackson Kayak best-selling whitewater and recreational boats and a list of Jackson Kayak dealers, visit .

Jackson Kayak Dynamic Duo

Chad Hermann, madman, wordsmith, DeSantis booster, burnout victim - finished from rehab

A comment at the 2PJ blog says, in part:
Chad Hermann is returning – but not to his old blog. On Monday, he’ll start blogging at That’s one hell of an audience, and I understand he’s going to cut loose. I am just glad that I’ve always been nice to him.
Another escape from the ivory tower.

Short Course Junior Olympics 2009 Championship Swim Meet - Presented by: Southern California Swimming and Golden West Swim Club & -

Short Course Junior Olympics 2009 Championship Swim Meet - Presented by: Southern California Swimming and Golden West Swim Club & - " is please to partner with Golden West Swim Club to provide you with this live look at the Southern California Swimming Short Course Junior Olympic Championships. The younger swimmers will be making a splash January 30th - February 1st, 2009, and the older swimmers will be hitting the water February 5-8th, 2009. Broadcast will begin at 9am and end at 7pm or at the end of the night whichever comes first. There will be replays all night so stay tuned to see it all. After the first day there will be recordings available on demand and the links will be posted. Please tell your friends!
We are also pleased to announce the awesome high quality stream. This stream will bring you here to the deck and will give relatives and friends hundreds of miles away an opportunity to see the races of the one they love."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Does this look like Big Ben?

Things to do in Florida.

One could step it up and go rasslin' with the birds -- or a gator?

I don't mind as long as he wears a helmet.

RootsCamp Pittsburgh wrap up and Dan Onorato's speech

We talked about some interesting concepts:

RootsCamp is a great concept and its first event in Pittsburgh was a fine gathering. Sadly, it was on the same day as the Black & White Reunion. Oh well. I tried to get them to work together, but it could not happen, so I was told.

RootsCamp is to happen on Saturday in Philly. Go if you can.

RootsCamp didn't get a lot of support from certain sectors. It did well with the union groups and some progressives, of course. But there is a lot of people that should gather that was missing. Wish I had seen more from the PodCamp gang, Rustbelt bloggers, the film makers, PCTV, church groups, school advocates and new age plus eco folks. Oh well. We had a nice audience.

Dan Onorato was given the podium at RootsCamp Pittsburgh on Saturday. A welcome would be fine. His was a long welcome. Very long. But, the US Steelworkers insisted he be given the time and they did a wonderful job of hosting. So, host rules.

I flipped on my video camera and got this, in two parts.

V I C T O R Y looks like this

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Calling for 2 hour delay for Monday, Feb 2"

You got your wish!

City schools to have 2-hour delay day after Super Bowl
Thursday, January 29, 2009

By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Public Schools will operate on a two-hour delay Monday because of the Super Bowl, Superintendent Mark Roosevelt said today.

Noting that Sunday's big game means a "late night," Mr. Roosevelt said the delay should cut down on student and staff absenteeism.

He said the district operated on a two-hour delay the day after the Steelers won the Super Bowl three years ago.


Triple deities, we've got. We need a wizard with crystal ball

Last night's visitors from Pgh Public Schools central administration at the community meeting hosted by the Bloomfield Garfield Corp ended with a remark by me pointing out that they are much like a triple header. The triadic does fine -- but -- we need vision statements from their boss.
Triple deities - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Triple deities.
Meet 'Tetra.' She is mythical.

There was no 'ill will' on my part to the school's administrators. As we concluded the long meeting, we need to understand where the real power resides. Power isn't within community groups, the PPS board, nor high-ranking administrators. It is with the superintendent.

Wikipedia (edited slightly):

Tetra is a young female pirate who causes a start of a journey. She was left to lead the group of pirates. She notices the wielding of the Master Sword. She periodically helps during a quest. Later her true identity is revealed: she is a Princess. Elsewhere, she is taken by the mysterious Ghost Ship, and the king must rescue her.

Tetra is important and we've got three. But golly, let's get the master sword singer as it feels as if we're on a ghost ship ride with Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Sorry Sam.

I would never use campaign donations to go to a SuperBowl

I would never use campaign money to go to a SuperBowl. That is wrong.

I would not use tax dollars either. Of course not.

I went to the Beijing Olympics in August 2008. If I had $10-million in the bank from donors, I'd not go there with that money either.

I went to NASA's Florida's Kennedy Space Center in January 2009. If I had $20-million in the bank from tax payers or donors for campaign, then I'd still not go there with those funds.

Then I saw this this:

Mind Bling: Where's Your Spirit Now, Assholes?: "This makes me angry for several reasons. There have been some rumors that you are both using campaign money for this. If this is true, and I sincerely hope it's not, not only do you not deserve your office, you deserve to be tarred and feathered and marched down Grant Street during our victory parade."

The forgotten promise

The forgotten promise: "As the former director of career and technical education for Pittsburgh Public Schools, I was instructed to close South Vocational High School. I told parents that we were working on new ideas and promised them that they would have a better program in less than two years.
This is a must read for all. I knew of these plans. I heard those promises. I was upset at the closing of South Vo Tech before the other plan had taken root.

We need to get a better look at the use of Peabody as a technical school.

Steeler Nation - Sing Along Contest - Voting

Steeler Nation - Sing Along Contest - Voting: "Click on the media player to listen to the song and then vote for your favorite!"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Schools meeting at Bloomfield-Garfield Corp concerning Peabody

Just back from a night of talking about schools with some of the top administrators from the Pgh Public School district, a group of citizens and many others from all sorts of sectors (non-profits, politicals, police, students, human services, neighborhoods, bloggers, advocates, etc.).

The three Pgh Public School administrators presented data. They came to facilitate with facts. They delivered the history. They did their jobs. They are like the -- and this got me into trouble, sadly -- the ambassadors. But, something was missing tonight. Something is missing as we try to understand and fix these situations with our schools and the overall district.

For starters, the school board was missing. No board members were present. Oh well. That's okay as next week's meeting is already scheduled and a board member is slated to attend, speak, and reply to questions. Mr. Sumpter is waiting in the wings. So, the board gets a pass for not being at tonight's meeting.

But to be honest, I think I might have seen, out of the corner of my eye, a guy with a frumpy hat that could have been ex-Board President, Bill Isler. He might have even been at the meeting for a while. But, if he was, he didn't speak. Furthermore, another that was seen for sure, and who didn't speak, was former board member and present city councilman, Patrick Dowd, Ph.D.

If the three top administrators in the district are the ambassadors, then Mark Roosevelt, the Pgh Public Schools Superintendent, is the President or "head of state."

To be clear -- and not name call -- Mark Roosevelt is the Superintendent of Schools. The high ranking and fine school administrators are not the Superintendent.

The missing element is big. It goes to some of the major disconnect among various people.

We need a crystal ball that can look into the future. We need a wizard to look into that ball and make sense out of the things yet to come. We need a story to be shared, with various characters, each woven into this fantasy landscape, connected but yet floating deeply into the future. We need some predictive powers and a voice to translate the unfolding, long-term future, into human speech without the educational jargon. This unfolding dream would then be -- not so much announced -- but simply verbalized. This saga of years to come would be an open book and a peek into the open mind of what is possible and practical.

To be sure, the crystal ball isn't the key. But the story teller is. The vision needs to be spoken from the perspective of the leader.

Leaders lead. Leaders lead more than just the top administrators who are on paid staff. Great leaders can lead and rally the public, yet alone the boosters, to follow.

Pittsburgh's citizens and parents need a visionary leader to not only chart the course for school reform, but to stand on the helm and feel the spray, wind and ship with observers cheering and jeering.

The captain's game plan -- err -- the Superintendent's course of academic leadership, is taking us all on a journey. We're moving. We're underway and gaining speed. But, we're not certain where we're headed.

There is a visionary leadership void. There are stories that are not being told.

Many of the facts and figures, as well as landmarks, are obvious. Data is important. The school administrators are getting much better grip on those benchmarks. We all agree that the past is the past and there have been some bumpy times. Fixing blame is not productive to a district that has had its superintendent for more than three years now. We all want change.

Furthermore, we all want great schools. Excellence for all is a nice buzz phrase. We all have high aspirations for the academics and the opportunities. Learning excites us. We are hooked on the whole knowledge is power things so we can all have productive lives and a vibrant community with smart, bright, neighbors and fellow citizens.

We're missing the part where we have to connect the dots.

The story of the superintendent -- from his mouth to our computer screens and ears -- has to be told so we can connect the dots to the future, given the present.

This is a burden for the superintendent -- not the elected school board, nor the hired school administrators and principals. The superintendent runs the show here. He has the power as he earned the trust of the members on the school board. The people on the school board are going to give their votes to the superintendent. If the administration wants something, and if the administration works those wants into a position, then the board will grant those powers to the superintendent.

Some on the board are going to grumble. But, by and large, with all the powers of the paid staff at his command, the school board can deliver the five votes for the superintendent.

So, the person at the helm of this district is, without doubt, the Superintendent, Mark Roosevelt.

Pittsburgh people are fine with commanding leaders. We love it when coaches call the plays. We are fine when QBs take charge of the huddle and even switch plays at the line of scrimmage. We are used to company bosses telling union folks this is what is going to happen -- let's make it happen so we can get the jobs done, get home in one piece, and insert value into our lives.

The people of Pittsburgh are, perhaps, some of the greatest boosters the world has ever seen. We are supporters. We'll cheer. We'll watch. We'll dance when it is time to do so.

Pittsburgh can go with the flow too. We know that rivers take turns. We can bend in the wind. We know how to adjust with both large and small shocks to the system. We don't like change for the sake of change -- and we hate bad change. But good change -- that's sweet for us.

The extra effort that we need right now is with both the playbook and the game plan. Its hidden to us, now, sadly. It is somewhere, we expect.

Case in point: Eighth graders now entering their second semester should have a clue as to what's going to unfold for next year -- as in August 2009. Some do. Some don't. The community in and around Peabody High School are wondering if the Pgh Public School's central administration is going to issue a letter next week, or perhaps the week after, that says there will NOT be any new students entering Peabody in the fall of 2009 as 9th graders. Bang. The doors of the school could shut, in a slow death, with the last class to graduate be the one's in 9th grade now.

Well, well, well. What's happening.

This isn't new to us. Pittsburgh has seen many other great things die off. Some naturally. Some by the force of a choke hold. Some by the curse of a rumor that resonates.

South Vo Tech High School was closed after years of rumors about its eventual death. It died on the vine long before the formal vote to close it was taken. Even then, the vote to close the school in August came as late as June. It was a rushed vote. But it was a protracted death. The good teachers saw the writing on the wall. They left earlier, as they could. The wise families knew that South Vo Tech was getting marginal funding and a big crisis loomed large if you put your kid into that school.

Nobody wants to be in a 4-year school and have the floor pulled out from you. Especially a carpenter would know how to judge the stability of the classroom around you and your buddies.

Years prior, people of the eastern part of the city saw how East Hills Elem. School was starved and closed over time. People pulled in. People pulled out. Most of the voting happens with the feet.

Schenley's ordeal is impossible to ignore. But, let's get back to the one missing element, the crystal ball and the vision statements of a game plan and playbook.

How can the I.B. program move into Peabody High School in three years, while the local kids get a fair shake?

How can families plan for schools next year, year after, and so on -- for Joe, Jane, Jack, Jill, James, Jimmy and Jenny. They all are of different ages and they all are from different backgrounds. Plus, they all have different skills and interests.

There are real stories to be told about all of our kids -- fictional or otherwise.

These are the dots that we need to hear are being connected by those who have the rule book, play book and game plans for our kids.

We just really want to cheer the kids and their coaches on to victory. And, we want to have fun -- on the road to the Super Bowl -- err -- on the road to the life with our families, friends, and their buddies.

Here is how it could work. Let's say we, hypothetically, made these adjustments and blah, blah, blah. What do you think? Can it be done? We figure those costs are going to be $XYZ.

Here is another matter in another neighborhood. Are we ...? What are we missing?

The playbook needs to be more revealing than these three plays:
1. Give Sam the ball. (Sam is heading up the new Science and Technology Jr/Sr High School.)
2. Give Cate the ball. (She is heading up the new I.B. Jr./Sr. High.)
3. Stiff arm opposition. (If not running play #1 and play #2.)

Of course Mark Roosevelt's playbook is more than that above. Sure, he has done some wonderful things. The whole Principal training, evaluation and re-do is monumental. Granted. The whole Pgh Promise is way more than the $500 cardboard check that the PFT gave on day one. Whippie! We got a 2-hour delay for Monday, Feb 2, too. Score that as well. But now what?

Peabody, Schenley, Reisenstein are big harry deals. I.B. folks issued their report and we've not heard anything from that missing crystal ball. Where is the wizard? What's he thinking about when it comes to getting these kids around town and into classrooms in six months?

I think that the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp folks have done a wonderful thing to step up and do the engagement efforts for the next looming ax swings. They are going to organize and mobalize in their/our own way at our own pace. The demand includes coolaboration.

But frankly, I think that coolaboration isn't next. The meaningful give-and-take comes after we hear the vision. The guy at the helm (Mark Roosevelt) has to sell the dream of this short and mid-range journey. Dots need to be connected. Then all the dots on the landscape need to be woven on the final canvas. It is a draft. We'll do the coloring, together, later. But, we'd like to know better as to what is unfolding.

Do the ALAs, K-8s, K-6s, 6-12s, boutique schools all work? Do the 'drop-out factories' get an overhaul or not? Unknown questions linger about sports management at Westinghouse. Are you serious? Can CAPA really work as 6-12 downtown, next to the strip club, with yellow buses, with sports teams? What about a public boys school and public girls school (single gender schools) as an option for certain kids so as to have direct competition for Central Catholic and Oakland Catholic. We want afterschool, weekends and summers to be filled with robust programs and challenges for our kids and our communities -- like is the case in suburban districts. Our bands and ball teams and boosters are hurting, and they don't need to be.

Parents are pushy. We don't have a whole career to see this wash out. We don't have test-tube kids who are practice children who can bank upon experimental gimmicks. We'll sign up. We'll enroll. We've done that. We'll stay for a spell. We'll even sign-up to teach and work in the district. Those applications are proven. But we're still waiting for the insights into the waiting list and the actual numbers matched with the slots available. That transparency is playbook stuff that should be part of the game-plan.

Let's overhaul the magnet application for next year next week, not in June. Let's hold a pow-wow on that while it is fresh in our heads and experiences. Don't print the books yet -- but let's edit them and seek additional comments. That's another play from the game-plan.

The stiff arm play needs to turn into a delegation of a project opportunity and effort.

The folks in the stands want to storm the field -- if only to listen to what is being talked about in the huddle.

I'll post some video of the meeting in a day or two. Stay tuned.

The Post-Gazette covered the meeting too and revealed the same need in its headline:

School officials stress fate of Peabody High still undecided: "School officials stress fate of Peabody High still undecided"

They are undecided. The uncertainty is a killer. They won't say. The doubt is a burden. The fear is mounting so as to be a crushing oppression. This is FUD 101. FUD = fear, uncertainty, doubt.

The fix is a look into a crystal ball. The solution is a vision story. The dream can be sold, and we'll stay on board as too many have already departed.

Pittsburgh Public Schools officials last night said they hadn't decided whether to close Pittsburgh Peabody High School, a school beset with dwindling enrollment and low achievement scores.

The officials' words offered a ray of hope to community members who want to save Peabody High in East Liberty or at least have a voice in deciding what to do with students in Peabody's feeder pattern.

"There's a lot of creative ways we can cut this," said Rick Flanagan, youth development director for Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., which called last night's community meeting in Garfield.

About 50 residents, city officials and representatives of civic groups attended.

A "site selection committee" appointed by district Superintendent Mark Roosevelt last month proposed making the Peabody building the permanent home of the new International Baccalaureate magnet.

The school board still must vote on the recommendation, a point Mr. Flanagan repeatedly emphasized.

The IB school will open in temporary quarters next school year and would, under the site committee's proposal, move to the Peabody building in East Liberty in 2012. The IB school eventually would serve 1,050 students in grades six through 12.

The committee didn't address the fate of Peabody High, fueling concerns that the district will close it and reassign students to another building, perhaps Pittsburgh Westinghouse High School in Homewood.

Officials last night insisted no decision had been made and said they're willing to consider the community's input.

"There has to be engagement of what people would want," Cate Reed, a school district project manager, told the gathering.

At the same time, however, the district put certain limits on the discussion.

Nancy Kodman, the district's executive director of strategic initiatives, said the Peabody building isn't big enough to accommodate Peabody High and the IB school. That raised the specter of at least a change in buildings for Peabody High.

Enrollment has dropped from about 710 students in 2003-04 to the current 489, and the number is projected to drop to 168 by 2014.

Officials said dwindling enrollment has made it difficult to offer a healthy mix of programs, and Ms. Kodman said the school's racial achievement gap and scores on state reading and math tests also are unacceptable.

Mr. Flanagan suggested that impending commercial and residential development in East Liberty, combined with a marketing push by the school district, could boost enrollment.

Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. will hold another community meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at its community center in Garfield. Mr. Flanagan said he also wants to take other steps to find out the Peabody community's demands.

"We need to survey parents," he said.
The survey of parents should ask what I'm asking too.

Question #1 of 2: Do you feel confident in the vision and dream of "Excellence for All."

This, I expect, would get okay grades. People want "Excellence for All." That is an easy place to get agreement. That would be good to know, in data, however.

Question #2 of 2: Do you confident in the administration's pathway and game plan for our schools and students in leading to a reformed and greatly improved school district?

That's where we've got a gap of understanding. That's our sticking point today in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

This is a situation that is now avoidable. It is time to put it all out there and all the elements on the table. This is the time to sell the dream and then respond to objections in a clear and open way with honest dialog with the superintendent.

He has to get us to a better place by planting seeds of the future in our imagination.

Mr. Roosevelt needs to put on a wizard's hat for a spell. A couple of meetings will seal the deal this winter. And, it can't be with some flunky pseudo journalist like Bill Flanigan or Marty Griffin or Jon Delano. We're not talking about fluff and sugar coated pills to swallow mumbo jumbo. Nor can this be done with a cardboard check of $500 for the Pittsburgh Promise handed over by the Pgh Federation of Teachers. We can't have cronie back-slapping.

Our kids, our neighborhoods, our city -- and our future is at stake. And parents need to know what is really going on. It is time for that tough love talk about the facts of life in the future that is before us.

This 'selling of the dream' is about the future. Since politics is about the future, this is too. This needs to be part political stump speech. This needs to be about a range of issues. This needs to be a state of the union address, blended with a call to action and an ask for confidence and trust because you see the future, and you know how to connect these dots like this, this, and this.

The audience will then shout out some suggestions. Requests. It is going to get messy. Citizens and taxpayers may say that the order is slightly not to our liking. We might say the range and scope is too great in some areas and too tiny in others.

I can't tolerate a year without afterschool activities at any school, for starters. We are not sure about the 6-7-and-8 in the same buildings as high schoolers. The RODGERS and CAPA merger is an uncertain quagmire that might be worthy of testing. But turning back has got to be on the table in due time too. The conditions for evaluation need to be stated in public, now, years before they are needed.

The fruitful back and forth between the superintendent and the city's parents and residents is necessary and it must follow the talk of the revealed vision.

Official Google Video Blog: Turning Down Uploads at Google Video

Official Google Video Blog: Turning Down Uploads at Google Video: "In a few months, we will discontinue support for uploads to Google Video."
In a few months. What about today?

Google Video is good as you can easily put it into an embed within the wikis. YouTube does it too, but YouTube has a 10-minute limit.

The Internet Archive titled 'Dan Onorato, part 1, RootsCamp Pittsburgh' is now available from

Pittsburgh Peabody Stakeholders Meeting at 6 pm tonight

Date: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 Time: 6:00 pm
Location: BGC Community Activity Center
113 N. Pacific Avenue (Garfield)

Yes, We Can! Educational Change..

Whether you’re a parent, a banker, an economic development/ social service agency leader, a funder, a government employee, a student, a school district staff person, a community member or a civil rights leader you need to yell out--- Yes ---we can restructure the educational system in the East End in order to better serve all children! Especially for those children whose current educational status leaves them unable to effectively compete in the new American economy.

This is an historical time in the East End and a major restructuring of the public educational system needs to occur. Your time and input is critical to the creation of a positive outcome that is a win-win for all.

In collaboration with Pittsburgh Public Schools there will be two critical meetings, one on January 28th and another on February 4th. The agendas for the meetings and the January 7, 2009 meeting notes are included with this mailing.

We ask that you attend these meetings and --- listen and provide input.

President Obama has challenged us to hold the government accountable. This does not necessarily mean taking on an oppositional or critical nature. Accountability (on the matter at hand) should relate to the public engagement of the Pittsburgh Public Schools in a collaborative, trusting, and partnering manner. When this occurs, great things can happen.

Call (412-441-9833 ext. 10) or email Rick Flanagan ( to confirm your attendance and to ask questions.

Pending agenda for the Pittsburgh Peabody Stakeholders Meeting slated for tonight:
Location: BGC Community Activity Center

1. Welcome

2. Information item- Director Thomas Sumpter Jr., District 3 School Board Member, acceptance of an invitation to meet at the BGC Community Activity Center on Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 6:00 pm.

3. Overview of the January 7, 2009 meeting notes (see below)

4. Pittsburgh Public Schools sharing of the International Baccalaureate plan, the roster list of the committee members and the data that the International Baccalaureate committee utilized to inform their decision. Other relevant PPS data will also be shared

5. Parameters that guide the work of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and how they relate to the Pittsburgh Peabody Community discussion process.

6. Creation of a collaborative planning process that engages the Pittsburgh Westinghouse, Pittsburgh Peabody, and International Baccalaureate Working Groups

7. Timing and communication with families and community members

8. Concrete next steps to the planning process.




Nancy Kodman (On board since 12-18-2008), PPS – Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives (Former principal at Allegheny Middle School)

Sam Franklin PPS – Program Director of Science and Technology Academy to open in Sept. * Focus on getting more students into math and science curricula; former teacher in Oakland, CA.

Nancy Kodman gave a brief overview of where things stand, in terms of determining the future for Peabody High School:

> “Need to look at the big picture, in terms of all of the city’s high schools”

> “One thing can’t be done in isolation from another; the plan for Peabody needs to be integrated into those that are developed for other schools”

> “First priority for district: high-quality, educational programs for all students”

> “IB program can’t be situated in new quarters without resolving the future of Peabody”

> “Importance of working with others in the community that Peabody serves is critical”


* Ask District to Setup a Series of Meetings w/Stakeholder Group

QUESTIONS From Audience about Peabody: “Do problem kids at other high schools get sent to Peabody?”

Answer: Only if Peabody is the original feeder school for that student or those students.


Melissa Friez, the principal at Peabody, was asked what she uses as a thumbnail description for her school. Her response was as follows:

“It affords a good opportunity for the faculty to get to know students, since there are just 500 students at this point.”

“And it’s a school that is progressing in terms of student achievement”


* Voice for People From the Community Served by the School
* Find Way to Keep Tension Level Down



* Post-secondary outcomes are important – Is there a value to internships, career counseling, etc. that can help ensure all students find their way into the workforce?

*Safety- Muzz Meyers feels Westinghouse is a much nicer facility - parents have to feel their kids will be safe, which is not in Westinghouse’s favor at the moment.

* What will success look like at Peabody? Knowing the student body intimately can be a key to success. If a school can be more successful w/400 kids as opposed to 800 kids, then there should only be 400 kids.

* Peabody needs to offer something more for its students than what is now the case. (This comment from a parent w/2 kids @ Peabody)

* Melissa Friesz – “We don’t have music or other programs that would give students a more well-rounded education.”

* Nancy Kodman – Programs beyond academics are critical to sustaining student interest, including band, sports, and other extra-curricular activities.

* What kind of constraints already exists? Example: The district previously promised that the IB program would not be based at a “neighborhood school”, (i.e., schools that draw their students from the general population).

* Is a themed school right for everyone? Many students need a comprehensive educational program.

* Court-based programs can be integral to changing outcomes for many of the so-called “troubled” students. (This comment from Rick Cokley, director of the county’s intensive juvenile supervision program in Garfield)

* Need statistics that are current and understand how they’re compiled.

* Need to look at achievement gap by race as it applies to IB and non-IB students

* Build a sense of ownership among community stakeholders through an open, well-managed process.

* How do we determine what constitutes a low-achieving school, then set a series of benchmarks by which improvement can be attained?



Nancy Kodman (On board since 12-18-2008) PPS – Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives (Former principal at Allegheny Middle School)

Susan Chersky PPS-Communication & Marketing

Sam Franklin PPS – Program Director of Science and Technology Academy to open in Sept. * Focus on getting more students into math and science curricula; former teacher in Oakland, CA.

Nancy Kodman gave an overview of the district’s intentions at this stage:

“Supt. Roosevelt will make no recommendations to the board on the IB Program without community input.”


* Parents
* Interested East End residents and business owners
* Non-profit agencies and religious groups
* Community organizations


* After-school programs, better athletics, band program, etc. need to be part of the planning for a better Peabody

* Why are students being told that Sept. ‘09 freshman class will not be at Peabody?

* Parent’s comment: School needs to develop better communication network and tools with parents, students, and other stakeholders

* Suggestion: Letter be sent immediately from Supt. Roosevelt to parents clarifying where things stand with Peabody at this stage.

* Need to set standards for what a” full-service” high school would look like at Peabody.

* Safety of students needs to be paramount.

* Jobs and career development need to be integral part of school’s program.

* Neighborhood dynamics vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood. Homewood’s atmosphere is different from Garfield and East Liberty.

* Administrators and faculty at Peabody don’t have intimate knowledge of the neighborhoods that the students come from.

* Crossing neighborhood lines poses creditable safety threat for students.

* African-American population needs to be a prominent part of this process.

* What will happen to specialized programs already at Peabody (e.g. Robotics) – How will program quality be sustained?

* How will Peabody become a high quality school serving the entire East End?

* What is a realistic timetable for the decision-making process to unfold- can one be developed?

* Competition from charter schools is robbing board-run schools of students “Divide and conquer” strategy, it seems, on the part of the system.

* Letsche School in Homewood is drawing students from across the city without incident (Comment from Rick Cokley, C.I.S.P. director in Garfield).

* What curriculum will be offered at each high school in Fall 2009 – info needed now!

* Parent’s concern: Don't ignore larger regional trends affecting city high schools as a whole.

* Target board members for direct contact and involve them.

* What assurances will any stakeholder group receive from the Supt. and the Board that the Peabody Stakeholder Group’s input will be heard and incorporated into the final decisions made by the board about Peabody’s future?

* Keep an open mind – also keep an eye on the IB committee’s deliberations.

Parents, please take action to maintain free lunches

Source in the P-G.
This school year, the Pittsburgh Public Schools began offering free lunch to all students in select schools. But as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Parents must do their part. They have to send in their child's lunch application so the program can continue in their child's school.

Last month, two of my co-workers and I stood out in the cold in front of four schools (Pittsburgh Peabody, Pittsburgh Oliver, Pittsburgh Morrow and University Prep) to urge parents to return their child's lunch applications. Only one school out of the four got enough applications in to take it off the list for possibly losing the free lunch program. That school was Pittsburgh Morrow. The other three schools still need more applications to keep their free lunch for all students program going.

With the economic crisis worsening, we can all use a little help stretching our dollar. If you can save $270 a school year, wouldn't you do it? So why is it so hard for Oliver, Peabody and University Prep's parents to get their applications in?

There's still time, but time is short. Parents, please get your child's lunch applications to their school immediately. You only have to do one application per family.

Child Nutrition Advocate
Just Harvest
South Side
Published in a letter to the editor.

Keep doing those deep knee bends!

This song is #1 in some distant planet out there.

Deed transfer tax is why we cling to our homes here.

I deposited this comment at the Pittsblog 2.0 site as they looked at the constrast of Pittsburgh and Pheonix.
What is the deed transfer tax rate in Pittsburgh (city is more than burbs) vs. Phoenix?

So, if you buy a $100,000 home, how much is paid in fees and taxes, upfront. Those fees/taxes deliver no value to the homeowners. It amounts to a penalty to transactions. And, it comes off the nest-egg for a down payment.

So, if you've saved $10,000 for a house, and you need to shell out $8,000 of that for taxes, just for the opportunity to own the house, then the down payment / equity contribution is hardly even equal to the first months mortgage.

That's the why behind those stats.

Would love to know if there is such a thing as a deed transfer tax in Arizona.

I say it is no wonder folks stay in their homes.

Shell out $10,000 or more three or four times in the prime of your life -- and you've paid for your kids to get a college education.


Arizona has a state deed transfer tax of $2.00 per deed. That's it, so far. Is this correct?

Literacy centres helping families in Canada

London Free Press - Local News- Literacy centres helping families: "Ealing's family literacy centre is one of four in the Thames Valley District school board system. The centres held official openings yesterday to coincide with Family Literacy Day."

Alltop - Top Literacy News: "All the top Literacy news."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Twitter / Mark Rauterkus: Pittsburgh Public Schools for Feb 2 starting = +120 mins

Twitter / Mark Rauterkus: Pittsburgh Public Schools ...: "Pittsburgh Public Schools will have a -- READ THIS EXACTLY -- two hour delay on MONDAY, Feb. 2, 2009. The AM after the Super Bowl = 120min"

Roosevelt rallies school district employees on in-service day

If it has taken more than three years to get together with the teachers, is it going to take 30 to get with the parents and taxpayers?
Roosevelt rallies school district employees on in-service day: "'I guess I'm apologizing that I haven't done it before,' Mr. Roosevelt said of the joint meeting.
Jeepers, what where you waiting for? And, why are you only going to 'guess' about apoligizing.

Do students get to guess on their tests in school?

Too bad the entire city wasn't invited to the event. I had pondered going in with my video camera. But, I've been tossed out of too many meetings in the past years to fuss with that.
Would be nice to see or hear the audio of the entire speech however. Anyone? P-G?

Getting together with people seems like a good 'people person activity' for -- say -- a people centric activity.

The district does not have the resource to make an academic revitalization -- unless it couples with the parents, residents, citizens, voters, taxpayers -- and the rest of the world.

Doing the Pittsburgh Promise, but excluding the rest of the world, is one way to make it fail.

Holding meetings with only teachers and not the rest of the city is another way to make it fail.

All the king's horses and all the king's men won't be able to put Humpty together again. However, it will take everyone's insight and help. And, he won't look just like he used to.

The brawn of courage is often displayed at the time of invitation. That's the brawn of recruitment. With enough leverage -- anything is possible.

Gambling in Pennsylvania has become a sitcom. Are you watching/

Good quote.
Felon's casino work to resume on court order - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "The board banned the company in December, citing Tomko's felony conviction, two weeks after the Tribune-Review reported he had one.

But Tomko's former lawyer, Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb, said he told the board's former executive director, Anne Neeb, about the conviction more than a year earlier.

'The gaming board knew of his conviction. It was disclosed from the beginning,' Lamb said.

Neeb and Mark Miller, the board's vendor certification section manager, 'encouraged the company to apply' for vendor certification despite the conviction, saying the rules on felonies aren't as strict for vendors as for casino owners and key employees, according to the Commonwealth Court's findings of fact.

After filing an application to become a gaming board-certified vendor in November 2007, in which Tomko disclosed his conviction, the company was allowed to start working at The Meadows. The board has not ruled on that application.

'Gaming in Pennsylvania is becoming a sitcom,' said Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery County, a member of the House Gambling Oversight Committee."

Active choice for City Council's Special Election

Active choice: Blotzer deserves a seat on City Council She parts company with Ms. Smith on the question of the city's fiscal overseers, and we share Ms. Blotzer's concern that removing the state constraints too soon could imperil attempts to keep reducing the city's extensive debt load."
Too soon!

Pittsburgh is under the thumb of TWO sets of OVERLORDS. They arrived with glee two mayors ago. The city council special election in a few days is for a seat which was filled twice since the OVERLORDS arrived as well.

The Post-Gazette might want the city to be under the thumb of OVERLORDS for a generation or more? When would it be prudent to show the OVERLORDS the door? I understand that Castro is in his first term in Cuba, but how long does oppression need to linger there and here?

Self government works for me -- and it should work for this city. I don't want my kids to grow up in a place where the citizens elect figureheads who don't really have any power. That's called a puppet government.

Those who want the OVERLORDS to stay are against self-determination. The Post-Gazette editorial board is in that camp -- and same too is a women who seeks to sustain the OVERLORDS presence, Georgia Blotzer.

That is un-American. That is anti-Pittsburgh. That is not the way to freedom and liberty and justice for all.

Pittsburgh needs to elect responsible people who are going to be prudent with the public funds and act is different ways from the ones who drove the city to its ruins. We have to build our city and our neighborhoods to withstand the selfishness and the hopelessness. We need to make hard decisions, ourselves, with our own interests and priorities in place.

The OVERLORDS have failed Pittsburgh. They have done nothing. They don't even meet. They are only here to insure that the big finance types do not get burned with a bankruptcy. I don't say we need to go bankrupt -- but -- we need to think again and use all of our creativity to craft solutions that work.

We need to fix Pittsburgh -- and I feel that those who want to hunker down under the umbrella of OVERLORDS are going to shrink Pittsburgh.

The active choice is to expel the OVERLORDS. That's what Theresa Smith wants, as do I. The active choice is about engagement, and that was the mission of the Parents Engagement Resource Centers (PERCs) of Pgh Public Schools. Theresa Smith ran one of the five PERCs in the city, until the new Superintendent, Mark Roosevelt, axed them. Mark Roosevelt wasn't interested in "engagement" nor "active parents" nor "self-determination."

I know that Theresa Smith knows about engagement. The proof is to understand the engine behind the victory of an election(s) of Dan Deasy.

Here is another point about words and the Post-Gazette's editors.

The special election has one candidate who is a Democrat, one who is a Republican and the others who are not Ds and not Rs -- but might be independent. Just to know, there are not third party candidates in this race: No Libertarian. No Green. No Socialist.

PG miss-reports: The abbreviated schedule has not prevented three Democrats from joining the race: Georgia Blotzer, 59, of Mount Washington is a retired special education teacher; Brendan Schubert, 25, of Westwood is a city zoning administrator;

Wrong. Blotzer and Schubert are not Democrats. Not now. Not in this race. Or, if they say they are, they lie. I don't know if they lie and miss-lead -- but I expect that the P-G did.

In a special election, the D party gets ONE SLOT. That slot was earned by Theresa Smith. The others are not Dems.

P-G reported, wrongly again: Ms. Smith has her party's nomination, conferred in a December vote by members of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. Mr. Schubert also sought the party's backing, but Ms. Blotzer did not.

The December vote for the nomination for the special election was not by members of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. Read the by-laws, editors. People in Scott Township, Plum Boro and Hazelwood did NOT vote for the endorsement. The Dems have a committee that lives in the district of the special election -- City Council District 2. That's much unlike what was reported.

Finally, P-G editors. Put the entire audio file of the endorsement meeting online. Don't only put up the 'highlights.' Why try to hide and trick the readers and voters?

Audio Remarks:

G. Blotzer explains she that she is running for public office on a just hatched idea that was recently given to her, with an initial cold reception of the candidate. She fails the "fire in the belly" test. She fails the planning and preparing test too. More than a year ago, people in the district knew that the State Rep was departing and Dan Deasy was seeking that post, hence that there would be an opening in city council.

The other worry for me is that she wants to be in there to 'legislate.' She hints, again, to the points I've made about over-reaching. Really get in there and legislate. She'll be quick to float folly -- and more of that is what is NOT necessary.

Brenden, 25, is a young 3rd base coach. Meanwhile, Theresa Smith is a league organizer and founder. He has experiences in city planning -- and that department is one of the worst in this city.

Frankly, I don't want to put my health into the hands of a doctor who has suffered from cancer -- and died -- just because he knows the ropes if things take a turn for the worst. Some say the city's planning office shouldn't even exist. Some have taken its steering wheel (Pat Ford) and driven that department within the URA and hit some might big speed bumps. Planning should happen at the county level -- some champion. Planning prevents piss-poor performance. But, Pittsburgh has the later due to bad planning and a cancer-choked planning department. I'd much rather see another from Public Works get elected to council than folks from the planning department.

Brenden might be an angel that emerged from hell. To be sure, he has been around the bases more than just his time in city planning -- but -- not much more.

Chris Metz is also in the race due to recruitment efforts of others. Serving on council may or may not be a passion of his. Politics must be, but holding a local elected office is suspect.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Some recent swim races from the Pgh Public Schools Middle School Championships

200 free. Erik wins!

50 Free. Erik wins!

More to come. Edits happening now.

I.B. High should have a 13th year component. New Prep School options for PPS could do wonders.

A 2008 Schenley grad is now in North Carolina in prep school. (Deandre Kane, Schenley 08, Patterson School in 08-09). He plays basketball. He wants to get a full-scholarship. He wanted to do better in the classroom and in the sports arena. He is taking 13th grade.

Many of the kids who go to West Point and the other military academies also go to a prep school.

The new I.B. High (whatever its name) could provide a 'prep school experience' -- as in 13th grade -- for all the kids who graduate in good standing from any Pittsburgh Public School.

This 13th grade option would help with students who want to get the full IB Diploma, but need more than 2 years to do the work, pass the tests, etc.

The 13th grade option could be for kids who graduate from Westinghouse, Langley, Carrick, Perry, etc, -- who do not want to go straight into college. Perhaps, they didn't get the college of their choice. Rather, these students can take I.B. classes at IB High, save money, yet still get college credit (often) and mature in their book strength and test scores.

The leader of the Pgh Foundation, (Grant O) spoke at a public meeting last year (to Wireless Neighborhoods Annual Meeting) and he said that only 20% of the kids who graduate from college in PPS are able to graduate from college. The greater majority of the few that we do send to college don't succeed there.

I.B. High could strengthen its numbers by offering 13th grade. Kids from suburban schools might choose to go here too. Tuition can be charged to those outside the district, of course.

The PREP experience is NOT like CCAC. Kids who go to CCAC begin the four-year eligibility clock in terms of NCAA sports participation. So, CCAC as a viable option is a problem for a kid who is working to get a sports scholarship. With CCAC classes, those students won't get the sport-scholarship aid nor even be recruited.

The 13th year option would have a wonderful impact with the FOUNDATION COMMUNITY and the Pittsburgh Promise. (It should, in my not so humble opinion.) It is not prudent to send kids to college and have them rack up costly tuition bills only flunk out. That would drain the hope and the limited funds associated with the Pittsburgh Promise. It would be better to pay for the Pittsburgh Public Schools to handle the delivery of 13th grade for some who really want to work at the rigor of the I.B. classes and exams -- and then go to college the following year. Pittsburgh Promise funds could be invested into Pgh Public Schools for this 13th year option as a prep year before college.

We should investigate and discuss and perhaps INSIST that the new I.B.School have a 13th year program.

For the sake of clarity, do not confuse U-Prep with a Prep Year. Pittsburgh Public Schools is opening a University Prep School in The Hill District. It will be a 6-12 school. It has nothing to do with this concept of a prep year at the I.B. High.

Awaiting approval

The following post is waiting for the blog owner's (Matt's) approval in another blog about Georia Blotzer.

An educated person is not going to, IMNSHO, write that she'll be beholden to my constituents and only my constituents.

Sorta like saying a teacher is beholden to the students and only the students -- yet not the facts of history.

It sounds (to me) to be very similar to what Kraus might say. It is a similar theme that hits to the over-reaching of members of city council for the past decades. Kraus said the same because he didn't know of the purpose of government and its oaths -- so as to uphold and defend the constitution.

One with a masters degree should know better. Kraus can be educated and he, I dare say, won't repeat the same goofy statements while on the campaign trails again.

That's why I offer the call out.

Recent example: One of the words in 56 point type (+/- X pts) in the P-G headline on Obama's oath days was "Purpose."

City council can't be about $1-M neighborhood needs slush funds any more. That's what got the city into such a hole it finds itself in today.

Call that 'tongues', and name-call if if makes you fell better -- but I call it typing the obvious and hitting upon issues.

Four running for Deasy's council seat

I've taken these issues and try to show them for what they are worth.
Four running for Deasy's council seat Ms. Blotzer, a retired special education teacher, said the city should 'try to help property owners stay in those properties' that are at risk of going vacant and steer empty buildings into the hands of community groups.
Empty public buildings should be a prime worry of government. Empty schools should be a focus. Empty URA properties.

However, we do not need to take any empty buildings owned by others and put them into public control nor nonprofits.

We need to steer the empty buildings owned by the URA into the hands of taxpayers, not nonprofits, by and large.

The best way to help people keep their buildings is to lower the deed transfer tax. Eliminate that tax so folks can easily upgrade and downgrade without a lot of fees.

The next best way to help people keep their buildings is to go to a land-value tax. Allow for property upgrades without increases in taxes. People should not be penalized for fixing their homes and investments.

Super Bowl Ads. Let the games begin with a marketing blitz!

Sanjay from, a product review search engine focused solely on electronics, has a cute tie in to the Super Bowl and buying the right HDTV.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Favorite podcast, Free Talk Live, gets running mates with network

These guys are expanding in a big way.

Thanks to the AMPlifiers, now FTL is helping promote other great liberty-oriented shows via the Liberty Radio Network! Please help support FTL and Liberty Radio Network by joining AMP at

Now you can listen to the best liberty-oriented shows on the internet all in one handy live stream! Introducing The Liberty Radio Network - 24/7 streaming of the most recent episodes of great programming like Gardner Goldsmith's Liberty Conspiracy, The Lew Rockwell Show, Freedomain Radio, Antiwar Radio, Complete Liberty, Free Minds Radio, Bureaucrash's Podcrash, and of course, FTL. Plus, you'll also hear live programs originating from our studio in Keene, New Hampshire when they happen! Listen in 64k broadband or 8k dialup at

FYI: The Liberty Radio Network streams are in addition to our existing FTL 24/7 streams. If want you want is FTL virtually anytime, just tune in at ! Additionally, we have tweaked our streaming bitrates. Our low bandwidth / dialup stream is now 8 kbps in streaming .mp3 instead of .aac and our broadband stream is now 64 kbps.
If I could only get Ron Morris and these FTL guys hooked up, I'd be in heaven.

Black Pee. No longer red.

Speaken me pirate... black "P," mind ya, yinzers.
Pirates unveil new uniforms for 2009 | NewsThe new black alternate jersey, which will be worn on select home and road games, is adorned with the classic gold 'P' on the left chest. The Pirate 'P' is making a return onto the jersey for the first time in 74 years. It was back in 1935 that a 'P,' which was red and located on the left chest, was last found on the jersey.

School Web Sites -- promises and planning

After my rant in Thursday's email about the Schenley web site that has no information because the district had locked out the school's web masters, I sent an email Friday afternoon to Mark Conner, director of Family and Community Engagement for the PPS district. Mark's office is the one responsible for the Parent Engagement Tuesdays and the Excellence for All Steering committee of which I am one of Schenley's 4 reps.

About 30 minutes after I sent the email, at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, I received a phone call from the PPS. Typical parent of a teenager, when I saw the number on caller id, I had a moment of panic (my son was skiing with the Schenley ski club). As my good Aussie friend always says, "No Worries!" It was Mark Conner who thought a direct phone call would be more efficient than sending emails back and forth. We talked for at least 15 minutes; he listened to my frustrations with the district's horrible communication with parents and told me of the new system that is now ready for use. And of course got me to vounteer to help with the implementation! More meetings?!?!? I don't know if things will be better but at least I truly felt that someone was listening and would try to help.

I am hoping that at the very least we can have a calendar on-line that has ALL school activities. It would be nice to know ahead of time without having to dig through layers on the board web site that there is no volleyball open gym on Wednesday because there is a girls' basketball game. Mr. Conner also said that they will have something to replace the old Dashboard system that will be easier for the teachers to use. Those of us who were at Frick really appreciated the information that was available on dashboard.

Just wanted to share my positive response.
amy moore
We'll celebrate after the fix is live. And, with Dashboard, there was a fix that is now broken again. Dashboard worked in many settings, but not any more. So, this is two steps backwards.

The best thing that could be done with the calendar effort is Google Calendars. The district can use them. They are mission critical, open, free and robust. Each school can have its own calendar. The each parent can subscribe to the calendar from each school. Likewise, central administration should have its own calendar. Then that can be subscribed to as well, if those are interested.

Give edit capabilities to the calendar to dozen of people, from principals, to secretaries, to board members, to teachers, athletic directors and even coaches. Same too with the super-volunteer parents. If they miss-use the calendar, or if they don't use the calendar well, nuke them from user status.

I wish that those on Grant Street and the city's clerk office would use a Google Calendar. I've got a public events calendar. If others want to subscribe to it, feel free. It is at the left hand side of this blog. And, if you'd like to be a contributor / running mate, just comment or send me an email. Then your events can go right into that calendar. But, the best thing might be to open your own calendar and then i can click and copy the events in an easy way into my public calendar.

Mr. Orr of Framingham, Mass, runs up against the man, in an NPO suit

This was shared on E-Democracy.Org public list. Interesting. (Tiny edits by blog editor)
In the sleepy little town of Framingham, Massachusetts, the biggest social service agency (SSA) in the town, sued the town and 13 of its town officials. I'm one of them. This all started in Nov '07. The officials were sued both in their official and in their individual capacities. The suit is available at

This town is massively overrun with SSAs and their associated programs. A few raw numbers: Based on population size, by proportion, we should expect to see about 45 programs, 7 agencies and 3 Level 3 sex offenders. Instead we have ~250, 48, and 28, respectively. SMOC is the biggest of the big three in this town and they are a $60M/year operation. They are the ones suing us in Federal Court. (Have you ever heard that old expression, "Don't make a Federal case out of it."?) The suit is totally ridiculous.

Also, a big part of the problem is that SMOC is structured in such a way that they bring people into the town from outside the region. Their clientele is largely based on violent criminals and drug addicts. And, their system is designed with what they call the "Continuum of Care", which keeps their clientele in their programs (and by implication in Framingham) till they die (or until they get better?).

The charges include:
* Conspiracy to create an atmosphere of discrimination against the
* Libel.
* Violation of the Fair Housing laws.


All news articles since it started are available at

So why am I bothering you poor people with this nonsense? I'm one of the people being sued and part of the reason they're going after me is because of the mailing list I run in this town. The list is open to the public, but there is a strong sentiment against the agencies that has been expressed by people, and this includes myself. SMOC would love to shut this list down, the same way that they are demanding that the whole town be placed into receivership.

There's a lot here and I could go on for many hours, but the gist of things as I suspect is relevant to this group is here. And BTW, they're not doing very well. They never expected that we'd actually try to defend ourselves, and because the town's liability policy kicked in, they're being forced to spend about $1 for every $.15 that we spend.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Steven Orr, Framingham

Rec Report hits upon the two guards parable

Love the parable.
Citizens for Legitimate Government: "Imagine two doors, as in Kafka's 'Before the Law.' The first door is guarded by a big bad mean old guard, who says you cannot go into the chamber to confront the law. But, he tells you, if you do get through this door, the one he guards, then you will be confronted by another guard at a second door; this second guard is even more resolved, five times stronger, and more intent on keeping you out than the first guard. This is what the first guard tells you of the second. And the first guard is right.

This is a parable. The first guard is the Republican Party, the Old Garde. This guard will not let you by him, but if you do manage it, you face the real obstacle to change. The second guard represents the Democratic Party, the Avant Garde (from the perspective of the moment). This second guard is the real obstacle to change. This guard has the system's well being at stake every bit as much as does the first guard. Only this guard isn't seen by most people as a guard, because he's only an obstacle if one gets past the first guard, and actually demands to get past him as well, which seldom happens.
Hate the conclusion.

Fishermen and Fishers of Men.

Two Burmese survive month at sea in an ice box - Yahoo! News Two Myanmar fishermen have survived for almost a month in shark-infested waters by floating in a large ice box after their boat sank, rescue officials said.

In other news, the final service at Grace Memorial Presby Church with Johnnie Monroe is today. May his retirement be fruitful and full of peace -- and activities!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Calling for 2 hour delay for Monday, Feb 2

Monday, Feb 2, 2009, Pittsburgh Public Schools should have a two-hour delay. This delay should be announced on Wednesday, at the latest.

Sunday, Feb 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the SuperBowl, of course.

On Monday, Feb 2, a two hour delay would be most welcomed.

By the way, there is no school on Monday and Tuesday of this week. These days were slated to be without students as the yearly calendar was released. They are in-service days.

So, what do you say? Agree? Mr. Roosevelt, make it so.

As of Tuesday, we lear that Western Pennsylvania's Eat N’ Park Restaurants Will Close Early On Super Bowl Sunday

Some notes from Libertarian Party meeting

Dave Powell, Libertarian Party Chair, stated that our priority now should be to recruit candidates for the local elections this coming November. Petitioning to get on the ballot will begin soon.

Dave Eckhardt suggested that we arrange a showing of the movie, IOUSA, for a combined meeting of the Pitt and CMU libertarian groups. He also suggested that we look into speakers for our student chapters since funding may be available from the Leadership Institute. Ron Paul would be a big draw if we could manage to engage him.

Dave Powell reported on the Pa. Ballot Access project. The Voters Choice Act will be reintroduced this session in the state Senate by Senator Fulmer, along with several other cosponsors. It is hoped that more senators can be induced to sign on as cosponsors in order to give the bill more visibility in the legislature.

Dave Eckhardt discussed the latest developments in the effort to demonstrate reliability of the electronic voting machines in Allegheny County. The failure to do so
may be good ammunition for the VCA.

There was some discussion of developing a platform for our chapter that would cover issues in Allegheny County.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pittsburgh Schools Volunteer For Audit - Sports News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Schools Volunteer For Audit - Sports News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh: "But a recent investigation by the Women's Law Project of Southwestern Pennsylvania High Schools found a problem.

'It looks as though two out of three high school athletes in southwestern Pennsylvania are male. And that for every dollar spent on athletics for boys, only 69 cents is spent on athletics for girls,' said Sue Frietsche of the Women's Law Project."

City Parking Authority needs council appointee, Dowd says

City Parking Authority needs council appointee, Dowd says: "'This is hundreds of millions of dollars at question here,' Mr. Dowd said, after sending a letter to Mr. Ravenstahl urging that council be brought into the process. 'You can't make that decision without collaboration, consensus, and without a duly constituted board with clear membership.'
Dowd has a clear mandate to lead the urban youth / recreation committee. We're holding out hope for collaboration and consensus with how to better play with our kids in our public facilities.

Good to poke the mayor with his duty to keep the authorities at full membership.

Sell off the parking authority assets. Liquidate. Don't lease.

Furthermore, let's have retention votes for every authority member. Then we'll have some accountability.

Wheeling Jesuit University freezes tuition

First, YSU does a deal for those in Allegheny County and others in southwestern PA. Now this good news of another local college.
Wheeling Jesuit University freezes tuition: "'Higher learning is a critically important reality in American culture. It's also expensive,' School President the Rev. Julio Giulietti said in a statement. 'Although Wheeling Jesuit University has always tried to keep the seemingly inevitable rise of tuition at an affordable rate, the present national and international financial crisis demands a more radical response.'

Undergraduate tuition is $23,590 per year."
Too bad WJU is NOT eligible for Pittsburgh Promise scholarship money. It would be great if some went there -- from the city -- with Pittsburgh Promise funds.

Do an extra assignment

I posted, again, at the PureReform blog in the wake of a discussion about NCLB (No Child Left Behind).

You know, if the tools in NCLB have measures and benchmarks that are not 'just' nor 'accurate' -- and I think this might be spot on -- then why not issue another, better, more insightful report card and measurement stick with the corresponding tic marks.

Do another report card.

Sure, you gotta do what the NCLB forumla requires, if you want to dance that dance. Understood.

But, great leaders would go above and beyond. They could make their own data open and assign ways to measure and report those facts.

I hear a lot of moans -- but -- the proof is in the performance and the story that can be delivered and supported by the paid leadership of the district.

Sure, pull out the special ed folks. Put them on a different scale. Then what?

Life and our schools are an open book test. Do the homework. Then, do an extra assignment. Go above and beyond. Make challenges that greatly exceed what is required.

Instant Message to Marty Griffin

The Fed dollars that pays for the tunnel under the Allegheny River for light-rail to the stadiums is still OUR MONEY. It comes from the pocket, wallet or purse -- local, state or feds -- but it is still, all of it, OUR MONEY.

Don't build the tunnel because as a FEDERAL taxpayer, it is a waste of money.

Better things can be done with government money.

To win the 'shut it down fight' -- you'll need to get NATIONAL advocates to help. Those in Iowa, Alaska, Calif, Florida, etc., need to help put a fork in it for the benefit of the locals because the local politicians are too drunk to refuse PORK, even worthless PORK.

Pittsburgh Hoagie covers candidate Q&A: Georgia

Three cheers to Matt Hogue for getting insights from candidates in the special election for city council district 2 out into the view of others. Well done Matt. Keep up the great work on your blog.

Now, let's take a look at the statements from Georgia.

Pittsburgh Hoagie: All meat no filler: "Pittsburgh City Council candidate Georgia Blotzer was gracious enough to answer some questions about his campaign."

My replies to her answers. I've reposted these remarks from the comments at Matt's blog. Go there to sustain the conversation, please.

Thanks for taking a lead on these Q&As. Wonderful.

My $.02 replies to her remarks follow.

Those interested in responsible and sustainable development should be "developers" in the private sector. You can't do -- it is impossible -- development from the public sector. Those that want to do that need to be embraced in the private sector and disgraced if they dare step within the public / elected world.

When the policitians become the developers, then the developers begin to write the laws.

The way to structure development is to leave it alone within the realm of gov and insure that gov is fair, just, trusted, honest, open. Care -- but never dabble (gov folks).

Once the foundation is provided with gov -- then private money will arrive, without the bribes.

A land-tax policy would do the most to end vacant and abandoned property. That should be the long range plan.

In 5 and 10 years, I want my community to look like things that are hard to visualize -- because it needs to be free and smart. Looks are skin deep. Beijing was spotless in August 2008. I do want that litter control, but not the associated acts of repression.

A BBI overhaul = good thing. Okay answer.

Good to have candidates standing for office.

I don't want people to support needs of the residents of Dist 2 -- unless those needs are about freedom, liberties and constitutional elements. The 'selfishness' of our politicians causes the over-reaching crap that we are swamped by now.

Why didn't the #1 campaign finance reform reformer speak when the issue was before council twice (if not dozens of times) in the past?

Be beholden to concepts of freedom and justice -- not your union card and diploma.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Penn Hills linebacker Mason picks Pitt

Penn Hills linebacker Mason picks Pitt: "'The main thing is that I was real comfortable with the coaches at Pitt,' he said. 'They have been recruiting me for three years and I've had a great relationship with all those guys. I took my time with this decision because I wanted to have no doubt and I have no doubt. I know that Pitt is the right place for me.'

School news with Schenley and Frick

Frick PSCC
To help with the transition to the combined schools in the Reizenstein building, Mrs. Facaros plans to invite the Frick PSCC to the Schenley PSCC meeting to be held on April 15, 2009. On April 3, which is scheduled as a half-day, the Frick teachers and staff will be invited to the Reizenstein building to view facilities. The building will be off-limits during the summer while construction/maintenance/repairs/adaptations are completed. In May, the Schenley PSCC meeting will be held at Frick.

4Sight testing has been rescheduled for Jan. 29, 2009. Senior IB students who are registered to take the IB diploma are asked to report to school by 8:00 am. The students will have an opportunity to work on programme requirements. All other seniors should report to the library to work on college aps, FAFSA forms, grad projects. If a senior is not at school by 8 am, arrival time should be 10:45 so as to not disrupt testing.

Feb. 5 -- Winter Concert and FAFSA Workshop--details for the concert will be given later. The FAFSA workshop is sponsored by NEED and is a hands-on session to complete the required financial aid forms for nearly all colleges.

Tech use -- A possible topic for future PSCC meetings is the use and/or abuse of technology at the school. The meeting would cover cyber bullying, text messaging, LOUD mp3s among other subjects.

Prom -- The prom is a privilege not a right.

CHANGE OF SCHEDULE FOR 2ND SEMESTER -- It became obvious early in the school year that the activity period as scheduled was not working. More planning and coordination was needed to provide meaningful activities for students. For the remainder of the school year, most students will report to their period 9 class and will remain there until the end of the day (84 minutes). Students will be required to have a written pass to go to another teacher/classroom for tutoring or activities. (Three classes could not be rescheduled and will continue to meet 10th period--chorus, health, and ???).

PLAY PRACTICE --A bus leaves Reizenstein at 5 pm to take the students to Peabody for play practice. Approximately 45 kids take the bus. Sorry, I didn't get the title of the play or any details but it is supposed to be Shakespeare set to music. As soon as I get more details, I will send them because the Schenley musical is ALWAYS a highlight of the school year.

PEABODY --A parent asked what the current plans are regarding Peabody and the students currently attending there. Mr. Huber who was on the site selection committee for the IB school said that Peabody was a unanimous selection of the committee. (I don't know what other sites were considered but Westinghouse, although beautiful facilities is not accessible to magnet students by bus and Reizenstein would cost too much money to adapt for continued use as a high school). The board has not yet voted on the selection. Data has shown that only 25% of students in the Peabody feeder pattern actually attend the school and the building is seriously underutilized. No plans have yet been announced for the placement of the remaining students if the school does get approved for the IB school.

WEB SITE -- The district is continuing to upgrade the website and coordinate all information. At this time each individual school is prevented from adding any information except the daily bulletin. The school calendar is controlled by the district which means there is NO useful information on the calendar, except for district wide dates.

If you have been reading my emails over the past 4 years or attended any meetings with me, you know that the lack of communication has been one of my biggest gripes. This is the computer age!!!! It is absolutely ridiculous that a school district the size of Pittsburgh cannot get this right. Parent Engagement is a nice catchy phrase but it is hard to be engaged when you have such difficulty getting information. I know that there are many things that we cannot change due to money issues but this is something that would not take much money to fix and would go a long way toward making parents feel engaged. Please call the Parent Hotline and ask when the system will be fully functioning.

Parent Hotline: 412-622-7920

COLLEGE FAIR -- This was not mentioned at the meeting but the date is coming very soon. On Feb 5, 2009, from 9-1 and 6-9, and Feb 6, from 9-12 at the convention center is the NACAC College Fair. Students beginning their college search might find some useful information (


Today, Jan. 22, Financial Aid Night at Reizenstein Library. 6-8 PM in the cafetorium.

Feb. 5, FAFSA Parent Night, 6-8 PM in room 144

11th Grade PSSA Preparation, Saturday sessions beginning Jan. 31. Incentives will be given to participants.

Feb 18, IB parent meeting at 5 pm., PSCC meeting at 6 pm., in the library.
Feb 25., parent meeting for current 10th grade students considering IB.

Lots of information. If you have any additions, corrections, or questions, please email, Amy Moore.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Obama speech censored in China

Interesting. Read the full article.
BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Obama speech censored in China 'To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history,' the president said.

Once again, Xinhua included the passage in full in its English version, but the sentence was taken out of the Chinese translation.

Similar changes were made to versions of the speech that appeared on other websites based in China.

And websites were not the only media organisations that struggled to report some of the comments made by President Obama.

China Central Television, the country's main broadcaster, aired the speech live with a simultaneous Chinese translation.

But when the translator got to the part where President Obama talked about facing down communism, her voice suddenly faded away.

The programme suddenly cut back to the studio, where an off-guard presenter had to quickly ask a guest a question.

Censoring sensitive news reports is nothing new in China, where officials go to great lengths to cut critical material.