Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Got Ink: Parents, community groups hope for best from city schools reorganizaton

I'm quoted in an article that starts on the front-page of today's P-G. This coverage is not about election day, but rather about community and schools.
Parents, community groups hope for best from city schools reorganizaton
Mark Rauterkus, a South Side resident with two children in city schools, said public input should be taken, and responses given, at a series of town hall meetings. He said data that Rand used to analyze school effectiveness should be put online for parents to review.

Mr. Rauterkus said the reorganization will result in some jostling among teachers and administrators for new jobs. He said he's concerned that reassignment of effective principals and teachers could undercut schools already striving for excellence.
Nice article.

Yes, the RAND DATA should be open for "peer review." It should be defended in academic and community circles. This needs to happen online. I'm sure folks in other cities will want to peek at the logic, numbers and outcomes as well.

Frankly, I'm still waiting for the pointer to go live from the main page of the PPS site for the academic presentation in Power Point. See http://www.pghboe.net. Look for the Nov. 1 presentation. I have a copy of the handout. But, others do not.

Furthermore, these forums that I dream about are much more than a one-way conversation to individuals from the school administration. How about minutes from these meetings? Too often as objections are raised, they ping around the room like B-Bs and are never strung together. How are the pearls pulled together like a necklace? The feedback needs to be collected, harvested, organized. If you are not there in the room, you miss a good deal. Give-and-take isn't being broadcasted, gathered, tested, and weighed with real inspection.

Who is going to hold these "round-table forums?" I don't think that the P-G, RAND, A+ Schools nor the Pgh Public Schools can do it. They each need to be there as well as the unions. But tonight, I'm not sure who can offer the glue to make this work as it should. As you might guess, I'm talking about something more than a new parent hot line phone number. Sure, the phone hot line for parents is great. Call 412 622 7920. But we need some serious advancement to leap over the $47-million gap between expenses and revenues for next year at PPS.

And, we don't need a new gambling task force thingie either. Spare us yet another authority creation for goodness sake.

As to the quote above and the concern about jobs and the expected reassignment of effective principals and teachers, let me be clear. I was asked about the worries that are brewing in the community. I don't have many myself, other than that of a dad with a kid going into 6th grade next year. That's a big time to ring alarm bells. But I feel that there are going to be a lot of worries in the months to come about teacher and administrator positions. Who is going to lead this academy? Who is willing to teach to 5:30 pm? Who is going to go here and help jump start those test scores? Meanwhile, who is going to stay put and work with the influx of others. There are plenty of good teachers. There are a number of great teachers too. But, I wonder about there being enough ambitions in the ranks of the professionals because I sense that they are going to have to put some serious skin in the game.

Frankly, some principals, some naysayers and some who might be burnt out for whatever reason are going to balk. I hope that the uninspired and excuse-makers land in Peters Township by April 2006.

We need to strive for excellence everywhere. And, we'll need to have good energy in all the schools. These are my hopes. These are not my worries. But, for the professionals in the schools, I'm sure these (and other) thoughts are going to enter into unfolding decisions.

I have confidence that the goals being set forth are not intended to undercut schools nor students who are already striving for excellence. But I'm also sure that this thought is going to enter into the discussion now and again in the weeks and months to come.

An interesting trend to the city might materialize. Some of the best teachers from throughout the region could be attracted to new roles in Pittsburgh. The new quest for excellence that is unfolding in the Pgh Public Schools might cause some professional mixing. We'll have new directions and new challenges that have been proven to work in other cities and with some charter schools. This district can be more attractive for existing teachers and be an attraction for top notch teachers elsewhere.

Pgh Public Schools can be known as a great place to make a career for gung-ho teachers and administrators. Let's make it so.

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