Monday, November 21, 2005

Statement about Schools -- from Mark Rauterkus -- delivered to meeting hosted by B-PEP

From: Mark Rauterkus,
Candidate for Pittsburgh City Council, District 3
cell = 412 298 3432

To: Fellow Citizens of Pittsburgh

November 21, 2005

I care greatly and want to make positive impacts!
I have a number of concerns about our city and our schools. I care a great deal about our schools and their interaction among our communities. I hope to serve the residents of the city as a dynamic leader on City Council who is known to put kids at the top of the priority list. My two sons go to public schools. I coach and have been in many school settings.

RAND and PPS must build trust by publishing all the data and formulas for all to see.
Trust is suspect with reports. But trust and confidence can soar, after the data is published. Peer review is powerful. Open source ways are invincible. The data on schools and the logic in the formulas need to be published on the web.

A robusts and visible job-ticketing system should document all comments from citizens. This would lead to a valid change log to display tinkering from administrators.
All requests for features and changes should be automated by the district. One citizens' comments should be documented for all to see. If a job-ticket process was deployed, then the district would be able to make replies to all issues. Outstanding issues and suggestions would be visible.
Versions and evolutions of the major plan need to be made.
A problem for one might be a feature for another. Statements from the administration should be charted on each matter. A change log is needed to clearly document the 'tinkering' with the plan by the administrators. Perhaps some changes are needed for next year.

Closed School Buildings have serious implications for our neighborhoods. We must think again about those interactions.
Schools in neighborhoods that are in transition or are in great decline need to be given the highest priorities for re-use. The overall approach to the liquidation of the various buildings must be put into a holistic plan for the good of all the city and region. We run the risk of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer if the wrong course is charted in the months and years to come.
The building and land opportunities at some places, such as Schenley High School, South Vo Tech and even (perhaps) Connelly Tech are prime. A quick sell off of those assets might saturate the market and then other, more complicated, more deserving projects won't ever have a hope of getting completed. Beltzhoover, Arlington, Hazelwood and other areas of the city need new investments and new energy to enter more than a place such as the South Side.
The school district and the city need to invest a lot of attention to these details and establish a reasoned philosophy. Jobs, community needs and the stability of neighborhoods have to be factored into the discussions. I would love to play a leadership role in these efforts, and as a city council representative, I'd embrace this challenge.

Peabody and Westinghouse could be turned into single gender High Schools.
Central Catholic and Oakland Catholic are private, single-gender schools that do well in academics. The trend to single-gender schools shows great promise. Getting families more choices for their students, such as single-gender public-school, might make fantastic sense. Girls and boys from throughout the city who desire single-gender schools could attend, while those who want a co-ed setting could still attend the other schools.

Teams within the city need to migrate to the WPIAL.
After school activities, recreation, community use of our public buildings and the interscholastic elements within our schools in the city need a major overhaul. Our kids are not getting the same chances to excel as their suburban counterparts. Boosters, coaching, schedules and sportsmanship need increased attention. Volunteers are kept at arms-length in the city as well. Much more can be done. The best way to advance the sports system is to have the city kids play, day-in and day-out, against the suburban schools by being within the WPIAL.

The Pgh budget, not PPS, should pay for Crossing Guards, as the policy had been before Murphy's crisis.
School resources needs to focus on reading, math and history, not sidewalk patrols in neighborhoods.


Mark Rauterkus said...

More on the meeting:

The B-PEP Community
The State Of Our
Pittsburgh Public Schools

Monday, November 21st, 2005, 6PM-8PM

"It's a LIFETIME commitment….
African Americans VOTE in EACH and EVERY election!!

A community conversation
with Pittsburgh School Board members
Mark Brentley,
Alex Matthews,
Randall Taylor, and
School Board member-elect Thomas Sumpter.

Rev. Dr. Johnnie Monroe, Pastor
Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church

Anonymous said...

I think the issue that should be emphasized is choice. You
touched on that when you talked about creating single-gender schools as
a choice for parents and students who want that. But there should be
as many choices as possible in order that each student can have an
educational experience that suits his/her individual needs and
abilities. That's a libertarian approach that should generate positive
response from the public. It's also, IMO, the only way to create a
system that serves the students and not the bureaucracy.


Anonymous said...

I agree, but I think a more saleable point is local funding and local
control, which creates both choice and competition. While the
overwhelming majority of of people live in their country of birth, and
the majority live in their state of birth, only a small fraction live in
their school district of birth. Moreover, the #1 factor for what
communities people with children choose is the quality of the school
district. Tax costs are factor #2. When communities provide their
own public education at their own expense, they will compete to give
the best product for the least cost.

The myth to be overcome is that local property tax is regressive
compared to state sales taxes, which have funded an increasing share
of education costs in Pennsylvania. The poorer the school district, the
higher percentage of its real estate is absentee owned. This means the
tax does not fall on residents of poor communities, but on owners
who generally live in richer communities. (Unlike sales and income
taxes, property tax is not passed on to renters. The portion that falls
on land drives rents down more than the portion that falls on buildings
drives them up.) Essentially, using state sales taxes to offset local
property taxes takes money from poorer people in richer areas to
relieve richer people who own real estate in poorer areas.

Finally, politicians have hijacked the word "accountability." Parents
want schools to be accountable to *them*. However, each time a state
or federal politician makes schools more accountable to Harrisburg
and Washington DC, that school becomes less accountable to the
parents. How often we see swarms of irate parents at school board
meetings, only to say that the school board's hands were tied by higher
levels of bureaucracy.

School vouchers and tax credit schemes are double-edged swords, as
they are always proposed as mechanisms of the state and federal
governments. Therefore, those higher levels of government will set
the criteria and administrate the programs. No such programs should
be considered unless they are funded and administered locally.

Dan S

Anonymous said...

via email....


I read your statement on schools. The first section is good as well as the
fourth, sixth and seventh. The others do not do anything for me.

The data is boring. What I heard and what is on the net outline how the data was created and used. Few people will look at the data. The focus is on how the decisions relate to the findings of data.

Job-ticketing is interested but a monster to manage and keep up. It will
fail on its own weight. Imagine the volume of comments, particularly
comments not related to the issues. Then you add the cost of maintaining it and I believe the intent would not justify the efforts.

Where is this same gender schools coming from? This is a non-starter for
inner city, low income, working families. I would not go on a public record in support of same gender schools. Children of inner city families need to survive in the real world of women and men. They are already getting negative images of how men and women relate to each other at home and in the neighborhoods.

There are enough issues out there about our schools for you to address.
There is no need to create more issues, especially ones that a city council member can not address directly. Keep your focus!

Take Care,

(Dr. H)

Mark Rauterkus said...

Job ticketing, if done in an open source kinda way, would not be hard to manage nor would it take too much time for the school district managers to manage. Some of it would be able to be self-managed.

Users would be able to go to the site and enter their concerns. Then they'd be able to search for concerns like theirs too.

I imagine that a job-ticket system is being used in some capacity now. And, I imagine that the final plans are getting lots of updates and details too. That's expected with revisions.

Yes, it would be a huge project in scope and depth. But, it would take more to plug it in and get others on-board than anything. Once it was with a critical mass -- it would go on its own. But, it would be significant as it changes work habits.

Like the "parent dashboard" for schools. Big deal to put all attendance, grades and assignments on line in real time. But, once it is done and is part of the work flow, it is easy. Its value is huge. Saves thousands of daily conversations if people use it as intended.

How many times are redundant suggestions made?

How many times are good suggestions made, off the cuff, and not integrated into the system and just lost?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Data is boring. But so too is science and math. But, it is needed. And, the data isn't so much going to be a big aid to us in Pittsburgh -- but -- it could be. I expect the model to be more of a contribution to the rest of the world. Other urban districts are going to look at this and say -- how does it work and would that same thought process apply there too?

And, in two, three or four years -- if the system goes well or otherwise, -- we'll need to look again at the numbers. Perhaps too much weight is being given to a certain test score -- but -- that test is flawed. ?? Then we re-evaluate and modify for the future in the future. ??

We need to know all the specs and formulas in version 1.0 before we can do a re-make for version 2.0. And, if you think 2.0 isn't going to come -- then I bet you'd think that sky is going to fall soon as well.

We need the data -- in all its boring details.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The only other negative I've had come to me about the single-gender school idea is that it should start SOONER than 9th grade. This woman asked why not start single-gender middle schools too.

Of course we can't all choose to have single-gender education. And, I would hope that it is more of the exception than the rule. But, it does offer "choice."