Thursday, August 10, 2006

Meeting with Mr. Roosevelt, Super of Pgh Public Schools -- slated for August 22

It seems that Mr. Roosevelt's secretary confirmed a scheduled meeting for 6:30 P.M., Tuesday, August 22, 2006, at Frick Middle School in Oakland.

Parents of students in INTERNATIONAL STUDIES classrooms are urged to come to the meeting. The hope is to bring as many interested people as possible. It is very important that we show the administration that the parents are very active in supporting the international studies program.

Many of our group are going to be out of town on that date. I won't be there as I'll be in Canada with my sons at a swim and sports camp. So, those who are here in Pittsburgh need to go so as to make a good showing.

Some parents, organized by Amy Moore, might meet in advance of that meeting to to formulate and agenda and/or questions.

The INTERNATIONAL Studies Program includes the Foreign Language ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MAGNETS. My kids, for example, have been in a Spanish Language class since grade K, at Phillips Elem on the South Side. Others schools have French, German and other language specializations.

One point of concern with the new administration is the fact that they are "NEW" and don't know the legacy of the programs and how they have been such a success throughou the past decade(s). But, these schools and the programs are not rock solid. A slack principal and/or slack support can kill a quality school in a year or two -- as was the case with the East Hills School. People pulled their kids out when the program at the school lost its rigor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unofficial Minutes
Meeting with Mr. Roosevelt and Dr. Spampinato
6:30 P. M., August 22, 2006
Frick ISA Multipurpose Room

Mr. Walters opened the meeting by introducing the IS staff members who were present. Not everyone signed in but according to the sign-in sheet and the people that we added, the staff members in attendance were: Mr. Walters, principal of Frick; Mr. Bullard, middle and secondary school supervisor; Mrs. Facaros; principal of Schenley, Mr. Bernard, administrator at Schenley; Ms. Green, asst. principal at Schenley; Mr. Huber, Schenley faculty & IB coordinator; Mr. Vitti, Schenley faculty (and parent); Mme. Smith, MYP IB coordinator for Frick and Schenley; Ms. Lyall, Frick faculty; Mr. Picciafoco, Frick faculty; Ms. Leonardi, Frick faculty; and Mr. Chapman, Frick faculty. In addition to the staff members, there were parent representatives from Schenley, Frick, Fulton, Liberty, Linden, and Allderdice (thank you for your interest and support). Although the sign-in sheet had only 28 names, we added 10 more for people that I knew were there that did not sign in. I received an email from Jonathon Sewall who said he had counted 45 and a few came in later so I missed quite a few names.

After Mr. Roosevelt's comment to me that he did not want to stay until 7:30 because his wife was expecting him home, I cut my introduction to a very brief minimum, explaining how the cluster group had started in 2005, the establishment of the original magnets for desegregation and school choice, the high standards and popularity of the magnets (including the need of some parents to camp for 3 days to get a spot in the program), and our real desire to see the magnets re-establish the high standards.

Mr. Roosevelt spoke briefly about coming to Pittsburgh and addressing the problems here. He had been warned that Pittsburgh was change adverse but he has found that not to be true. He did not come to the city to make incremental changes. He wants the schools to be innovative, rigorous, and modern. He has asked the Rand Corporation to evaluate the magnets but evaluations of the high schools and the gifted program will probably be done first.

Questions and Comments (I need some help with the details on these; my notes are rather incomplete)

The first question was about academic rigor, diversity and tolerance. (Cindy, I need help with the details on this key question that you asked and the response)

Can something be done about the turnover in language teachers, citing the problems with the German teacher at Frick leaving mid-year and the difficulty finding a replacement. He responded that Human Relations has a new director and there should be positive changes in the department. He also mentioned distance learning as a possible solution to areas where there might be difficulty finding a teacher. They have implemented testing of foreign language teachers.

Commitment to the magnet program. If the principals do not support the magnet ideals, the magnet will not succeed in its purpose. Mr. R (I think) thought this was a criticism of a specific principal/school rather than a general example of one of the difficulties of the program. He said that he could not discuss personnel issues but that principals were being moved to performance based contracts and would be rewarded for performance.

Mr. R. made a comment about there being a perception that you cannot have equity with high performance and he does not believe that is true. He strongly believes that PPS can bring up the low-achieving students while also raising the standards for the higher achievers.

Mr. Picciafoca suggested the possibility of instituting an entrance exam or standards for Frick similar to what is required for Rogers CAPA. Mr. R was not in favor of this idea, at least at this time. There must be more evaluation of the elementary programs. After school language tutorials were suggested.

Do we have goals for language proficiency? Are we aiming for fluency? When? Mr. R. reiterated the need for magnet evaluation. They would like to have more language offerings.

Will International Studies become completely IB? Dr. Spampinato spoke of her strong commitment to the IB program and the positive changes that she anticipates as Frick & Schenley implement the MYP. Not all students in IS will complete the IB degree.

The PPS must do a better job of marketing the system. There are many positive things happening in our schools that are not reaching the media. Colfax was mentioned as a good example of positive marketing.

Can parents participate in the task force to evaluate the magnet program, particularly the IS magnets? They are not yet ready to name a task force but parents will be included.

With the expansion of the K-8 schools, how will Frick be affected? Frick should prosper under reform. The stronger Frick is academically, the more it will attract students. Stronger elementary programs will mean a stronger Frick. Frick is another option in the system and even students in a K-8 school may choose to attend Frick.

At 7:30 p.m., Mr. Roosevelt closed the questioning and the meeting ended