Wednesday, September 19, 2007

School news: I.B. Program back in spotlight at USC (Upper St. Clair)

Edited slightly by blogmaster.
Call to Action!

Important meeting of the full School Board (at Upper St. Clair) to be held on Monday, September 24, 2007, 7PM, High School LGI

All residents should be concerned about the actions to be taken at this meeting. One agenda item is of particular concern to parents with children in the IB program, but should interest all residents, too. A vote will be held to decide whether to advance the recommendations of the districts teachers and Administrators, regarding the IB curriculum. Such recommendations (about various aspects of district curriculum) are proffered each year and voted upon in June. This year, however, the School Board majority moved forward with all recommendations EXCEPT the one concerning IB. In fact, this issue has been sidelined for three months, but will finally be discussed and voted upon on September 24th.

How do we know? As always, items which are to come before the entire School Board for a vote, must be discussed in the prior Committee meetings. On Monday, September 10th, the monthly meetings of both the Academic, Arts and Activities Committee and the Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee were held.

You can read the WAVES summary of these meetings by clicking here:

Or, if you prefer, you can watch the entire meeting at your leisure by clicking here:

What follows is commentary regarding the highlights of those meetings, which can best be summarized: Déjà vu?

These meetings, together, last almost four hours, and were fraught with School Board member making comments that attack the skill and professionalism of our teachers and administrators.

IB Discussions: Meeting attendees were stunned by the viciousness of attacks by Drs. Trombetta and Iracki during discussions about the district's curriculum recommendation to preserve IB at all grade levels.

Dr. Iracki implied that our elementary school teachers are encouraging their students to be rebellious and disrespectful, which drew a sharp rebuke from both Bolas and Dr. Bulazo, the district's Director of Elementary Education, who offered a courageous and articulate rebuttal.

Iracki stated that our teachers and administrators use aggressive marketing tactics to sell IB to USC families, which is insulting both to the district's employees and to USC families, who are certainly not intimidated by the annual and very low-key "Get to Know IB" meetings for interested parents of prospective students.

Trombetta implied that IB has been mismanaged by our district. A resident pointed out that our Diploma Program students have the highest pass rate in the country, clearly NOT a sign of mismanagement. Administrators appeared to be stunned and disappointed by Trombetta's obvious antipathy toward them.

Trombetta continues to insist on more data to evaluate IB and continues to imply that information is being knowingly and willfully withheld from him. He is politely reminded that statistically significant data take many years to collect and analyze but that the Diploma Program is only in its fourth year of graduates...

Dr. Iracki continues to oppose IB on religious and nationalistic grounds, and he asked several "values" questions (none of which received proper attribution) that match those raised by organizations like Ed Watch and Responsible Ed, both of which are hostile to public education. These groups do NOT reflect the moderate mainstream values of USC. Iracki tries to divert attention from his real motivations by manufacturing other criticisms of IB that have been widely refuted by many prominent researchers, educators, and corporate executives (e.g., IB is elitist, IB is expensive, not enough data to evaluate academic performance of IB students vs. non-IB students even though no similar evaluations have ever been required for AP or honors students).

Hall of Fame (HOF) Policy: It is unclear why Trombetta and the rest of the Board majority were so eager to adopt this policy, which would allow the Board President to appoint HOF committee chairs. Joyce and Petersen, who have served on these committees, called the policy a slap in the face of the current committee members, who are doing a very effective job and have a lot of experience in their respective fields.

USC Awarded $500,000 "Classrooms for the Future" Grant. The grant comes from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and will enhance classroom technology in the high-school math and English department.

Middle School Renovation Options. Public meetings to discuss the renovation options are scheduled for September 25 (Ft. Couch) and 26 (Boyce). Several minority Board members expressed concern that the community will be short-changed by the presentations, which will focus on costs and ignore an important discussion about future instructional needs that are dictating the renovation options in the first place. For the Board majority, it appears that project costs trump the quality of education that our children and grandchildren should be receiving. Concerned parents should attend these meetings, because there are fears that the Board majority may be "staging" these public meetings to manufacture support for a renovation option that cuts educational spending to the bone.

Powers of the President: Trombetta has written a new school policy - entitled "Powers of the Board President" - that will allow him, under certain circumstances, to act as a Board of One instead of consulting the other eight Board members who were elected in free and fair elections. Among other things, he is seeking the power to conduct investigations on anyone affiliated with the school district without prior Board approval, even if against the advice of the Superintendent. Trombetta also hoped to allow a provision enabling the President (himself) to call Emergency School Board meetings as long as three other School Board members have been contacted. Trombetta created the new Board policy propositions in collaboration with two of his like-minded Board members (Iracki and Coliane) and with the full expectation that his 5-4 voting bloc would easily pass the new policy. Fortunately, at Mrs. Petersen's questioning, Brooks expressed some legal concerns with the new policy. He will be taking a good, hard look at the new policy to see if it conforms to the Pennsylvania School Code.

Coliane and the Consent Calendars. Last month, we reported that Coliane never approves the consent calendar and has never provided a reason why. This month, she said it's because she objects to bundling all the names together in a single vote. When reminded that she can pull out any names for separate votes, and simply vote on the others in a bundle, she smiled and refused to that, too. Residents were left to question why vendetta and contempt had to get in the way of getting the job done.

WAVES urges you to take the time to watch the videos or read the summaries, so that you can stay informed! Thank you for your sustained interest in good education and transparent governance in USC!


WAVES Executive Committee
Maureen McCullum, Tammy Murray, Katie Lynch, Deb Moretti and Mike Grape
Pittsburgh needs an independent, watchdog organization like USC Waves. Oh wait, I have a better idea. Let's just elect a controller that isn't in the pocket of the establishment. Then the Controller's office can do its job and be a watchdog of the highest magnitude.

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