Saturday, February 28, 2009

We're running a mapping party in Pittsburgh!

Ever heard of Open Street Maps?
I'd like to invite you to the mapping party I'm hosting in Pittsburgh on 3/7/09 and 3/8/09.

Come and meet other mappers, learn more about OSM and have some fun! A GPS unit is not required, we can lend you one. Let me know if you can come or if there's anything I can do to make this party better. Please RSVP on one of the sites below.

You can check out more info at the wiki page or any of the event sites listed below.

Russ Nelson, Twitter: russnelson

State Rep. DeLuca wants to limit outside income

State Rep. DeLuca wants to limit outside income: "State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, wants to limit how much outside income a legislator can earn.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Dowd bashes Pittsburgh finances, says more cuts needed

Dowd bashes Pittsburgh finances, says more cuts needed: "he called that 'fleecing these organizations for cash' and likened it to 'demanding large monetary gifts from close friends.'
The other interesting quote is saying that the city's goofy budget is like "trying to sell your house to pay your bills instead of cutting expenses."

To be honest, the city already sold the pipes in its house to pay for the neighbor's expansion. Years ago the city sold off the water and sewer authority. That's like selling the pipes within your house. Mayor Murphy was great at one-time fixes. This is exactly what Luke Ravenstahl is doing as well. He offers a one-time fix of leasing the Parking Authority assets.

To lease the Parking Authority assets is silly. Sell them. The Parking Authority assets are like the side lot that is a place where you could park your car.

But the selling of the assets in the past was done so as to build the stadiums, in part. Large sums of money were spent in one-shot deals that invested into the Steelers' Heinz Field and Pirates PNC Park. Both are authority built -- and both should be owned by the teams and not by a city agency.

Well, at least Dowd is trying something.

2 teens charged in Duquesne U. parking lot robbery

Three cheers for the police on this! Way to go.
2 teens charged in Duquesne U. parking lot robbery: "Police and security personnel responded within seconds to obtain information from the victims, three teens who had attended the City League playoff game between Perry and Allderdice high schools."

SWOTs notes from Excellence for All monthly meeting

This week I had the painful pleasure of going to yet another community meeting with those over-sized post-it notes. Generally, I'm with more comfort if they are using butcher paper.

This one was organized by Pgh Public Schools and its parent engagement coordinator, Mark Conner under the Excellence for All flag. The main note taker was an employee from A+ Schools.

At the end of the meeting, I went to the notes and took these snaps. They need to be better organized to tell the SWOT story.

I'll try, if I have the time, to put them into concept maps.



Click on any image to see a larger view.

I would have rather been watching the Pitt basektball game -- but then again, that was the night of the loss to the Friars.

I heard today that Sports Illustrated was set to feature Pitt on the cover of this week's magazine, until that loss to an un-ranked team. I guess it was reported in the P-G?

A School Booster Story

Just the other day I was talking about how the Pittsburgh Public Schools lack in terms of "booster groups." Here is a nice example of what is missing throughout the district throughout all the programs and schools.
CAPA friends nurture school, talent - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "CAPA friends nurture school, talent
CAPA is a jewel among the offerings in Pittsburgh. Yet, it isn't for my kids. And, there are some 'issues" -- as there must be with all schools.

Great to have strong academics and strong arts. However, a person asked me recently, "Do those who have outstanding talents in the arts always strong grades in other academic areas?"
"We strive to produce outstanding academicians as well as outstanding artists," Taliaferro said. "It makes our kids ready to problem-solve and participate in critical thinking, really ready to go out into the world and fulfill that Pittsburgh Promise."
Walt Disney would not be able to get into CAPA. Andy Warhol might have had a hard time getting into CAPA.

CAPA is for those who are good at arts and good in school courses. Both are necessary.

One knock against CAPA is that it excludes those with the raw artistic talent if they don't have the grades as well. Humm... What do you think.

For me, I'm okay with those standards that require solid classroom and artistic outcomes.

Of course CAPA students are making top test scores among the PPS High Schools. You don't need the combination of an audition and solid grades to get into any of the other schools. Why only 93.1 percent and only 92.4 percent? What about those others? CAPA should score the typical 110%, right? (Joke, re: the >100%, but not on the only 7.4%.)

CAPA does offer a welcoming environment. That's splendid. And, that feeling of a school is hard to replicated. Schenley had a great atmosphere too, when it was in Oakland. It moved and was changed by the PPS Board, including Patrick Dowd. Plus, CAPA's feel gets a whole new jolt for the 2009-10 school year as those in grades 6, 7 and 8 are going to be put into the same building / school as the existing kids of grades 9, 10, 11 and 12.

Yikes. I wish the district would tinker with the schools that are NOT so friendly and without the accomplishments.

Boosters are great. It is wonderful that the parents are stepping up to genreate additional support programs. Every school and every program needs its boosters.

We're starting on an effort to make a meta booster group in Pittsburgh for various programs and schools -- starting with sports. Interested?

PghComet plugs a couple of my recent tweets

Thanks Bram.

Shots fired in Forbes Avenue Parking Garage

Shots fired in Forbes Avenue Parking Garage: "The Palumbo Center this evening was hosting the city League Basketball Championship game between Pittsburgh Allderdice and Pittsburgh Perry at 6 p.m., followed by a girl's championship game between Pittsburgh Westinghouse and Pittsburgh Schenley."

Mayor's busy bees stung by eagerness - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Mayor's busy bees stung by eagerness - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Mayor's busy bees stung by eagerness"
No big deal. I got a call too. And, I didn't even blog about it, until now and seeing your little rejection rant. Still, it is no big deal getting a phone call asking for political engagement.

When is the Trib going to host a debate? Perhaps you can take Luke, Carmen and Patrick out for lunch one day and ask them a set of questions and then write about it. Or, better yet, hold the meeting at a public place, say the lobby of the Pgh Childrens Museum.

I'm serious. It would be a valid public service for the folks at the Trib to do something constructive in terms of candidate debates in this city.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Buzz and Spin on 3-Year Degrees for colleges. I want 5 year as option for HS kids

I've been buzzing about the creation of a 13th year option for Pittsburgh Public Schools as a new program so as to insure have a better chance of life-long success for many reasons. We need to get more of our kids to finish high school. We need to get more of our kids accepted into colleges. We need to get more of our kids to stay in college once they get there, rather than flunking out. Too few of our kids go to college and too many, once they get there, flunk out.

This push for a 13th year option at the I.B. Jr./Sr. High is easy to do. Furthermore, it is more pressing as the trend for colleges and universities is to condense the undergraduate years from four to three.

Check out this article below from Inside Higher Ed.
When U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander spoke this month at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education, he urged college leaders to offer three-year bachelor's degrees. The concept would cut "one fourth of the time and up to one third of the cost," he said, calling three-year degrees the “higher ed equivalent of a fuel-efficient car,” compared to the traditional “gas guzzling four-year course." Alexander is a Republican with both political and academic experience (he is former president of the University of Tennessee). At another session at the meeting, Richard Celeste said he was interested in the idea of three-year degrees. Celeste, a former Democratic governor of Ohio, is president of Colorado College.

Alexander and Celeste are not alone in their consideration of the idea. Richard Vedder, a Spellings Commission alumnus who leads the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, is among the higher ed critics who have embraced the notion of the three-year degree. In a blog posting, he noted that Thomas Jefferson's two-year program at the College of William and Mary didn't stunt his intellectual growth. "Today, undergraduates seldom finish before 22, and Ph.D.'s seldom receive their degree before the age of 27 or 28.

Colleges have been able to get away with keeping productive resources under their control for longer and longer periods (collecting tuition all the while), despite no demonstrated evidence that this has sizable positive learning effects," he wrote.

Moving away from four-year degrees has been encouraged by Wick Sloane, one of this Web site's columnists. Also endorsing the idea is the late George Keller, who led the University of Pennsylvania program for the study of higher education and who died in 2007, but not before finishing the essays that make up Higher Education and the New Society, published last year by Johns Hopkins University Press. In the volume, he made the case for three-year degrees by noting that many students today are more likely to enter college with Advanced Placement credit and to leave with plans for graduate school, somewhat minimizing the need for "depth" in undergraduate programs. Further, he said that the best model to be pushing now -- in light of rising college prices and the proliferation of knowledge -- is one in which college is three years but more emphasis is placed on lifelong learning.
Bingo! AP credit is much like IB credit. The AP is a 'brand' just as IB is another 'brand' for extra credit that comes at the high school level. Most of the PPS students who would enter the 13th year option at the IB High would have few AP classes. This IB experience would give them an opportunity to have a leg up while in Pittsburgh so as to be able to compete with their college mates once they arrive on campus.

Colleges and universities have an "apparent intransigence" on the issue, he wrote, despite three-year degrees being "a no-brainer."

Are they really a no-brainer?

In fact such a plan has been proposed previously -- and tried in several cases. The idea has also flopped more than it has taken off. Some in higher education believe that circumstances may be right for the idea now, despite previous failures. And one new experiment -- at Manchester College -- appears to be off to a good start. But educators there say that the idea makes sense only for a relatively small subset of students. Still others worry about the rigor or actual cost savings of three year programs.

Until recently, the biggest flurry of attention for the three-year degree came in the early 1990s, when S. Frederick Starr, then the president of Oberlin College, proposed it as a way to deal with college costs. He was widely praised by politicians and pundits for floating the idea. Starr argued that it would save money, and that students would embrace it. Because Starr spoke frequently about the issue, some people assume that the college actually acted on the idea.

In fact, the Oberlin faculty was decidedly unimpressed. One professor wrote a letter to The New York Times in 1993 to be sure everyone understood: "Lest readers be misled by the news media offensive of S. Frederick Starr ... Oberlin College does not offer a three-year degree. It does not plan to do so, and it does not advocate students trying to finish college in three years. Indeed, even in the midst of a broad strategic planning process initiated by Mr. Starr, we are not discussing such a possibility. The idea seems to be only on Mr. Starr's personal agenda. Perhaps he will pursue it when he leaves Oberlin next June."

Humm. The 13th year option for PPS is now turning into a 'personal agenda' for me.

A missing element in this 3 year for undergraduate discussion is the direct to medical school / pharmacy school / PT school options. There are some programs that give kids a chance to enter college on a fast track and have automatic admit to medical school too. So, rather than taking a 4 year degree in "pre med" and then three years in medical school, they do a six year program instead.

Does Duquesne (for physical thearapy) and Pitt (for pharmacy) offer accelerate programs so as to shorten the required undergrad years? More research needed.

And, if they do exist locally (at Pitt and DU), how many of the students that graduate from the typical PPS High Schools would gain admittance to those programs?

Student Interest That Didn't Materialize

Albertus Magnus College, in Connecticut, tried a three-year program for several years in the 1990s, by going from a semester to trimester system, with the idea that students could take courses year round and graduate in three years. The program was halted after most students started skipping a semester a year and very few took advantage of the possibility of graduating in three years.

Upper Iowa University some years ago created a three-year option that remains on the books there. But Linc Morris, vice president of enrollment management, said that no students are currently enrolled in the program and that he doesn't think anyone has tried it for at least three years. Upper Iowa operates on a quarter system in which students typically take two courses a quarter, but spend more time on each course than would be the norm elsewhere. The accelerated option was based on the assumption that some students would be able to get out in three years by adding courses during quarters and taking summer courses.

Because the university charges tuition by credits, students finishing in three years would not have saved money on tuition. But they would have avoided room and board for one year, as well as fees, which are charged by the quarter.

Records at the university show that five students enrolled in the program one year, but that none finished their degrees in three years.

National data suggest that the Upper Iowa and Albertus Magnus students weren't unusual. For example, many proponents of three-year degrees say that the growth of AP programs should make early graduation easy, since more students enter college with college credit. But the College Board has no data to show a correlation between taking AP courses and finishing early. In fact, College Board officials tend to talk about AP these days as a tool to encourage students to graduate on time (four years), not early. Data that the College Board do have show that students who take AP courses have a higher four-year graduation rate than the student body at large. Still, of those who have taken AP courses, only 63 percent graduate within four years, with the rest taking longer or dropping out.

'Fast Forward' at Manchester

Manchester College, in Indiana, is in the first year of a three-year option for students -- billed as a way to save students money and allow them to start earning salaries a year ahead of schedule. Under the Fast Forward program, selected students who are admitted to the college are given the option of acceleration. These students must take an average of 16 credits a semester (the normal range is 12-16) and take their general education courses online over the summer to finish in three years. Manchester estimates that students can save a total of $25,000 in the program, assuming that they live rent-free at home during the summers. The savings come both from room and board costs for the year they skip, and slightly lower tuition rates that the college charges for summer courses compared to those offered in the academic year.

The college notes that the financial gain can be much more, however, if students land a job a year earlier than they would otherwise.

Fourteen students -- about 4 percent of the freshman class -- are in the program. David F. McFadden, executive vice president at Manchester, said the college is pleased with the response and doesn't anticipate the program ever becoming standard for everyone. Because students must apply to the college for four years -- and then be identified as having potential for Fast Forward -- the college has a lot of control over who receives the opportunity. McFadden said that the ideal students not only are well prepared and disciplined academically, but generally need to have a good sense of their college goals coming in.

For some majors, he said, requirements are such that students need to be taking specific courses from their first semester at the campus. "They really need to know what their majors are going to be," he said.

McFadden said that some of those attending information sessions for potential applicants at Manchester this year said that they were attracted by the program. But he said that he thinks the college's approach of offering the three-year option only after acceptance is a good one for identifying the right students. "Not that many students think about this in a concrete enough way to come to college saying 'This is what I want to do,' " he said.

The students in the program have "very specific interests," and they did well academically in their first semester. He stressed that Manchester still believes that, for many students, colleges is "a place to come and know more of what's possible," and four years may be quite appropriate for that quest.

McFadden said students in the three-year program may also gain something because of the need to work closely with professors on planning their course selections with precision. He said he had just spoken with a student at another college who had been on track to graduate in four years, but who had missed some requirements for his major, and had quickly seen a four-year degree become a five-year degree, and that extra year was going to add significantly to the student's debt. A three-year program, McFadden said, "allows fewer missteps" than a four-year degree, and will force students to be "more focused and deliberate." As a result, he said he thinks people starting three-year programs and following appropriate advice may end up with higher completion rates than those who plan to finish in four.

Mercedes Plummer, who is in the first year of the Manchester program, is working toward an education degree so she can teach physical education and become a coach for elementary or middle school children. She said that since has a specific education and career goal, she isn't worried about the focus. Saving money was the attraction of the program, she said. She'll borrow modestly to pay for the three years of costs. But the $25,000 she's saving would all have been additional loans that she will now avoid.

Because the summer learning is online and asynchronous, Plummer said that it will not force her to miss everything she would have done during the summer -- she plans to hold a part-time job. "I don't have to stay on campus," she said. While some of her friends question her choice, saying she'll miss the "experience" of four years of college, Plummer said that graduating with less debt is plenty of compensation for that. "I know what I want to do," she said.

At Manchester, and most of the programs attempted to date, colleges have clung to 120 credits (the standard for a bachelor's degree) and sought ways for students to reach that level in three years. Some educators think that the 120 figure should be a little less sacred, and that this will lead to programs that can be completed in less than four years.

Leslie E. Wong, president of Northern Michigan University, said he believes that some college degrees could be earned in as few as 100 credits -- if well chosen -- rather than 120 credits. In such cases, he said, colleges would need to make general education "more focused" than is typically the case today. Further, he questioned whether colleges hesitate to award full credit for intense educational experiences, such as study abroad. "If someone goes away for two semesters, why don't we give extra credits, given that good study abroad is so powerful an experience?" he said.

The idea is not just to shorten education, Wong said, but to make college completion more realistic for those with limited funds or adult learners with limited time. What, he asked, is so special about 120 credits?

Limited funds is a great benefit and argument for the 13th year option too.

Students could take a few courses in the 13th year while working, so as to save money for college tuition.

Students could take the IB class as part of the 13th year and then pass a test and get college credit for courses, saving money.

Students could go to the IB classes in the 13th year, get the knoweldge, and then go to college and take a placement exam and skip classes. But, more practicle, after the 13th year the students would have solid knowlege and in turn have time for a part time job rather than needing to study so much to just keep up with the classes.

Wong acknowledged that some might assume a loss of knowledge or skills for those graduating with just 100 credits. And he noted that the requirements of some majors and pre-professional programs might make 100 credits impossible for some students. But he said that he would like to see colleges have the flexibility to experiment with 100 credits, and at the same time have measures so students could demonstrate their learning.

Suppose, he said, that graduation was linked to completion of an electronic portfolio in which a student demonstrated knowledge and skills, and that such portfolios could be presented at 100 credits, not just at 120. To those wanting to judge students reaching the two credit levels, "the proof would be in the pudding," he said.

Another great reason for the 5th year option for PPS, the pressure for a 3-year college program. Why spend a year in college when you don't know your major. You can't change majors within your course of studies in college and expect to get past in three years. For those not sure about a specific major -- a 5th year option would be prudent.

While many educators assume that they must offer 120 credits in a bachelor's programs, that rule isn't ironclad. Some accreditors require 120 credits, and many specialized accreditors require so many credits that, when combined with institutional requirements, 120 credits are necessary. But the Education Department's definition of a bachelor's degree doesn't specify credits. Instead it defines bachelor's degree this way: "An award (baccalaureate or equivalent degree, as determined by the Secretary, U.S. Department of Education) that normally requires at least four but not more than five years of full-time equivalent college-level work.... Also includes bachelor's degrees in which the normal four years of work are completed in three years."

The IB program does offer baccalaureate and equivalent to college-level work.

Looking for Evidence

The question of proof of knowledge is central to the success of any venture in three-year degrees, said Clifford Adelman, a senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy who has been studying European higher education -- in which three year bachelor's degrees have become the standard through the "Bologna Process," which has set common standards for participating countries. But Adelman said that the key to understanding the European degrees is that they are accompanied by specific learning outcomes and by statements of what the degree qualifies a holder to do. These continent-wide standards are quite different from anything in the United States for three or four years of undergraduate study.

"What makes the Bologna degree what it is is that it's got learning outcomes," Adelman said. "If all you are going to do is tell me that instead of 120 credits, you have 90 credits, that's just a useless piece of paper," he said.

Adelman also questioned whether the focus on three years would help the students most in need of help. The three-year model is based on full-time enrollment, he noted. The population growing more quickly -- and more in need of additional institutional support -- is made up of part-time students, he said. Colleges should focus on their needs, even if they will take much longer than traditional students to graduate. "Life is not necessarily an easy road to a bachelor's degree," he said. Most students can't take a full-time course load, let alone more, Adelman added. "If you want to improve graduation rates, three-year degrees are counterproductive."

He characterized the push for three years as coming from those whose ideas about higher ed amount to: "get it over with and get it over with fast."

Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said he also worried that the European three-year degrees were not an appropriate model for the United States. A more common high school curriculum and limited expectations about general education, he said, are key to the three-year approach.

Nassirian suggested that if three-year degrees are created simply by squeezing more content into shorter time periods, "I'm actually skeptical that you would save much money." Further, he said, while efficiency and economy are important values, they aren't the only values that matter.

"There's no question that the way we do it has all kinds of avoidable inefficiencies. I'm not suggesting that what we have is perfect," Nassirian said. "But it's very important to be upfront with people and explain the trade-offs" of trying to finish college in three years instead of four. "You wouldn't be able to go from physics to philosophy or philosophy to physics," he said.

And without agreed upon standards for program content, he said, there is a risk that three-year programs could just be less time and less substance. "There's nothing wrong with ramping up programs, but the absence of metrics creates the problem," he said. While it is a satirical example, he admitted, Nassirian said the focus on cutting a year reminded him of the comedian Father Guido Sarducci's sketch on his plans to create the "Five Minute University" -- in which students would learn in five minutes "what the average college graduate remembers" five years after graduation. The cost is $20, which covers tuition, cap and gown rental, and snacks.

  • Students can already complete a bachelor's degree in 3 years if they attend class over each summer in addition to taking (and passing) 5 courses each Fall & Spring semester.

  • The real problem today is students taking 5 years to get a 4 year degree. Sometimes it is the student's fault (dropping courses, taking light loads, etc.), but many times it is due to courses not being offered or too few sections offered, etc. It tends to snowball-if a student doesn't get into the introductory course, he is shut out of the other courses in that area. Colleges and universities do not want to help their students finish more rapidly for economic reasons. My son was able to complete a 4 year degree at UVA in three due to having more than 50 credits when he entered. (college courses taken while in high school and AP courses) But he said it is no longer possible to do that as the courses he was able to take in the summer are no longer available. They were only necessary, so he could get through the courses in his major, which had to be taken in sequence and were only offered in particular semesters. UVA in his day was generous in granting AP credits, which may no longer be the case.

  • Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH has been offering a three-year business degree option for a number of years. They redesigned their traditional curriculum to focus on the acquisition and demonstration of competencies, not just credits. The program is for motivated, higher achieving students and would serve as a great model for other institutions.

R.K. Mellon Foundation gives $9 million to Promise fund

More money for the Pittsburgh Promise isn't going un-noticed.
R.K. Mellon Foundation gives $9 million to Promise fund The Richard King Mellon Foundation this morning announced it will give the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program $9 million over three years.

With the first $3 million installment of that gift, the Promise's fund-raising total for the school year is about $11.5 million. In all, the program must raise $15 million by June 30 to leverage the first $10 million of a $90 million challenge grant from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The Promise awards scholarships to graduates of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and city charter schools.

home for the photographic dictionary

homeThe photographic dictionary

Objections to 13th year idea from a school board member

The other day I had the opportunity to button hole a school board member at another event. We talked about the 13th year proposal for Pgh Public Schools. The board member had just heard my statement to the board a couple of days prior so it had to be fresh.

Objection: We won't want to take kids out of their home school for this.

Answer: We won't. The kids will choose, as an option, to attend the 13th year AFTER they have completed the study and received their diploma at their home school. They go to the 13th year AFTER the 12th year is finished.

Objection: We won't want to set up a new school for the 13th year.

Answer: We won't. We already have a new school being established, the I.B. Jr./Sr. High School. The 13th year is a program that resides within this school. No need for a new school. The students in the 13th year fill empty seats within the classroom of what is being offered already.

Objection: We (PPS) are doing so much now, I don't see how we can manage it.

Answer: We are sending a lot of kids to college who are then flunking out. That needs to be managed. The entire program could be managed by one person, a 13th year coordinator who works with the office of the IB Jr./Sr. High School for admissions and supervision of records. This could be paid for by the Pittsburgh Promise.

Objection: Lots of kids who are departing 12th grade are not interested in sticking around school any longer. They want to go and get out.

Answer: Exactly.

This 13th year option is not for 'everyone.' It is not for "most kids." The 13th year option is for a few kids who want to step it up in terms of academic study. This is for kids who want to learn and who want to go to a better college the next year. They want to improve themselves with better test scores and have better options for admissions the next year. Perhaps 20, 50 or 100 kids will take advantage of this 13th year program.

The 13th year option puts kids into a different setting within the I.B. school, where there are different classes, different goals, different classmates, different setting than what was happening at their other school. The kids from CAPA, Allderidice, Perry, Brashear, Oliver, Westinghouse, Peabody, U-Prep, Sci-Tech and Langley will not be "sticking around" where they have been in the past. They'll be setting out in a new and different place.

Objection: The kids won't want to take things over again in the 13th year.

Answer: Exactly.

Well, some kids do need to take things over again because they failed it the first time. That's called summer school. The 13th year program is NOT a replacement for summer school. If you don't pass the basic classes, you can't graduate. If you don't graduate, and if you're not in the IB program, you can't get into the 13th year program.

The 13th year, because it is with the I.B. program, has different classes than what is offered at the other schools. More language options for example. Take a 3rd or 4th or 5th year of Spanish or German. Those classes are not offered at the regular home school. The I.B. English and History, are different. Kids might graduate the high school without Physics or without a higher level math. Or, a kid might want to re-take Algebra II as well. Fine. A new teacher, a year or two of extra maturity, a new setting could be welcomed and allow for academic success. But, by-and-large, the offerings are going to be different in the 13th year than the choices from the home school from prior years.

Background: A objection above was about getting kids to another site other than a home school. Well, kids in all grades who are going to a magnet school, (a school of choice) within the Pittsburgh Public Schools framework are already departing their home schools. You can go to CAPA, and you can't go to your home school. You can go to I.B., and you can't go to your home school. You can go to U-Prep, Science & Tech, or the Engineering Magnet at Allderdice and then not go to your home school.

Education Week: Parents Schooled in Learning How to Help With Math

Family math nights. Humm. Been there. Done that. Son, go ask your mother.
Education Week: Parents Schooled in Learning How to Help With Math Efforts to encourage parents' engagement in other subjects, such as reading and science, are common and can pay dividends, said Jacqueline Barber, the director of the center for curriculum development and implementation at the Lawrence Hall of Science, in California. Yet schools tend to place a special focus on math because so many families and students seem to 'have a block against it,' she noted.

Lawrence Hall, which is the public science center at the University of California, Berkeley, was heavily involved in establishing family math nights in the 1980s. Those forums have grown more popular in recent years, as have other endeavors to encourage parent involvement in math, she said.

One contributing factor has been a requirement by some schools that parents sign contracts to help their children with homework or take an active role in their academic work, Ms. Barber said. The introduction of new and unfamiliar math curricula, sometimes called "reform" approaches, has also compelled districts like Prince William to connect more with parents, she said.

"There's a recognition that we need to bring parents along in that way," Ms. Barber said.
The problem isn't the math. It is the upper level trig and at. Whew. But all should not be lost on the other topics and subjects. Some can't help a lick with math but could be serious contributors in other areas, such as sports, band and the arts.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Women: Ask for and demand a divorce. Softball need not be linked to baseball.

Baseball wants joint Olympic bid with softball

WASHINGTON (AP) -Baseball hopes to submit a joint bid with softball in an effort to gain reinstatement to the Olympics for the 2016 Summer Games.
Strike out on your own, pal. The women of softball should not go down with the baseball tailspin of death.

Baseball should be knocked out of the Olympics. Softball should be included within the Olympics.


Softball rejects joint 2016 Olympic bid with baseball

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Softball has rejected a proposal by baseball for a joint Olympic bid for the 2016 Summer Games.

Westinghouse, Schenley meet again in City girls' semifinals

Score was 56 to 26. Does anyone win with that score? It is a semi-final game.
Westinghouse, Schenley meet again in City girls' semifinals: "Westinghouse earned a trip to a City League championship game for the 21st year in a row with a 56-26 victory against Oliver last night in a semifinal game at Allderdice."

Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones now a role model for young swimmers - ESPN

Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones now a role model for young swimmers - ESPN It is all, inevitably, about the 'briefs.' Jones is endorsement-savvy now, and he can't utter the S-word because he has a deal with Nike. Today, he is speaker-circuit cool. As a kid growing up in New Jersey, he took barbs for competing in a sport with skimpy trunks.

Quote: "I think it's obscene." Kraus, again, has trouble paying a bill

City councilman sued over unpaid bill for campaign fliers - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "'The last piece came in at almost $7,000, which is way off the charts. I didn't authorize that but I didn't want them to eat the entire cost either, so I told them I'd be happy to pay $3,000 — like the other pieces,' said Kraus, 54, of the South Side. 'I paid them $1,500 as a first payment, but they want the whole thing. I'm not going to pay it. I think it's obscene.'"
I expect that the printing had the union bug on it. Is union work obscene?

That printing comes on the heels of the Jason saga. Court settlement was needed there too, I think.

Over-reaching doesn't pay.

I never spent $7,000 on a campaign brochure nor any campaign. But, I've got more than 7,000 votes.

Oh well.

I don't call this reform.

Hard hitting letter to the editor about school district.
P-G LTE: You call this reform?
The Pittsburgh school district needs to be more responsive
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
By Kathryn Fine

Four years ago, the Pittsburgh Public School Schools hired Superintendent Mark Roosevelt to navigate the district through the murky waters of No Child Left Behind, declining enrollment, underused facilities, budget deficits and a racial achievement gap through which you could drive a yellow school bus. While progress has been made toward some of these goals, real success will take the support of every part of the Pittsburgh community: parents, students, teachers, administration and school board.

Parents United for Responsible Educational Reform (PURE Reform) was started last summer by parents and city residents concerned that not enough information was reaching school district stakeholders. We aimed to serve as a clearinghouse for information through our Web site and to provide the opportunity for dialogue on our blog.

PURE Reform grew from the "Save Schenley" movement but now is focused on districtwide reform. Two issues reach into every part of the reform process: community buy-in and transparency.

Community buy-in

Mr. Roosevelt has proposed a myriad of large-scale changes during his tenure. Successful implementation of such changes must be accompanied by stakeholder buy-in. Yet efforts to meaningfully engage communities have been conspicuously absent.

• Sweeping plans were made to create smaller, 6th-to-12th grade, themed schools without community input about the right balance with comprehensive neighborhood schools, the geographic distribution of various types of schools and the impact of these changes on sports and extracurricular activities. Thus, most of the East End may be left without a full-service, comprehensive high school.

• When the merger of the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts with Rogers CAPA Middle School was proposed, the CAPA community, including the committee that was appointed by the superintendent, strongly argued against the move, citing concrete examples of how it would be detrimental to these two model performing arts schools. These stakeholders were ignored.

• Schenley stakeholders raised concerns about the dramatic decrease in diversity that would result from creating the University Prep and International Baccalaureate high schools, only to have their concerns dismissed.

• Many parents and teachers voiced opposition to a policy that allows no grades below 50 percent, which encourages mediocrity and artificially pumps up graduation rates, to no avail.

• A committee formed to select a site for the International Baccalaureate program that was displaced when Schenley was closed did not have a single member from the four schools being considered. Subsequently, Peabody and Westinghouse stakeholders formed committees to discuss the fate of their schools. This would seem to indicate that the district administration was taking its planning process to the streets, but these groups resulted from the community responding to district initiatives that had already set the dominoes tumbling, leaving few options left on the table.

• A year after the school district closed South Vo-Tech, the superintendent pledged to create a new site for the Career and Technologies Education Program. Four years later, there is still no commitment to fulfill this promise.


Transparency is another essential component for successfully implementing far-reaching reforms. The current reform process is rife with examples of how the administration has been less than forthright:

• The Pittsburgh Public Schools contracted with Community Education Partners, a private firm that specializes in educating troubled students, for more than $5 million per year despite the fact that CEP has a track record of running what The Nation magazine has called "soft prisons" in other major cities. When PURE Reform requested information regarding performance evaluations for this organization and its facility here, the district stated that no written record of any assessment exists.

• The district administration has touted the University of Pittsburgh's involvement with the University Prep High School as a key to this school's success. To date, the exact nature of this collaboration has not been clearly articulated.

• When the superintendent recommended closing Schenley High School, substantial information was presented that countered the district's claims regarding the school's renovation needs and associated costs. The administration stymied resistance to the closure by including in its propaganda a $76 million-plus renovation figure, which was far more than needed to make the school safe for at least 30 years. The district's own experts, backed up by a committee of community professionals, estimated a $40 million renovation cost. Recent developments, such as information on inconsistencies in asbestos maintenance in the schools and the receipt of $55 million or more over two years in federal stimulus money for "shovel ready," bricks-and-mortar projects, should make revisiting the Schenley closure a real possibility.

PURE Reform is dedicated to the improvement of all of our public schools and wants desperately for public school reform to succeed. We understand that extensive changes are needed but will not accept change for change's sake. Excellent ideas are nothing without credible and efficient implementation.

We certainly do not claim to have all of the answers. We are simply asking for a comprehensive, transparent and truly inclusive reform process. It is now up to the Pittsburgh Public Schools administration to listen.

Kathryn Fine is a co-founder of PURE Reform and lives in Highland Park (
I love how the Vo Tech issue was mentioned in the wake of closing of South Vo Tech.

I've enjoyed the PURE Reform blog and the discussions there in the past year.

Faison among 6 feted by Rendells for inspiring lives - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Hat tip:
Faison among 6 feted by Rendells for inspiring lives - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Faison among 6 feted by Rendells for inspiring lives

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Casino operators favor adding table games in Pa.

Casino operators favor adding table games in Pa.: "Yes to table games at state casinos, but no to video poker machines in thousands of bars and clubs statewide.
In PA, we sold the rights forever (sadly) for slots parlors to open in a limited way spread around the state.

If they want to have table games, then we must counter with two important conditions.

First, the cost isn't $50-million for table games. The cost is $400-million or more. Put it for bid with a $400-million minimum.

Second, the terms of the license for table games expires in 9 years. And, the term for the slots license expires as well, in 18 years.

Then, the slots and table game licenses can be re-newed in the future or not, based on the wishes of our the generations yet to come.

Talking debates

I posted at another blog:

The debates are not for the candidates. Rather, they are for the ideas and for the sake of democracy.

If you don't use it -- you loose it. Our shared democracy and process of electing people hangs by a thread. When and if that system tumbles, then there is blood (more blood) on the streets.

The steal, take, bully mentality of entitlement is expressed in the deeds of hosting and participating in candidate debates. Is Pittsburgh the place where the gulf grows or shrinks between those that have and others that have not. That is what is at stake. Grow the gap or shrink it. Be fair, or be flip. Be accountable -- or be a king of a less human, less American, dying burgh.

I think Luke, Carmen and Patrick -- and Mr. Aklin too, will do plenty of debates and appearances if the public demands it and sets the stage. None have a monopoly on ideas. Each will contribute. We all will prosper if the system is robust.

Twitter hits the 'thought leader' crowd

Twitter hits the 'thought leader' crowd Twitter hits the 'thought leader' crowd Tuesday, February 24, 2009
By Mackenzie Carpenter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Twitter: It's not just for earthquakes anymore.
Follow me at

Mackenzie just did.

Too bad there are few "thought leaders" on Grant Street. See my tweets to the left of my blog as well. But, I put more onto twitter than on this blog, in recent times. The two work in tandem. Tidbits onto twitter.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Voters Choice Act -- introducd again to PA Senate

From Michael J. "Mik" Robertson, Chair, Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania
Dear Friend of Liberty,

State Senator Mike Folmer has re-introduced the Voters Choice Act as senate bill (SB) 252, the current version of which is printer number (PN) 262. This bill would change the definition of a minor political party in Pennsylvania and reduce ballot access restrictions for minor party and independent candidates.

Current election law places significant restrictions on placement of candidate names on the general election ballot, resulting in limited and often no choice for voters in November elections. Last year, about half of the races for state representative had only one name on the ballot. Several state Senate and even US Congress races also had only one name on the ballot for voters.

Limiting choices on the ballot is not healthy for the electoral process and can lead to government representing special interests over the interests of the citizens. It is true that Pennsylvanians can write-in a choice at the ballot. Unfortunately, quite often write-in votes are not reported or recorded in official vote results. We need this change to help Pennsylvania voters keep control of their government.

The following Senators are co-sponsors of the bill:

Pat Browne
Mary Jo White
Lisa Baker
Jeffrey Piccola
Rob Wonderling
Jane Earl
Jim Ferlo
Lisa Boscola

If your state Senator is not a co-sponsor, please contact them and ask them to support this important legislation for Pennsylvania voters. You can find you state representatives by clicking on the "Find Members By' button in the upper right here:

The Voters Choice Act was referred to the State Government Committee on February 19, 2009. The members of this commmittee are:

Charles McIlhinney, Jr. (Chair)
Mike Folmer (Vice Chair)
Anthony Williams (Minority Chair)
Joseph Scarnati, III (ex-officio)
Michael Brubaker, Jake Corman, John Pippy, Donald White (majority members)
Andrew Dinniman, Christine Tartalione, Leanna Washington (minority members)

If you state Senator is on the committee, please make a special effort to contact them and ask for their support. With your help, we can change the way our commonwealth is governed and put citizens back in control. Thank you for your support!

Cancel Student Loan Debt to Stimulate the Economy

From a Facebook group of the same name.
President Obama just signed a $787 BILLION stimulus package on top of Bush's grossly mismanaged $700 BILLION TARP bailout from last September. While many parts of the stimulus bill will act to stimulate the economy, many parts of it simply won't. Tax rebate checks DO NOT stimulate the economy - history shows that people either spend such rebates on paying off credit card debt, or they simply save them, doing little to nothing to stimulate the economy.

The Wall Street financial institutions, auto manufacturers and countless other irresponsible actors have received BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars to bail them out of their self-created mess. This, too, does nothing to stimulate the economy. It merely rewards bad behavior and does nothing to encourage institutional change. There is a better way.

How many times have we heard from our leaders in Washington that education is the key to solving all of our underlying societal problems? The so-called "Silver Bullet." For decades, Presidents, Senators and Members of Congress have touted themselves as champions of education, yet they've done nothing to actually encourage the pursuit of one on an individual level.

Some of us have taken advantage of Federal Stafford Loans and other programs to finance higher education, presumably with the understanding that an advanced degree equates with higher earning power in the future. Many of us go into public service after attaining such degrees, something that's also repeatedly proclaimed as something society should encourage. Yet, the debt we've accrued to obtain such degrees have crippled our ability to reap the benefits of our educations, causing many to make the unfortunate choice of leaving public service so as to earn enough money to pay off that debt.

Our economy is in the tank. There isn't an economist alive who doesn't believe that the economy needs stimulating immediately. The only debate now centers on how to go about doing it. While the new stimulus plan contains some worthy provisions, very little of it will have a significant and immediate stimulating effect on the economy. The Obama Administration itself doesn't expect to see a upsurge in the economy until mid-to-late 2010.

Instead of funneling billions, if not TRILLIONS of additional dollars to banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and other institutions of greed that are responsible for the current economic crisis, why not allow educated, hardworking, middle-class Americans to get something in return? After all, they're our tax dollars too!

Forgiving student loan debt would have an IMMEDIATE stimulating effect on the economy. Responsible people who did nothing other than pursue a higher education would have hundreds, if not thousands of extra dollars per month to spend, fueling the economy NOW. Those extra dollars being pumped into the economy would have a multiplying effect, unlike many of the provisions of the plan presently under consideration. As a result, tax revenues would go up, the credit markets will unfreeze and jobs will be created.

Let me be clear. This is NOT about a free ride. This is about a new approach to economic stimulus, nothing more. To those who would argue that this proposal would cause the banking system to collapse or make student loans unavailable to future borrowers, please allow me to respond.

I am in no way suggesting that the lending institutions who manage such debts get legislatively shafted by having these assets wiped from their books. The banks and other financial institutions are going to get their money regardless because, in addition to the $700 TARP bailout, more bailout money is coming their way (stay tuned!) - this proposal merely suggests that educated, hardworking Americans who are saddled with student loan debt should get something in return, rather than sending those institutions another enormous blank check. Because the banks will receive their money anyway, there would be no danger of making funds unavailable to future borrowers.

The new Obama Administration is supposed to be about change. Nothing in the new economic stimulus package represents a significant departure from the way Washington has always operated - it's merely a different set of priorities on a higher scale, but it's certainly not materially different from any other economic stimulus package passed during the past few decades.

Washington cannot simply print and borrow money to get us out of this crisis. We The People, however, can get this economy moving NOW. All we need is relief from debt that was accrued under the now-false promise that higher education equates with higher earnings.

Free us of our obligations to repay Federal Stafford Loans and WE, the educated, hardworking, middle-class Americans who drive this economy will spend those extra dollars NOW.

If you believe that there's a better way of climbing out of this economic crisis, one that empowers us to directly spend money, start businesses, free up credit and create jobs, then please join this group and encourage others to do so as well.

There's strength in numbers - the more people to join this group, the louder our voices and the greater the chances of being heard by President Obama and Congress.
I'm sure Harvard would love this plan. More news.

W&J: Game Summaries

Local athletes playing DIII hoops, and doing it well.
W & J Game Summaries Senior guards Lindsey Hyre (Pittsburgh, Pa./Chartiers Valley) {right} and Veronica Kust (Oakmont, Pa./Riverview) both posted career-high scoring performances on Senior Day for the Washington & Jefferson College women’s basketball team during a 93-77 PAC victory over Bethany on Saturday afternoon in the Henry Memorial Center.

Hyre finished the game with a career-best 13 points, while Kust collected 14 of her career-high 17 points in the first half.

With the win, the current W&J senior class comprised of senior forward Emily Hays (Youngstown, Ohio/Boardman), Hyre and Kust now have 87 wins to become the most successful class in the W&J women’s basketball history. The senior classes of 2006 and 2008 both accumulated 86 career wins.

Pittsburgh Steelers Wiki

Pittsburgh Steelers Wiki: "Pittsburgh Steelers Wiki"

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Personal Organization

Personal Organization: "During this depression try to maintain your membership of clubs and community organizations. Don't allow yourself to become isolated. Maintain and build your relationships with other people. Try to find things that you can do together that are useful. Online networking is also a useful way to connect yourself to the world of ideas and to possible help and assistance.

My political litmus test: Subsidize a North Shore amphitheater?

My political litmus test: Subsidize a North Shore amphitheater?: "But Mr. Dowd was careful to say that the Rooneys, owners of the Steelers, were looking to breathe life into an area that had been nothing but a sea of asphalt for decades and 'to the extent we can laud that, I want to laud that.'
The Rooney family has been the reason why the North Side is mostly for surface parking spaces. They are to blame! They had the rights to develop the space around the stadium and the fumbled year in and year out.

The Rooney family should buy Heinz Field. If they want to hold concerts -- hold them in Heinz Field.

Sure, smaller end-zone concerts can be held in Heinz Field. Stages can be set to entertain only one side of the grandstand too. The Great Hall is under utilized.

Sell Heinz Field to the Steelers. The development deals have expired. If the Steelers want to put life somewhere -- they should do it with the stadium spaces, not new spaces.

Where is Forrest Gump?

Check out this photo.

You can zoom in too.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Divsion I Cap Relief - Could Division III Be Next I Cap Relief - Could Division III Be Next: "The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Committee met via conference call Monday, February 9, to discuss the potential effects of the technical swimsuit on the competitor caps for the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

Erik, 54.32, 100 free and wins BB Champs with AA time

Proud dad moment:

Wow. This is great.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tour of Pittsburgh Peabody: 6 pm on Monday, March 2, 2009

Yes We Can!

This is an exciting time for Pittsburgh Peabody Stakeholders Committee.

As part of the process, Bloomfield Garfield Corporation has requested a tour of the Pittsburgh Peabody campus. The expected tour will include an inspection of the entire facility including areas of the building such as the auditorium, swimming pool, gymnasium, and computer labs. Below you’ll find a copy of the request.

We seek the committee’s full participation in this process. Please RSVP by 5:00 pm on Friday, February 27, 2009 by e-mail at or calling the office at (412)441-9833.

Cecily D. Randolph, BCG MSW Intern

The BCG has requested a representative from Senator Arlen Specter’s provide a review of the federal stimulus package. The discussion will include information concerning additional school district funding. The presentation date and time will be announced.

School board member to kick off council campaign

School board member to kick off council campaign Pittsburgh School Board member Mark Brentley will launch a repeat bid for Pittsburgh City Council tomorrow at noon at the Manchester Citizens Corp. at 1319 Allegheny Ave.

A board member for 10 years, Mr. Brentley, 52 and of the Central North Side, last ran for council in 2005, taking 15 percent of the vote and losing to Tonya Payne, who ousted Sala Udin. This time he faces Ms. Payne, 44, and Daniel Lavelle, 31, both of the Hill District, in the May 19 Democratic primary.

Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania supports government diet

Libertarian Party of PA calls on Harrisburg to adopt spending cuts cited by the Commonwealth Foundation

Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania
3915 Union Deposit Road #223
Harrisburg, PA 17109

For Immediate Release: February 19, 2009

Contact: Doug Leard (Media Relations) at or
Michael Robertson (Chair) at 1-800-R-RIGHTS /

The Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania (LPPa) today praised the work of the Commonwealth Foundation and endorsed their call for Ed Rendell and the state legislature to adopt the $5 billion in spending cuts identified in their report released last week “Government on a Diet: Spending Tips 2009.” (

Ed Rendell has increased spending more than 35% since taking office in January 2003. Due to the administration’s spending habits, Pennsylvania ranks as the 11th worst state in state and local tax burden. Pennsylvania ranks 40th in job growth and 40th in personal income among the 50 states.

To make matters worse, according to the Governor’s website, we are facing a potential $2.3 billion shortfall for 2008-2009 for which the Governor is hoping for a $1 billion federal bailout to address.

“Harrisburg cannot spend its way to prosperity for Pennsylvania,” stated LPPa Media Relations Chair, Doug Leard. “The Governor and the Assembly should take a serious look at adopting the well thought out recommendations of the Commonwealth Foundation.”

In the report, the Commonwealth Foundation identifies three categories of savings. First, the report identifies over $1.7 billion in potential savings in corporate welfare. Examples include sports stadium financing, subsidizing Hollywood, bailing out Boscov and using tax funds to build an airport (which cargo carriers have expressed no interest in using and in which key players are facing criminal accusations).

Second, the report identifies over $2.5 billion in savings by eliminating government-provided goods that compete directly with private enterprises. For example, in almost all states, the distribution and sale of liquor has been turned over to the private sector.

As another example, other states have received a far better return on taxpayer dollars by leasing their turnpike to a private operator. The PA Turnpike Commission has become a haven of political patronage and nepotism. The PTC increased tolls 25% in January and is racking up massive amounts of debt.

Finally, the report identified almost $700 million in savings by eliminating expenses that work to the detriment of citizens, for the benefit of government officials or reward the misuse of tax dollars. For example, legislative bodies have racked up millions of dollars in legal fees protecting those involved in Bonusgate (which involved misspent millions of taxpayer dollars). Another example involves Governor Rendell hiring his former law form for a $1.8 million no-bid contract to work on the failed Turnpike lease despite hundreds of attorneys already being employed by the state.

Michael Robertson, LPPa State Chair, commented “Unless the spending by the commonwealth can be brought under control, the business climate and ultimately the quality of life in Pennsylvania will deteriorate. The General Assembly and the Governor should learn the lessons from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that bigger is not better when it comes to sound fiscal policy.”

The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in Pennsylvania and the United States. More than 200,000 people across the country are registered Libertarians, and Libertarians serve in hundreds of elected offices. Please visit or for more information.

Dowd officially enters race for mayor


Should, could. would....
Dowd officially enters race for mayorMs. Robinson welcomed his entry. 'At the very minimum, hopefully we can get a healthy debate among all three of us.'
Carmen should rip the points of Dowd and Ravenstahl to bits. Start that debate herself.

Getting the debate is not going to be easy.

Who is hosting debates? Work on yours -- people.

If your organization can't host a debate, call another and offer to co-host or else bring your people to their event. These events need to be planned now.

Debates in front of video cameras are also worthy. You don't need a fancy hall and Jon Delano for goodness sakes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Golly. Dowd should step it up.

Don't strip the URA of its planning capacity. Rather, liquidate the URA. Strip the URA of its life. The URA is the problem too. Take it down. Then, if necessary, in the second term, re-build a better, different, agency within the context of accountable government.

Don't ask, "Where it the mayor?" Rather, tell those who will listen exactly that the mayor didn't show up and was instead doing XYZ.

I think the city could exist without ANY no bid contracts -- from campaign donors and everyone else.

If the planning efforts of Pittsburgh are suffering from decentralization -- does that mean he'll offer central planning? I rather enjoy organic planning and planning with freedoms in mind.

Do not "scale back the use of tax incentives to entice developers," when ending all tax incentives would work better. The tax incentive should be universal -- as in the land value tax. That's real incentive to invest in the city/region.

Swimming New Zealand Update on Swimsuit Regulations for Competitions

To SNZ Membership

We have been receiving a number of queries recently in regard to the regulations for swimsuits used in Age Group competitions. We are aware that some countries have introduced new regulations restricting the type of swimsuits that may be worn by Age Group swimmers.

Please note that Swimming New Zealand will not be making any changes to its regulations at this time.

FINA is currently considering new regulations in respect to swimsuits and has scheduled a meeting in Lausanne on February 20, 2009 inviting the swimwear manufacturers and the representatives of the FINA Technical Swimming Committee as well as FINA Athletes, Coaches and Legal Commissions to discuss the issues.

The recommendations from this meeting will be considered at the FINA Bureau meeting being held from March 12-14, 2009 in Dubai.

Once FINA publish their final rulings from this meeting, we will advise all our membership through our Website/Regions.

Mike Byrne, CEO, Swimming New Zealand

Theresa Smith goes to Grant Street. Day 1 remarks and becoming chair of the Urban Recreation Committee!

She did well. Enjoy!

She, like me, cares about kids. She, like me, will listen and not offer stiff arms so as to not meet and choose to be alone. She, like me, talks of responsibility. She, like me, is a parent and knows what it means to parent and treasure the next generation and their hopes interwoven with ours.

Today was one of the best days in the city's history, as per my watching of dealings since the mid 1990s. Sure, we've got a new President in Washington DC. But my hopes are more centered upon the neighborhoods where we play and raise our kids. Those places and programs that are near to us, often not present yet, are much closer to the possibility now.

Hope is a four letter word, isn't it.

Also, check and

In other news, the Dow closes at its lowest level in more than six years. Well, playing with our kids isn't that expensive. It can be done on the cheap. It is a time investment, much more than a financial investment. When and as the economy slows -- it makes sense to re-set priorities and choose to spend the time and efforts to play with our kids.

Girls On The Run -- a program for kds -- looking for participants in these sites

Hard to get more "Running Mate" friendly than girls on the run. Well, it could get better if there were boys or kids "on the run."
Spring programs start March 2, 2009. Some sites need MORE girls, grades 3, 4 and 5.

Those sites are:

* Avalon Elementary – Northgate
* Beaver YMCA – New Brighton
* Burchfield Elementary – Shaler
* Central Elementary – Hampton
* Community Day School – Squirrel Hill
* Eden Christian Academy – North Hills
* The Ellis School – Shadyside/East Liberty
* First Presbyterian Church – Monongahela
* Franklin Park Borough – North Allegheny
* Independence Elementary – Hopewell
* Kerr Elementary – Fox Chapel
* Kingsley Association – East Liberty
* Marzolf Elementary – Shaler
* Baker Elementary – Upper St. Clair Parks & Rec.
* Verner Elementary – Riverview
* Winchester Thurston – Shadyside
* West Mifflin Middle School (grades 6-8 Girls on Track)

Both a registration and program poster (2 PDF files) are posted and available for you to print.

Meredith Colaizzi, Program Coordinator Girls on the Run at Magee-Womens Hospital, 3339 Ward St. Pittsburgh, PA 15213, ph. 412.641.1596 fax. 412.641.8902

Swim Quick

We all respect and honor Richard Quick.
USA Swimming - Lanelines After the legendary Coach Quick was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer last year, Swim Across America launched the “Swim Quick” fundraiser to raise money for cancer research. On Valentine’s Day, swimmers across the country traded in their club caps in favor of sunny, yellow caps to show their love for Quick.

When athletes weren’t in the water, they continued to wear their hearts on their sleeves with “Swim Quick” shirts. At the Missouri Grand Prix, National Teamers, coaches and USA Swimming staff all honed blue shirts with a favorite Quick quote, “Believe in Belief” to demonstrate their belief in Quick’s fight against cancer.

'Richard's biggest strength is his enthusiasm and his intensity,” Olympian Misty Hyman said on the Swim Across America Web site. “The way that Richard inspires our team is that he believes that anything was possible if we work hard and believe in ourselves.'After the legendary Coach Quick was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer last year, Swim Across America launched the “Swim Quick” fundraiser to raise money for cancer research. On Valentine’s Day, swimmers across the country traded in their club caps in favor of sunny, yellow caps to show their love for Quick.

When athletes weren’t in the water, they continued to wear their hearts on their sleeves with “Swim Quick” shirts. At the Missouri Grand Prix, National Teamers, coaches and USA Swimming staff all honed blue shirts with a favorite Quick quote, “Believe in Belief” to demonstrate their belief in Quick’s fight against cancer.

'Richard's biggest strength is his enthusiasm.
Old trivia. Once upon a time, 1982, I was on a highway in Wisconsin, north of Millwauke, with my thumb out hitch-hiking. A van pulls up to offer me a ride, and the driver was Richard Quick, head swim coach of the Auburn War Eagles. We were all headed to the swim meet in Brown Deer, Wisconsin. I got a ride the rest of the way with them.

Our paths crossed a number of other times in the swimming world, but I was always thankful for that one day in March when he pulled over, stopped and said, "Come on, get in." He had a fine team then and many more since.

Carnegie Library of Homestead gets $150,000 grant

Carnegie Library of Homestead gets $150,000 grant: "Mr. Lloyd also announced a new web site and new ticket sales service for the Carnegie Library Music Hall, which will be easier for those who want tickets to use and will increase the music hall's profits by about $1,000-$1,500 per show. The Web site is"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

McDonald's(R) All American Games 2009 Team Rosters Revealed

McDonald's(R) All American Games 2009 Team Rosters Revealed The 2009 McDonald's All American Girls Team also boasts a talent-rich roster including Brittney Griner (Nimitz High School - Houston, Texas), who holds the National High School record for blocks in a game and is widely known for her incredible dunking skills. Also suiting-up for the girls will be Kelsey Bone (John Foster Dulles High School - Sugar Land, Texas), Skylar Diggins (South Bend Washington High School - South Bend, Ind.), Markel Walker (Pittsburgh Schenley High School - Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Cokie Reed (Waco Midway High School - Waco, Texas). The Girls Game begins at 5:30 p.m. ET April 1, and will broadcast live on ESPNU.

Swimmers less intense away from Olympics - Columbia Missourian

Swimmers less intense away from Olympics - Columbia Missourian “Well right now, I’m kind of fulfilling obligations to sponsors,” said two-time U.S. Olympian Mark Gangloff at Saturday's competition at the Missouri Grand Prix at the MU Student Recreation Complex.
Gangloff said those commitments include putting on swim clinics and giving talks at schools. The popularity that swimming received at the 2008 Olympic Games has allowed him to go into schools and deliver positive speeches and be a role model for children.
But other than speeches and swim clinics, Gangloff and his fellow Olympians said non-Olympic years consist mostly of training, just a little more relaxed than what they have to do to prepare for the Olympics.

New Factor In Teen Obesity: Parents

New Factor In Teen Obesity: Parents: "There may be a reason teenagers eat more burgers and fries than fruits and vegetables: their parents.

In a new policy brief released today by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, researchers found that adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day if their parents do. Contrarily, teens whose parents eat fast food or drink soda are more likely to do the same."

City tosses strikes at some landlords, but mostly home owners

This is what gets people mad in this city about these public servants. The law was passed in 2007 but it took a year for these early letters to be mailed. Where were they last year? Everything was hunky dorry without any problems?
City tosses strikes at some landlords The letters mark the city's first use of an ordinance passed in late 2007 that, along with ongoing registration of rental housing, is meant to give public safety officials a better handle on neighborhood quality of life.
Enforce what is already on the books before more is done with over-reaching legislation.

Penn Hills moves ahead with high school plans

So, Penn Hills is getting a new High School for grades 9 to 12 and it will cost $70-million. Shrinking enrollment too. And, the school will be bigger than the present high school. However, the present school is not grades 9-12, but 10 to 12, I think.

Meanwhile, in the city we can't do the touch up some plaster and ceilings at Schenley for half that cost????
Penn Hills moves ahead with high school plans: "Costs for the new building will be under the $70 million estimate stated at a previous board meeting, he said. The district will use state reimbursements and a bond issue to cover the cost.

The school board took no action on proposals for reconfiguring middle and elementary schools.

The district is in the midst of long-term planning to bring expenses in line with revenues and declining enrollment.

Two elementary schools were closed in 2008."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What's 8 inches to you?

I'm watching this blog: to get the scoop on Walt Harris and his new job, QB coach at Youngstown State.

Bill Gates on Education Reform in Feb 2009 - Moving at the Speed of Creativity

Bill Gates on Education Reform in Feb 2009 Moving at the Speed of Creativity February 5, 2009, Bill Gates gave a twenty minute talk at the TED conference and spoke on the topic, “How I’m trying to change the world now.” He spoke about two issues: malaria and education reform. If you forward the video to the 8:00 mark, you can immediately start listening to his remarks about education.

Sports of The Times - For the Spring’s Biggest Event, It’s Regrets Only -

Sports of The Times - For the Spring’s Biggest Event, It’s Regrets Only - "State of the Dixie Cup lecture to be delivered this year by Alex Rodriguez"

Dangerously Irrelevant: Our temples of knowledge are lost opportunities

Dangerously Irrelevant: Our temples of knowledge are lost opportunities: "Our temples of knowledge are lost opportunities

Robert Fried says…

We have opted not to create schools as places where children’s curiosity, sensory awareness, power, and communication can flourish, but rather to erect temples of knowledge where we sit them down, tell them a lot of stuff we think is important, try to control their restless curiosity, and test them to see how well they’ve listened to us. [The Game of School, pp. 58–59]"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Speaking of closing schools:

On Feb 3, Ed Rendell has announced that he is going to close Scotland School for Veteran's Children, a school that has been in existence since 1895, originally set up as the "Soldier's Orphan's School" for veterans of the Civil War. Continuing since their original purpose, it has serviced children of honorably discharged veterans ever since.

About 35 students are children of members actively serving in the military today.

Gov Rendell's "budget conscious nature" would "save" 0.04% from his proposed $29 B budget - while also placing 186 employees in the unemployment line and ~288 students (ranging from grades 3 to 12) back in the Phila school system!

Article on closing in local paper:

Scotland School:

Save Scotland School:



The school is not full-time military, but there is a strong JROTC program, has military roots, and produces many members of the Armed Forces, including Angelo Adams, West Point Class of 2001. John Thornton, Scotland '93, West Virginia '97, has just finished his 10th year in the NFL, starting 90% of his games as a linebacker.

Students are admitted based on a family member who was honorably discharged from the military.

As recently as 2004, Gov. Rendell visited the school and said (words to the effect): "military institutions such as Scotland School will become more important as military service becomes less popular"

Direct quote: "Three years from now, or maybe four or five [which would be NOW], this nation is going to have a crisis. We won't have enough young people going into the military."

The school has a $13.5 M budget, $10.5 from the state, $2.4 from school districts, and $.5 in federal funds.

Gov. Rendell projects a $2.2 B deficit by the end of the fiscal year in June. On Feb 4 he presented a $29B budget to the legislature. I wonder how much fat is in THAT budget.

At Scotland School, there are 186 paid staff, all of whom will be in the unemployment line in June unless this is stopped.

70% of the students are from the Phila area, and Eddie's plan is to ship them back to the public schools in . . .

Scotland is located just outside of Chambersburg, about 30 miles west of Gettysburg.

On the front page of the Public Opinion where the closing of the school was announced, there was another article about the porkulus package creating "152,000 jobs in Pennsylvania". Yet he has to claim 186 jobs at Scotland School.

From W.P. (see comments)

New site

Check it out:

Dowd says he'll run against Ravenstahl for Pittsburgh mayor

Giving new meaning the the expression, it is all academic, Dr. Dowd is going to stand for office.
Dowd says he'll run against Ravenstahl for Pittsburgh mayor: "Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd will challenge Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in the May 19 Democratic primary, he said today.
Here is the question for Pittsburgh. What nonprofits and community groups are going to step up and sponsor candidate nights so as to begin the process of public discussion of ideas. And, there are three candidates, so I've heard. We'll see if Carmen's name is even mentioned in the news article in the paper on Tuesday.

Research: The United States Military Academy Prep School - Home Page

Doing more research into the concept of Prep Schools in advance of my public comment tongiht to the Pgh Public School Board about the concept of 13th Year as part of the new I.B. School framework.
Welcome to The United States Military Academy Prep School - Home Page The U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, known as USMAPS, the Prep School, or West Point Prep, was formally established in 1946, but the 'history' of 'prepping' of soldiers for West Point has been done since Congress enacted legislation in 1916 authorizing appointments for soldiers to West Point. The school exists today as an 'avenue of opportunity' to a carefully selected group of soldiers and civilians by providing them the academic, leadership and physical skills that will prepare them for success as cadets at the United States Military Academy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Steelers kicker arrested after towel tussle

Steelers kicker arrested after towel tussle towel tussle
You should have heard the heartbreak outside of Reed's house on Halloween when he wouldn't play with kids on a trick-or-treat mission. Glad we didn't push it.

But next year, we'll know what to deliver in our 'reverse trick-or-treating' efforts.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kellogg and Michael Phelps, update

From Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director Drug Policy Alliance Network:
Thanks to you, the campaign against Kellogg's for dumping Michael Phelps has gotten the media's attention. We've been the subject of hundreds of news articles, as well as a segment on CNN.

Now is your chance to increase the heat:

We've swamped Kellogg's with comments on their phone lines, and
now we can make sure they listen by sending an email urging them to
retract their statement on Phelps:

DPA Network has already contacted Kellogg's asking for a meeting, and I'll let you know what we hear. With thousands of drug policy reformers like you taking action, they'll have to respond:

Believe it or not, a South Carolina sheriff is considering going after Phelps himself and has already arrested eight people associated with the party last fall at which he was photographed. So it's more important than ever to stand with Phelps and make our voices heard:

There should be no more marijuana arrests for Michael Phelps or anyone else. And Kellogg's should renew their contract with him. Contact them today to keep this concern at the forefront of Kellogg's -- and the public's -- minds:

For more insights, you can check out this thread.

Petition for Independent Inspection and Evaluation of certain schools concerning asbestos

Print it, sign it, return it.

Petition as a Google Document is here. It's not an attachment -- it's stored online at Google Docs. To open this document, just click the link above. Content of the petition below. The forces at work on these efforts are fellow volunteers with great concern about the Pittsburgh Public School district. They publish and gather online at another blog, PURE Reform and website. PURE Reform stands for Parents United for Responsible Education Reform.

for Independent Inspection and Evaluation

February 16, 2009

that incidents of asbestos plaster failure at the Schenley High
School facility in 2007 caused the Pittsburgh Public School district
to arrange for an “Asbestos Plaster Potential Hazard
Inspection” report on the Schenley building, obtain a
consultant’s opinion as to the risk of danger in connection
with asbestos plaster in the building, and adopt an enhanced
monitoring and maintenance program at the building, and

that extensive asbestos plaster with a history of significant failure
has also been found to exist at the McKelvy, Vann, and Woolslair
buildings, and

that there is no indication that asbestos plaster potential hazard
inspections were arranged, consultant opinions as to plaster risk
were obtained or enhanced maintenance programs were adopted for the
McKelvy, Vann, or Woolslair buildings, and

that the consultant’s stated opinion that the plaster in the
Schenley building had “maintained its integrity for
approximately 90 years, and then started to fail almost universally
across the building” is contradicted by inspections and reports
by the district’s environmental consultants,

the undersigned citizens of the City of Pittsburgh, hereby
petition the School Board for the Pittsburgh Public Schools
an asbestos plaster inspection and opinion of risks, dangers and
relative condition of such plaster by an independent expert, of four
school buildings: Schenley, McKelvy, Vann, and Woolslair.

purposes of this petition an “independent expert” is a
qualified individual or company that has not performed work for the
Pittsburgh Public School district at any point during the past five
years and that at this time has no arrangement to begin performing
work for the Pittsburgh Public School district, and who is mutually
agreeable to both the Pittsburgh Public School district and to a
community group to be designated by the undersigned petitioners.