Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, it's time to do the right thing. For your son. Be a hero in the young boy's life. Cement your legacy and his future now.
For Cooper's sake, step down from the city's top post immediately and focus your attentions on family matters.
It's almost always sad when a family is destroyed—no matter what ideas special interest groups might twist to fit their agenda—a child is vastly better off with a two biological parent home. This is your chance to assure that your son has not only a normal life, but an exemplary one.
Staying Mayor one day longer is self-indulgent, and wrong.
Clearly, your wife Erin is a strong, intelligent, compassionate women who—more than anyone else—assured your victory for a four-year term on November 3. Had she portrayed “the woman scorned,” Dok Harris might be salivating about his corner office on the 5th floor of the City Council building downtown. Instead, she was the dutiful best friend who assisted you in claiming your dream. It never was hers. This is assured.
Let's call a spade a spade. You are the luckiest politician this city has seen since Sophie Masloff. Had it not been for the tragic, untimely death of Bob O'Connor, you'd still be a member of city council, representing the North Side. Spouses of city councilors are anonymous (it would take significant searching to see who is married and who is single, let alone correctly name spouses), so Erin could have happily continued in her role as a neighborhood hair dresser, and now mother.
Let's step back even further. Had it not been for your well-heeled parent(s), you'd be working some non-nondescript downtown job for a third of your taxpayer salary and a thousandth of the perks. If it hadn't been for your parents, you wouldn't enjoy the pampering, there'd be no tailgate parties with military-grade SUVs and certainly no swanky trips to New York City. Their combined vested interest guided you to be the man you are today.
You won your brand-new four-year term because the symbol for Incumbent was next to your name on the ballot (and the love of your wife). In city-wide races, if you have Incumbent and Democrat next to your name, that's the equivalent of being named Pope. You only leave office on your own terms; the rubber-stamp Democratic machine never wavers. It has no conscious and the machine doesn't think. You can.
This is your opportunity to be a true leader, an exemplary father, and perhaps even a standout husband.
Your value as Boy Mayor is negligible. The city all but runs itself until a mayor frequently adds or increases taxes. People grumble, call the Mayor “brainless,” and watch businesses and neighbors alike leave. It's a thankless job, except for the perks. As a jet-setting bachelor, you'd be free to attend even more galas, balls and sports events, most on the city's dime. It isn't real.
What about Cooper?
Money and faux prestige might be lavished upon him, but there will absolutely, certainly be times in which the Mayor will be away on business and the young lad will just be pining for Dad.
Don't chose the job of Mayor over your son.
Step down today.
Instantly, top corporations in town would be bidding on your services. Continue with marriage counseling and become an advocate for Family. You will become a folk hero in a town that adores folk heroes.
You've been a placeholder Mayor. There's no evidence that you will be anything but a passable office holder. Chances are you won't be a game-breakingly horrific leader like Tom Murphy, but if your proposed college-student levy is any indication as to your effectiveness as a Mayor, the statue of Richard Caliguiri won't be razed anytime soon for your granite likeness.
Instead, become an excellent father.
This separation reeks of self-importance and selfishness. You won't be County Executive and you'll never be Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Let's get those crazy notions off the table right now.
It's been reported that you nearly quit politics over this family crisis.
You should have.
You've been compromised. Your duty is with your family. Your sacrifice is to give up this job of status for your son. Get out of the spotlight and take care of your family. Don't sever your Christian marriage and abandon your wife. Take care of your son.
The good thing is, you are very young. You can come back into politics when you are prepared to make a difference. That is obviously not now.
If you stay one more minute, you are doing a grave disservice to this city, a city that deserves better. You deserve better. Your wife and son deserve better.
Lead. Do you have it in you? Do you have the faith, the courage, the strength?
Pittsburgh loves a winner. Be a winner. Go out a winner now.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
We had our first swim practice, and the team looks solid. I'd love to get a few more meets with WPIAL schools for Pittsburgh Schenley. We've got more than 15 boys and 20 girls on the squad.
Think about the I.B. Program for your kids.
More at http://Rauterkus.blip.tv.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Gates Foundation awards $40 million to city schools: "'For us, it's the perfect partnership at the perfect time,' ...
As to the perfect time, well, there is no time like the present. Sadly, I've seen a lot of thing delayed because the timing is on the back burner. The overhaul of sports is pending -- delayed -- put off into the future because the Title IX audit is not done yet. But the audit was simply a ploy to delay. And the board allowed for an even longer time for it to be completed -- still not done.
Larger issues loom larger too. No sense in making investments into any 'drop out factory' now because we'll get to high school reform in the future. Rightsizing is just for the elementary school levels now -- except for Schenley and prior to that South Vo Tech. Let some others seemingly die of the vine, (Peabody, Oliver).
The kids don't wait well. We can't keep them as they are. They grow up fast. Delays of a year or three are tough if not impossible. Every day the schools are expected to serve them -- and it is impossible to do so when there are periods of sarvation.
On one hand, the changes are too fast. On the other hand, the changes are too slow. Here is the thing with Pittsburgh. To often, changes for the good, for the benefit of the kds, are on hold. They can't be considered now. They are something to think about in a couple of months. The meeting about those changes are on the back burner. Too much is on the back burner. Too much effort is spent to insure in-action on easy to fix elements until a sweeping reform can be hatched with consultant studies and outsiders to the rescue.
Fix it, internally, now, with the help of those on deck now. That's how I feel about the timing of a perfect partnership.
We should decide and then do it -- And get out of the way already.
Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
I was able to attend the community meeting hosted by Pittsburgh Public Schools this past week at Perry Traditional High School. Called, Excellence for All. Mark Roosevelt, superintendent, spoke about the new push for teacher effectiveness and the as yet un-official Gates Foundation Grant.
At the outset of the meeting, I had a brief moment with Mr. Roosevelt and told him congratulations on his new contract.
After the meeting, I sent along an email to Mr. Roosevelt and Mark Conner, Parent Engagment Coordinator. Stay tuned / scroll down.
Some of the points in the presentation make great conversation starters. I'll try to comment and wedge some of my opinions and obserations into the text of the blog.
Before the video camera ran, a testimonial from a recent PPS Graduate now getting Pittsburgh Promise scholarship money as he attends Penn State Allegheny (McKeesport) for engineering was shown. That first person account was from a recent meeting at Perry hosted by the head of the Pittsburgh Promise. The district has been hosting Pittsburgh Promise outreach meetings at all of the schools. Interesting. Those meetings are part of the PPS monthly calendars -- see the web site, http://www.PghBOE.Net.
Part 1 via YouTube:
Part 1 via Viddler: (Exact same file as above, just different server.)
Part 2 via YouTube:
Part 2 via Viddler:
Part 3 via YouTube:
Part 3 via Viddler:
Part 4, via YouTube:
Part 4, via Viddler:
Thanks for the grub and a few comments from last night
Hi Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Conner,
Thanks for the food and presentation last night at Perry. Sorry I had to leave the meeting as questions began. I had to get my son at the JCC after his swim practice. I'll get to and post the video today.
QUESTION: Is that "Cold Play" video on the web? It should be on YouTube.
QUESTION: Is that interview about the Promise Testimonial from the Oliver HS grad now at PSU Allegheny on the web? That should be on YouTube too.
The student in the video fell between the cracks in 9th grade (booted from Schenley) and 10th (at Oliver). If you do put the video onto the web, make sure all who watch understand that the standards for the Pgh Promise have been made more difficult. The 9th and 10th graders of today (and the future) can't slack off and still be 'promise ready.' That has been stressed to the kids at our school -- but it is a very important change and update that impacts the on-going telling of that testimonial for the sake of clarity going forward. So, I'd suggest an extra footnote on that video as it goes out to YouTube.
My reaction for discussion concerning that student as to why/how he was able to slip so much in 9th and 10th grade goes to his 'afterschool sports.'
Was he an athlete? What sports did he play? He would have been NOT ELIGIBLE, perhaps, due to grades. And, a sports coach (as I know them to be in healthy situations) COULD HAVE and SHOULD HAVE been on his back and able to monitor / coach / develop that student so as to keep him / get him back to the straight and narrow (Pgh Promise Pathway).
I'll bet he wasn't an athlete with one or more coaches who were hawks that were looking out for that kid's total student life.
The effort to make 'clusters' of adults in the school to monitor the kids -- home room teachers, guidance, etc -- is what great coaches do all the time.
More than 75% of the boys and aprox 55% of the girls should be in scholastic sports. The national numbers are not being reached in Pittsburgh. And, our coaches are fumbling, by and large.
Plus, that's a story that gets repeated in all urban districts. For example, Philly wasn't a part of the PIAA. Pittsburgh isn't a part of the WPIAL.
Pittsburgh does not have a massive cadre of caring adults watching out for a sizable majority of our middle school and younger high school aged students as our sports landscape in our schools in Pittsburgh stinks.
The push to master teachers (rock stars even), mentoring, monitoring and performance standards are nothing new to me -- as this is what we do all the time in swimming and sports.
The platform, goals and increased expectations you are embracing are splendid. I am in full support of that. But I fear that the sports / coaching support is missing, still, in the PPS execution. It is like a 3-leg stool with teachers + principals/administrators + COACHES / SPORTS / AFTERSCHOOL. You are getting there with the principals and data and now the teacher elements. Great. That's 2 of the 3 legs that are getting attention and fortified. But the easiest element and the
one that will have massive returns is still getting ignored.
Furthermore, what I talk of is getting worse with all the school mergers.
I'd be most happy to talk about this with you or others.
SUGGESTION: Go to Eddie Wilson (PPS) and ask to peek at the 4 different binders I delivered to him in early October: That round of the RFP imploded, I guess, due to a stimulus funds snafu. Nonetheless, those binders make a work packet and hit upon vision / benefits. They are packed with opportunities and potential to get our kids
performing. Check em out. (Swim & Water Polo Camp, Lifeguard Camp, Olympic Sports Camp, Sport Manager and Entrepreneur Camp). That's a first step. There is plenty to do for this leg of student support, and it needs to start with the superintendent.
Keep up the good work in those other areas. My request: The sports efforts should begin now too. And, frankly, Gates can get the credit. But for a fraction of the costs and a much smaller investment of time at the Board Levels -- an overhaul of sports would make a much bigger impact for our students. I'd love to make it so and prove it to you.
Reply from Mark Roosevelt to me
Mark - I agree with you about sports and much that you say below. I will
make more of an effort to push this forward in the coming weeks.
GREAT QUESTION: What is the status on the Title IX report on sports? Is it out?
Have you seen it? Is it worthy of a discussion?
I don't think it is out yet. I'm putting in a call now to ex-PPS Board Member, Heather A.
What percent of our kids (boys / girls) are in scholastic sports in Pittsburgh High Schools?
PPS does not have that number, so I hear from the Athletic Director of PPS.
I think it makes sense to do an overhaul of sports in Pittsburgh while that Gates Foundation Grant is about to roll out. The coaching and teaching parts can overlap a great deal. We need to spotlight our city's mentor coaches. We need to have a coaching center of excellence, and so on. Most of all, sports participation can help to keep the kids on the straight-and-narrow through high school. So sports coaches can address a chunk of the mentoring and overall evaluation of the kids so as to insure that they are 'Promise Ready.' I'd much rather have sports coaches play a bigger role in the lives of the kids than home room teachers and security guards. The coaching staffs can be that year-in-and-year-out glue to the kids. But, we'll need coaches to be invited to the table and be more robust with greater numbers of kids.
Advocate style: I'm trying to connect the dots -- for the benefit of the kids and athletics. Ride the wave, so to speak.
> 4. We are currently reviewing the Athletic Program however, the Gates money is not earmarked for anything related to Athletics at this time.
I understand that the Gates money isn't for athletics. But, some of the efforts of the work at the board / administration could dove tail into athletics as it is going into the realm of teaching and CARE for the students.
-- We need to show the ability of teachers (and coaches) to move students to more advanced levels.
-- The whole issue of TENURE with coaches needs to be dealt with.
-- And, this plan creates the opportunity for highly effective teachers -- as it should also go to highly effective coaches.
-- Coaches can move the students to high levels. Are the athletes the ones in the district that are doing better than the non-athletes? (Duhh. What about data there! They are going to follow kids according to teachers they had in 9-12th grade. What about coaches too? What about college performance in sports too? Would they be shocked to learn that certain sports players in certain sports teams with certain coaches are GENERALLY far more accomplished in college success because of their fitness and discipline and X-FACTOR with being an accomplished athlete / exposed to accomplished coaching.)
-- And, coaches need to be included with the cadre of school professionals as each student is evaluated to be on the pathway to the promise.
-- Mentoring is a new push with PPS -- and we need to hook the mentors with athletics / middle school sports too.
The Gates Foundation money as well as the mindset now being embraced by PPS Board / Administrators because of the new goals -- SHOULD have a tie in with Athletics.
-- They are talking about WIDER recruitment of teachers -- highly effective teachers. New teachers we hire need to be spot on 80% of the time. We need new teachers hired into the district who are excellent teachers. And, hiring non-traditional teachers is now a possibility too. So, a great coach could be -- to use Mark Roosevelt's term -- a ROCK STAR coach and TEACHER. Let's use that wider net of the recruitment of teachers to also include the recruitment of coaches. Then these folks can get to the new teacher academy to sharpen up the academic skills that already have been proven in the coaching ranks.
Frankly, I'd love to see half of the new teachers within PPS being accomplished coaches before hired by PPS. Then they'd get the support of the intern year.
Furthermore, the others who are in the teacher academy need to be given coaching expertise too -- so that when they are placed in new school settings, they are able to coach sports teams there.
I'll talk with John Tarka next.
No need to reply. Perhaps I'll see you at a soccer or football game or volleyball championships in the next week or so.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Sci Tech in Oakland needs a new name. Now that the kids are in the building, the kids have a say. But, the Pgh Public School Board has to name the school, officially. There is a board policy that the schools can't be named after programs. This board policy was put into practice after the naming of CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts) High School, now 6-12 too. CAPA was to be the last theme named school, so the board said.
The board wants to name the Sci Tech School after someone, such as Salk, or Frick, or some other famous geek now gone from this world.
The students have talked and considered all the front runners. They all get a big thumbs down. Again and again, the consensus is to name the school what they signed up for -- its existing name, Sci Tech. The kids and community want the school's official name to be Pittsburgh 6-12 Science and Technology Academy. Simple. Straightforward. Shortened to Sci Tech.
Now the challenge is to convince the Pgh Public Schools board of nine members, all elected except one, to choose the recommendation from the kids and overcome their own policy.
Of further interest is the mascot. I wanted for some time the sports teams to embrace the nickname of "Zombies." Zombies have a rich tradition in Pittsburgh. Perhaps George Romaro could be used even as the patron saint of the school. Can you hear it in the deep voice, the booming Zombie Nation song in the background, the public address announcer saying, "Now introducing the Zombies starting line up of the Pittsburgh George Romaro High, ... at 5-foot-ten, starting point guard, ..."
Romero did attend CMU in Pittsburgh.
But there is more. The kids have picked a school mascot already. It isn't the Zombies, sadly. The nickname is "Comet" -- and Comet is the name of a digital dog.
Bram could get guest bloggers to offer up Comet treats.
Where do you stand? Should we stuff the Zombies down their throats, or else give the kids what they want, Sci Tech and the loyal dog friend, Comet?
I'm on the side of the slow, hard to kill, better with face paint, Zombies. Perhaps George Romero could either endow the school or else use it as the backdrop for a scene in the next flick.
I like to say that I.B. is a different brand than A.P. Some say in AP they teach you the facts and expect you to tell them back on tests. Meanwhile, in I.B., there is more critical thinking. Tell them what you know to be true and why you know it is true.
A few weeks ago, on October 26, 2009, this presentation unfolded. Some of the content can be lifted into some highlights. But, there is some post production to do yet.
Speakers' line up includes (not in order in these videos, however):
Joseph Ehman, teacher
Deborah Eutsler, teacher
Oscar Huber, teacher & IBDP Coordinator
Walter Moser, teacher
Wendi Obritz, teacher
Karen Price, teacher
Randy Smookler, teacher
Emily Wilson, teacher
Marta Wilkin, librarian,
Pamela Barentine, parent
Dr. Leslie Thyberg, parent
Judith Leonardi, parent
Erin Rossiter, alumnus
Lidija Barbaric, alumnus
John T, parent.
IB slide show:
You are invited.
Bring you suit even. We might need some subs.
Yesterday we had a great practice. Played a full scrimmage, co-ed, with each team with 3 subs. Great fun.
Keep up to date with the actions on Facebook by searching for Pittsburgh Schenley Water Polo. http://www.facebook.com/#/group.php?v=wall&ref=mf&gid=128799118436 We'd love to have you as a friend there.
Monday, November 16, 2009
My statement before the board and administration at Pittsburgh Public Schools tonight -- "bringing it."
I spoke in public comment period on November 16, 2009, to the Pittsburgh Public Schools board and administration. After, a friend said, "Mark, you were bringing it tonight."
I did raise some good points.
Nutshell: Luke Ravenstahl, mayor, should be removed from the board of the Pittsburgh Promise due to his budget that calls for a tax on college tuition. The tax is crazy and goes the wrong way.
- - -
First, to Randall Taylor, outgoing board member, thanks for your years of service. May your retirement be sweet. And to the new board member, Doctor, it is my wish that you'll have half the stamina showed by of Mr. Taylor for all the heavy lifting he has done to raise issues. Welcome.
As a recap of some of the points I heard tonight from other speakers, I'd like to see the board bend to the will of the students at Sci Tech who want their school's name to be Sci-Tech. To do that, you'd have to break a board policy that prohibits the school name to be that of a concept or theme. CAPA, the Creative and Performing Arts school name was to be the last along those lines, as per new board policy on naming schools. Give the kids the ownership in their school so as to keep the name that was started there.
I'd rather see the Sci Tech School use the mascot of Zombies, but whatever.
At the I.B. School, they'll have their naming conference soon. They too face the same board stipulations. But, I think that Pittsburgh's Roberto Clemente 6-12 High School works well. There they can be known as the Clemente Olympians.
Ken spoke earlier tonight about the merging of sports in the city with the others in the WPIAL. I love that idea and have championed it in the past as well. We need an overhaul of sports, athletics and music -- and all things afterschool in Pittsburgh. Getting our teams to compete with the suburban teams would do wonders for our opportunities and programs.
Another speaker, Maryellen spoke about music, and while I agree with the need for music opportunities, it isn't about funding either sports OR music. They both are in the same realm of afterschool, mostly. They both need attention. They both offer opportunities for growth and community building. They both allow our students to be smarter, more connected, more engaged in their schools and successful into the future.
My points for the statement tonight go to looping. Mark Roosevelt spoke at a recent Excellence for All parent meeting and talked about how teacher empowerment is expected to occur in the near future with the arrival of some new funding and energy via the Gates Foundation. Looping moves teachers from 9th grade to 10th grade classes, and so on as the students progress year by year. Then the teachers follow the students in their schedules.
I'm not so sure that is a wise move -- but rather, the looping should occur with the sports coaches and the band directors and the health / PE teachers and home-room teachers and with guidance councilors and others who are support staff. If we had more empowered coaches and band leaders, we'd have less of a need for the looping of the core academic teachers within the schools.
The students do need care, year-to-year and week-to-week and day-to-day. Adults should follow and watch out for the kids as they grow. Some kids check out, if you let them, and might soon drop out, sadly. These are some of the things that great coaches do all the time. They monitor. They mentor. They encourage. They challenge. They motivate.
Let's invest in the kids. But, let's do it the right ways. Let's take better advantage of outside adults who can better motivate some kids by pulling the adults into the framework of schools.
Plan for city schools could shuffle students again The school board does not plan an immediate vote on the proposal, which DeJong based on enrollment projections and the maintenance needs of about 80 district buildings.News flash. Few sign up in advance of meeting to speak of outrage about school closing -- so it seems from Joe Smydo. Meanwhile, there isn't a plan from the PPS about closing schools -- yet. The plan that was delivered a couple of weeks ago is from the consultants. The consultants don't close schools. The consultants talk about buildings, bricks, mortar.
Some serious flaws in the consultants plan make the lack of outrage understandable. There isn't news about who is signed up to speak anyway. A bigger non-news story has never been published.
I do have some things to say about our schools to our board, perhaps.
Where in the heck is the Title IX report from the consultant?
Saturday, November 14, 2009
"For Liberty...follows this [Ron Paul's] historic campaign from the perspective of grassroots activists, and showcases the unique, often bizarre, yet groundbreaking projects they undertook as they brushed aside traditional campaign methodology."
Here is a link to the event poster with full information: http://img134.imageshack.us/img134/3394/forlibertyfaded4
|From Mark Rauterkus & Running Mates ponder current events|
Sadly, the new Mon Wharf bike trail goes only along the stretch of the parking lot. Bikers can't get there from the east nor from the west. Costly bike path extensions are needed at both ends of the wharf.
At least we'll be able to use the Mon Wharph N@ on New Years Day. Be there!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Because of Don Walko's election to the bench, he'll be departing the role in the Pennsylvania State House. Hence, there is an opening and a couple campaigns to come.
The first campaign brings the race for the various party nominations. Then the next step is the move to get votes from the citizens in the district.
A special election is expected. Special elections are held to fill the open seat for the remainder of the term. Special are without the ordinary primary vote in the spring and general election in the fall. Special elections can be held on their own day so that the polls open just for the voters of that district, such as in Feburary or March 2010. Or, the special election might be delayed until the primary election day. The winner of the special electino would get to be the state rep for six months or so. Next year, 2010, bring regular elections for all the PA State Reps as well. So, regardless of the special election, in the spring primary, there will be a campaign opportunity for that seat among the old party candidates (Ds and Rs).
If a candidate wants to run in the special election, have the frame of mind to run for the general election as well.
This is the time to do the search for candidates.
We'd rather have a "paper candidate" than no candidate at all. But in the best case, we'd get a candidate that worked throughout the campagns and shared his or her values of liberty, while building a crew of like minded helpers.
Consider it for yourself.
Consider it for others and twist the arm of those who would make great state reps to run. Tell them that you'll help.
Consider hosting an event that brings together the community with either one or multiple candidates so that the ideas and discussion can unfold.
Consider blabbing about candidates, campaigns, and issues in this and other blogs. So, tell me, who is running? Who should run and be recruited?
Monday, November 09, 2009
The other meeting is about school choice hosted by BGC.
My A.T. Still University Experience : Students Paying The Copyright Tax: "Copyright, put simply, is a personal monopoly on an original writing, song, piece of art, or a group of any of those, for 70 years after the death of the creator. If a corporation is the creator, the copyright monopoly lasts for 95 years.” — Public Knowledge
Did you know, long suffering U.S. taxpayer, that you pay twice for federally funded research?
The first time is when you pay taxes. The federal government uses that money to fund various agencies such as the National Institutes for Health, the National Science Foundation, and others. These agencies then have a vast array of grant programs which then go to all sorts of recipients, including universities and specific academic researchers. If you want a sense of how much of your cash is flowing through this federal subsidy for higher education, you can check out Grants.gov, which was helpfully set up to make it easier for universities and others to apply for your money.
Mayor said he wanted to hear from those with better ideas and real solutions -- so I sent him this email
In the budget address you said you'd want to hear from people with solutions and you'd work with them. Well, I've got it solved for you.
The land value tax is much more fair than the tax on the college students.
We need to start by selling parking garages, not leasing them. You want a one time fix. So a lease is not that. Leases, by design, comes up again later in the future.
Next, sell the stadiums, sell the convention center, sell the civic arena and even sell the new Consol building. Get out of the business of building for some and not for others.
Next, enact a land expansion moratorium on all nonprofit land grabs. And, then we'll ask them to shrink by 5% over 5 years and 10% over 7.
Next, we'll get into a land value tax solution, again, for the city. This will spike development in vacant land, especially in downtown and other areas where there should be density in our urban fabric. The land tax is easy to administer -- and it is the most fair of all.
A land tax rewards those in neighborhoods that fix up their properties. If you invest in your home -- you should not see your taxes go up. That is a penalty that the city does -- and it is all wrong. Rather, we should charge those that let the property decay -- but we do the opposite. if your house is falling, you get a tax break. The city is rewarding the exact opposite of what it desires.
Let's set up an appointment so we can talk in person next week. And, we'll talk too about summer in the city with parks and how to grow our city with families and care of our kids.
Jazzing it up, summer school style: "Jazzing it up, summer school styleNice recap in the article.
Pittsburgh Public Schools hopes to attract more middle-schoolers to its program
Sunday, November 08, 2009
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette"
The deadline for community groups to apply for the afternoon partnering opportunity is this Friday. I'm climbing in my cave to knock off the applications again this week, I hope.
There had already been a RFP (Request For Proposals) from PPS (Pittsburgh Public Schools) with an early October deadline. I call that round one. All of that work ended up to be a meaningless expercise thanks to changes in the Pennsylvania budget. Ouch. The entire RFP was retracted. Sixty two proposals came from community groups then. Now the terms from the PPS have changed in significant ways.
Not only is there a lack of money for field trips, the time of the camp in the afternoon periods was cut by one third. Rather than three hours followed by a full hour for lunch, the afternoon session is with a 45-minute lunch time block and a two hour period. Plus, the budget matters now -- not a sky's the limit approach. The district says it won't allow for any camp to exceed a cost of more than $650 per student. So, the upper limit of $650 covers two hours per day for five weeks for a total of 25 sessions. This investment limit from the school district comes to $13 per hour per kid for total costs incurred by the community partner.
The biggest sticking point for community partners is the hiring of staffers.
A number of hurldles exist for the overall program. I'm not sure the kids are going to attend the camp. Attendance is going to be a huge factor. From July 12 to August 13, most are not conditioned to attend school from 8:30 or so to 3 pm. Sure, they'll get a free lunch and some neat play time each afternoon, but it is still school.
My first round camp applications, mentioned slightly in the past on this blog are posted online. Read about the Olympic Sports Camp, the Junior Lifeguard Camp, the Swim and Water Polo Camp and the Sport Manager and Entrepreneur Camp at the A For Athlete wiki.
There are significant changes to what I'm going to put in for funding now from my end. Gone in full are the Junior Lifeguard Camp and the Sports Manager and Entrepreneur Camp. The kids can't take field trips with the new budget and the two hour day kills them anyway. We wanted to take the kids to Sandcastle for a week of instruction there followed by a week at the Allegheny County Parks pools (Boyce, Settlers, North, South). Can't get there. And, if we did, 120 minutes isn't going to cut it. The Sports Manager field trips were every Tuesday and Thursday to various sports businesses (Pitt, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, golf course, etc.). We were going to learn about their customer experiences, transactions and even how the coaches take and use stats.
With the Olympic Sports Camp, we'll have to do everything on a school site now. So, golfing at a golf course is out of the question. And, biking at the Washington Road oval is going to be difficult unless we get there either on bikes or magic carpets. We can't really buy new bikes so I'm in the market for 30 or 35 magic carpets, used or new. Plus, helmets, bikes and water bottles would be nice too. Those are big hits to the overall quality of the offering to the students.
Since there are two pots of money, and one source is more definite while the other is not, I'm going to need to make a application for the Title I Literacy Camp option. Stay tuned for Olympicpedia Camp. I started a two hour, drop in, summertime, day-camp in 2008 called Olympicpedia. So, this is familiar ground for me but now there is a bunch of red tape from PPS. Before, I just contracted with the private provider with the computer lab space.
If you want to help, leave me a message in the comments area. Mostly, I've got to re-tool the older grant applications and dream up the Olympicpedia educational rubic justifications. I am turning to Wiki Educator for some assistance.
Back to the drawing board. Deadlines loom large.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Friday, November 06, 2009
Libertarians win Houston council seats - Washington Greene PA News - www.observer-reporter.com: "Libertarians win Houston council seatsWins on Tuesday. Way to go!
This proves my point: To win, one needs running mates.
http://www.poynter.org/q/?id=A173027I don't buy into the swim pool illustration, but that is beside the point.
Posted by Steve Myers
Sometime in the next month or so, between five and 15 online publishers will start testing Journalism Online's system for paid content. Around year's end, they'll start charging users to access some content on their sites. But the vast majority of users will not notice anything, said Steven Brill.
Most people talk about paid content as "pay walls." Brill, co-founder of Journalism Online, likens it to a gradually deepening pool.
"Imagine a fancy swimming pool at a resort," Brill explained by phone Thursday, "where you can walk into the water 20 or 30 steps before you're really in the water, instead of having to dive into the deep end where you're worried about how cold it is."
That's the basis of Journalism Online's pay model (http://journalismonline.com/model.php) : If publishers are worried that charging for content will cause a huge drop in page views (and thus advertising revenue), they can dip their toes in by choosing settings that affect a minimal amount of content or just the most frequent users. Publishers can decide if they want to swim to the deep end as they see how users respond.
Even the most intense users, those who visit a site several times a day for instance, will not suddenly learn that their favorite site has blocked off content. "There's going to be nothing for customers that's going to be sudden about this," Brill said.
Read the Entire Post (http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=101&aid=173027)
I'm not a P-G+ subscriber. Am I missing anything?
solutionsRus has left a new comment on the post "Neighborhood tensions":
Although I don't always agree with (or for that matter understand) some of Mark's comments, on the point of the value of coaching, I believe that he is right on. All children (not just at risk) benefit from having a positive adult influence in their lives. Even with all the support in the world raising two kids was a challenge and I was thankful for the positive impact that several coaches made on my children. High school sports do get waaayyy too much attention by the media with a little to much focus on winning for my tastes, but the value of learning team play, sportsmanship, leadership skills etc. can not be stressed enough. Yes, academic subjects are the #1 need, but cannot be taught in a vacuum.
Mark's comments on the state of PPS sports programs are right on as well. For every wonderful coach that my children have had, there is one that is just taking a paycheck (one coach used to read the paper during practice and another would grade papers during matches).
We should all stop speaking in absolutes. There are good and not so good coaches, teachers, principals, administrators and parents. Making changes to a system that ensures more good and less not so good will only strengthen that system. But the changes have to be effective, vetted and implemented correctly or it is just "change" and not improvement.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Marty Griffin on KDKA Radio says politicians need to take their lumps. Get into the game. "click." Then I'm off the air.
The quickest way to get clicked off the air is to say the media is to share in the blame for the poor voter turnout. So, Griffin says politicians and candidates take the bumps but he can't. He clicks me off the air when it is suggested that he should look in the mirror.
Democracy is messy. Our system is frail too. Marty says, and I agree, "The process stinks."
However, I feel strongly that it is better to stay home and not vote rather than be a clueless voter. People are smart. People let others who are more aware make decisions for them. That's prudent and good judgement. Some have said that everyone should pass a test before they voted, then we'd want everyone to vote. That is not my plank, but it does speak to the need to filter out the clueless. But people filter themselves quite well.
People vote with their feet. We need to respect that.
If a school has fewer kids than expected, let it die. Help the others migrate elsewhere. Be free. Be flexible. Allow people to make choices and we all win and never feel enslaved.
We do need an election overhaul. The machines are not up to snuff. We can have super voter centers at the malls on the weekends before our Tuesday election days. We can do plenty of things to help our system.
I'd love to see NOTA = None Of The Above, on every ballot.
But more shameful than the scorn that Marty Griffin wants to heap upon the citizens is the need to rest the blame on the lack of candidates. Too many of our elections go uncontested. I don't think that there was a single school board race that was with two or more candidates in the city. Half of the school board was up for election.
November mattered. That is something to celebrate.
A friend said that the mayor doesn't matter anyway as we've got two sets of overlords. They are the ones that really run the city. They have the mayor on a tight rope.
There are plenty of things to do in these regards. One of the most important is to find, recruit and nurture candidates and provide meaningful media coverage to them and their ideas.
So let's take it to the Allegheny County Board of Elections. Humm. The meeting prior to the recent election wasn't held because a quorum wasn't able to gather. And, there are only three members on the board. Where where you Dan Onorato?
Saving the Jackets The Columbus Dispatch Saving the JacketsDon't fall for this Columbus.
Unless relief can be provided from a problematic lease and other financial burdens, Columbus eventually could lose its NHL team, consultant's report says
First off, here is a great opportunity to fix this city held hostage by sports team demand made through a hired conultant.
The fix for the ages for Columbus -- as well as for all sports cities in the major leagues in North America is one word. "R E L E G A T I O N!"
The big leagues in Europe do it. And, the swim league in the eastern burbs did it too. Lots of sense, and it would help our Pittsburgh Pirates in Major League Baseball as well.
If a city wants to own a NHL team, a NFL team, a NBA team or a MLB team -- then that city should build a team that is successful in the minor-leagues. Then they can play their way into the big leagues.
The league rules should change so as to move the worst team OUT of the top tier and relegate that team to the minor leagues. Furthermore, the best team in the minor leagues would get to move into the majors.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, a last place team in the National League, might make a great team for the AAA League. Let's have the Pirates play against Peoria.
With relegation in effect, a team can't be purchased and moved into a slot that is not earned.
A discussion of whether a move to another city is possible "to us, is not fruitful," he said. "We're just trying to educate that (public support) is what a sustainable model looks like." The relegation solution is sustainable for the overall model. Often, a team has to stretch its finances with its big-league payroll to get the players to compete with the Yankees. In a lesser league, the costs are lower in terms of how much is paid to the players.
Big time ticket prices might not fly in a smaller city. Big time sponsors might not come when you play Peoria and not Chicago. Fine. Teams and organizations will better fit their sustainable model on how much to invest based upon the market conditions.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
An electronic publication of
The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy
November 4, 2009 Volume 9, Number 67
An independent consultant hired by Pittsburgh Public Schools to study facility usage recommended closing 16 buildings and reconfiguring another 19 of the District’s 70 facilities. The recommendations are based on a projected further 4,500 drop in enrollment by school year 2018-2019.
The superintendent agreed with the findings and said, “excess building capacity is consuming taxpayer dollars that otherwise could be used to improve educational opportunities for students…” But the underlying issue is why Pittsburgh families have abandoned the Pittsburgh Public Schools by leaving the City or finding alternative education opportunities for their children. The heavy enrollment losses have occurred despite enormous efforts and expenditures by the District and civic supporters.
Enrollment in the District has been falling for many years. In the 2000-2001 school year enrollment was 38,500. For the 2009-2010 school year enrollment has dropped more than 32 percent to roughly 26,123—a loss of more than 12,400 students since 2000-2001. The consultant’s estimate of a decline 4,500 students over the next nine years would represent a 16 percent drop—half the percentage decline of the previous nine years. Whether the forecast is optimistic remains to be seen.
The expected future enrollment slide was the principal reason for the creation of the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program. Hoping to reverse the slide, the District, along with the Mayor and corporate leaders, promised all graduating students from the City a college scholarship if they met certain academic requirements. This program was modeled after one in Kalamazoo, Michigan where enrollment after three years climbed by 15 percent. It’s been four years since the inception of Pittsburgh’s Promise and enrollment has continued to fall, dropping 16 percent—the exact opposite of the Michigan experience.
While the Superintendent has suggested the decline in enrollment is a result of the decline in City population, the facts don’t support that contention. The City’s enrollment has been dropping at a significantly faster rate than population. Since the last census, Pittsburgh has lost 7.3 percent of its population while District enrollment fell at four times that rate. There are explanations for this. First, families with children are moving out at a disproportionately faster rate than families without school age children or individuals with no children. Second, increasing numbers of parents are choosing non-public schools or home schooling.
How will the abandonment of Pittsburgh Public Schools affect academic performance? SAT results for Pittsburgh students shows there has been virtually no improvement in scores. The average combined reading and math scores stood at 873 in 2001 before edging up to 895 in 2006. However, in 2009 scores had fallen back to 879—so much for progress as school press releases and news conferences have attempted to portray. In some of the District’s high schools, scores are still well below 800. Bear in mind that the average national scores during this time were over 1,000 and average scores for Pennsylvania students were around 1,000.
Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test scores show similar results. For 2009, 50 percent of the District’s eleventh graders scored below proficient level in reading while 57 percent did so in math. In 2006, those numbers were 49.1 percent and 59.8 percent respectively in reading and math. It’s very clear that academic achievement is languishing, which may well account for a large share of the student exodus. Unfortunately, as parents who are very concerned about education remove their children from City schools, there is a strong likelihood that academic achievement in City schools will suffer even more as enrollment continues its long slide.
Of course, with students leaving the District, it would be reasonable to assume expenditures would be falling or at least not growing. Not in Pittsburgh. At the beginning of the decade the District reported operating expenditures of roughly $415.5 million. The most recent report for 2007-2008 shows those expenditures have grown by 29 percent to about $534.7 million. On a per pupil basis expenditures have grown from $10,700 to more than $17,800—a 66 percent rise. Undoubtedly, much of this increase stems from the reduction in enrollment, but it underscores the preposterously high cost of educating students in the District. Assuming spending grows by an average 3 percent per year for the next nine years (a conservative forecast considering past growth and the big jump in pension payments coming in 2012) expenditures per student will reach a jaw dropping $31,000 per student.
The consultant’s report estimates that by closing some schools and consolidating others, the District can achieve savings of over $300 million in maintenance costs over the next ten years. Whether that will ever happen remains to be seen. In the meantime, the District continues to short change students and taxpayers. Recommendations of meaningful reforms such as school choice are squelched by the District and its apologists practically before they are uttered. One must wonder: How bad does it have to get before parents and taxpayers become fed up enough to do something about the long running fiasco that is the Pittsburgh Public School District other than moving out of the City? Is it reasonable to expect Pittsburgh to ever achieve real stability and begin to grow as long as the school district is so corrosive of its economic underpinnings?
Jake Haulk, Ph.D., President Frank Gamrat, Ph.D., Sr. Research Assoc.
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24Medica - College training tough on Freshmen swimmers: "High school swimmers heading off to compete in college may be ill prepared for grueling collegiate training regimens, study findings hint."
The early news of the consultants report has been twisted on some radio teasers. The city is not going to close 12 schools as reported or hyped by KDKA Radio yesterday. The closing of the schools is not yet on the table. Nothing may change for the fall of 2010. I do like the way the P-G put it in a headline. More than a dozen schools are on the chopping block. Sure. But the ax isn't swinging and I'd say the ax isn't even sharp yet.
I sent Marty an email this morning. Here are a couple of questions he might want to consider in the pending interview. Big was sent to Marty G, twice. Red was on the air.
Of the 134 kids that started 9th grade at U Prep, only 84 returned to start 10th grade. U Prep kids had extra attention with the new school. The principal didn't return as well.
Have the first two years of U-Prep been a bust?
Is U Prep going to make it? Should it? (not read on air)
Can the district re-think past decisions? (not read on air)
And, a second message, also sent twice.
Pittsburgh is a sports town. Why can't the district overhaul sports opportunities at new U-Prep and Science and Technology schools -- as athletics might be a splendid hook to get the kids and families and communities better engaged in school and academics. ?
People leave the city in Jr High and High School because of the whole school expeience -- including sports.
WPIAL Teams are NOT like those in the city league. Can PPS join the WPIAL? That would make the city competitive. COMPETITION.
We'll see if anything like these get into the conversations. Update. the one did.
Griffin talking about big, old empty buildings.
Board closed 22 schools already.
Pittsburgh had more than 600,000. Now going less than 300,000.
More than 4,500 students are going to depart the district in the years to come, so says a study.
Talk about the closing of Peabody and Oliver. Discourse gets nasty.
11:33 Marty went to Central Catholic High School, not Peabody.
Marty is a big fan and very positive with Mark Roosevelt and his efforts.
Some will scream (so says Griffin) "Keep buildings open."
Fact not mentioned: Pittsburgh has closed some buildings (rightsizing cost 20+ schools and Schenley), but Pittsburgh (under Mark Roosevelt's leadership) started some new high schools recently. U-Prep and Sci-Tech and I.B. -- all in the wake of closing Schenley High School. So, many have closed. But, new are opening too. Does it make sense to consider the opening of the new schools in the wake of closing others and closing some more?
This is the central message from PPS Board Member, Mark Brently. Brently wants a full evaluation of what has transpired so far, before going further. (Not on the air.)
Roosevelt: We can close schools carefully and in a sequenced manner. Four years ago we were about to go bankrupt. We had to move quickly. We need to take off line what we don't need. Take off buildings and make staff reductions. Over the next three years, we'll do a sequenced three year plan.
Blog editorial: Wow. This is a central theme I've been begging for for years. It is now part of Mark Roosevelt's game plan it seems. Back when South Vo Tech was closed in haste, I asked that the school be closed over the course of the years as the students graduated. Pittsburgh needs to phase out its schools and not jerk families around. The decision to close South Vo Tech came in June. A graduation happened and the kids in 9th, 10th and 11th grade didn't know if their school would be open next year. Crazy.
Blog editorial: In the real world, the PPS system has been know to starve schools. The South Vo Tech High School was known to be on the chopping block for years prior to its actual closure. The stop the fix ups to the building. The good teachers move to other posts, within and beyond the district. The services and support elements are kept back. Recruitment of new students is put into a big fog. When South Vo Tech closed, there were 100 or so kids that were expecting to go into South Vo Tech in a couple of months time. Everyone had to be shifted in two months time. Yank, yank.
Mark Roosevelt on air: Last time when we had to turn a K-5 into a K-8, we did it all in one year. That was tough. That asks a lot. I would not do that now. That will make the transition much easier than it was before.
Blog editorial: Hurray! Let's make this a new Pittsburgh Promise.
On air: The report recomends that we close Peabody and Oliver.
Question: Homewood, gangs and violence. Is that going to move to a "New Westinghouse HS?"
Mark Roosevelt: There are things in this report that I do not agree with. Westinghouse is one choice. More kids in the Peabody feeder pattern go to the IB School than to Peabody.
Blog editorial: There is a great point or two made on the PureReform Blog about this factoid from Mark Roosevelt about feeder pattern kids and Peabody vs. IB. Question, is that fact IB grades 6 to 12 + Schenley vs. Peabody 9-12?
Mark Roosevelt: I think we can create something at Westinghouse that some of the kids in that feeder pattern will choose. Mark Roosevelt is not in favor of a merger of that feeder pattern without a choice.
Mark Roosevelt: When you meet with the kids at Peabody, they don't like what is happening there. They don't like that there isn't enough kids to have a full band.
Blog editorial: Hungry?
Radio host asked most of my question to Mark Roosevelt: Of the 134 kids that started 9th grade at U Prep, only 84 returned to start 10th grade. U Prep kids had extra attention with the new school. The principal didn't return as well. Have the first two years of U-Prep been a bust?
Mark Roosevelt: U-Prep will be a successful school. U-Prep is an accelerated academy and kids are asked a lot while they are there. Some don't like that. When homework isn't done, teachers are on the kids. Some kids don't like that and they'll move to a different setting. Not all kids thrive in that environment, more of a learning academy.
Mark Roosevelt: The principal that departed was a friend. It didn't work out as a match.
Blog editorial: Mark Roosevelt gave a good answer to my question #1 above. Worked for me. He has confidence in the U-Prep School (of course).
Question: What if more families do being to move into the city?
Mark Roosevelt: We are keeping enough extra capacity in all the schools in the future.
Question: How to fight white flight?
Mark Roosevelt: The problem is not just white flight. PPS does have a waiting lists at almost all the magnet schools. A waiting list is at Sci-Tech. Pittsburgh is a urban district and many are in decline, even Houston. Center city population loss is everywhere.
Mark Roosevelt: We are right on the cusp of turning this around. You can feel it. You can hear it. I got 2 emails from families moving into the city earlier. People are latching on to certain schools. CAPA and IB are gems. Sci Tech and U-Prep are coming on.
Why does it take so long to change?
Mark Roosevelt: I am accused of moving too fast.
Griffin: New contract. Huge money. Joking.
Roosevelt: I'll be here for the same time that a student who entered 2nd grade to the time of 12th grade. (?? do the math in superintendent years??)
Mark Roosevelt: We can be an urban school district to take a vast majority of our kids and get them to college readiness standards. Quality teachers in the classroom.
Marty wants an honorary doctor degree. Joke. The district is a work in progress. Over and out.
But, here is the rub in this election, as it was for DeSantis too.
Case in point: In the south neighborhoods, the Motznik sign was planted next to the Ravenstahl sign.
Neither Dok Harris nor Kevin Acklin had any running mates. Mark DeSantis didn't have any either.
The ones at the top of the ticket need others down the ballot. NEED em. Gotta have a team. A winning team would have lots of others with serious skin in the race.
If Kevin or Dok wanted to start a real movement, they would have had people with tight relationships within every school board campaign and in every city council race. Neither had any.
And as a final illustration to this point was a debate question. Kevin Acklin would NOT name one other person who would be in his administration.
Joint appearances are necessary. It takes two or more to tango.
In terms of teamwork (especially in a Pittsburgh political campaign), the opposition has a long way to go.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
The term and standard, "Like New" needs to be fully flushed out. "Like New" is a foundation principle throughout.
We have two cars. One is "like new" and the other is used and older. Both take us where we want to go. One is paid for. The other is not.
I don't think the district needs to have all of its schools in 'like new' condition. That would be great -- if there was some pixie dust somewhere and magic could be deployed. But, getting 'like new' puts the district into a 'dream world.'
We need 'stewardship.'
Now we have something to throw darts at and discuss. Figures the P-G top story headline in today's paper is "15 city schools on chopping block." Thanks for nothing.
The plan calls for the closing of Oliver High School and Peabody High School.
I I was running for mayor, I'd be trying to find North Catholic the land it needs to have a sports fields for its students, locally, so it does NOT move out of the city. What has Luke Revenstahl done to keep North Catholic in the city? Anything? What about Dan Onorato?
Perry High School has been one of the city's best schools in recent times. But, Perry is a city-wide magnet. It is hard to imagine that Perry would be the only public high school on the northern part of the city.
Are downtown charter schools able to service that many kids from the north?
My point isn't to keep Oliver open. But, we do need great other alternatives. Perry, Langley (in the west), other city-wide magnets (I.B., CAPA, engineering at Dice, Robotics at ?, health care at Carrick, auto-body at Brashear) at other PPS schools and North Catholic and charter schools are all options.
Then comes the decisions in the east with Peabody and Reizenstein. This conversation swirls around the votex of Schenley, still closed and still very much at the center of the Muggle solution.
I passed two questions to a board member while last night's meeting was unfolding. I asked him to ask about the thought and weight, be it great, some, or not at all, to the high cost spaces in each building such as auditoriums, gyms, swim pools and grounds that included ball fields. Tennis courts, cafeterias, and places for the band to march are all part of the campus. And these are very importat to me and the health of our students and those schools.
We don't want to grade the building well because its food service area has new freezers, but not enough room to feed the students unless lunches begin to be served at 10 am.
A school with a nice gym can look 'like new' -- except when you figure out that there needs to be six basketball teams (Boys HS Varsity, Boys JV, Boys Jr. High, Girls HS Varsity, Girls JV, Girls Jr. High) and wrestling (matches are held in the gym) with Varsity, JV and Middle School, and open gym for baseball and softball (has to happen in the winter for their pre-season conditioning) and open gym for volleyball (pre-season for boys in the spring). Plus, we've still done nothing for intramural sports nor community sports. Elementrary kids often play in developmental leagues that happen at the high school gyms.
I'm more of a software kinda guy. The hardware isn't as important to me. Bricks and mortar stuff is okay, but I seek to know about the programs that occur there -- coaching, relationships, energy, excitement, teaching, playing, and overall wellness.
The 800 page plan doesn't satisfy what I care to understand about our schools. it isn't a complete picture nor report. Now the heavy lifting has to occur. They did a good job on the easy stuff.
But I worry that there is nobody around who has the muscle to do the next steps. It is hard work to point out what is missing. That's what vision provides.
See the thread at Pure Reform Blog too.
P-G article: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09307/1010355-53.stm
Monday, November 02, 2009
Just back from the meeting and presentation.
Was told that the entire audit from the consultants should now be online at the pghboe.net site.
Two big holes in the plan: academic performances / programs. And, what is NOT there was not seen. So, auditoriums, gym spaces, ball fields, swim pools are still in need of another audit.
Board member R. Taylor did make me smile when he said that the kids need places to play.
But, those holes are what they are and are not blind spots. The evaluation and overall report is heavy. Big data. Big coverage.
Even a doughnut has two holes by design. One is in the middle on the top and the other is in the middle on the bottom.