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.

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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.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

Hi Mark! I'm writing an article that includes Pittsburgh Promise information and discusses the achievement gap between blacks, whites, and low-income students. I'm not really writing about the new tax, but if you think you could share some inside information with me, I would appreciate it.
My email is