Pittsburgh's grad ratesEdit

How does Pittsburgh stack up with other cities when it comes to high school graduation rates?

Portland, Ore.: 77 percent

San Francisco: - 76 percent

San Diego: - 64 percent

Pittsburgh: 64 percent

San Antonio: - 59 percent

Philadelphia: - 58 percent

Houston: - 56 percent

Denver: - 56 percent

Dallas: - 54 percent

Boston: - 52 percent

Minneapolis: - 52 percent

Los Angeles: - 51 percent

Chicago: - 50 percent

St. Louis: - 50 percent

Atlanta: - 49 percent

Baltimore: - 48 percent

Milwaukee :- 45 percent

Cleveland: - 45 percent

New York: - 43 percent

Detroit: - 42 percent

Sources: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, RAND Corp.


The dropout delimmaEdit

By Andrew Johnson, TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Friday, July 21, 2006

Will Rogers, McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, Peter Jennings, Frank Sinatra, Tom Cruise and, somewhat more believably, Jessica Simpson and Kevin Federline were all high-school dropouts.

It's definitely not a PC way of looking at America's growing high school dropout rate, especially with the world as competitive as it is, but dropping out has not meant a death knell for everyone's future.

Pittsburgh's school board recently reacted as though a stink bomb had been unleashed in a school hallway when the RAND Corp. said Pittsburgh's dropout rate was roughly 35 percent. It's not close to being the worst nationally, but it's hardly something to shout about.

Perhaps encouraging is that many of Pittsburgh's dropouts have still made good -- some very good -- without the most basic of educational degrees.

Pittsburgh hair salon king, Philip Pelusi, didn't go past the 10th grade. Today he has 13 salons in the area, a line of hair products and the kind of life many dream of, spending time at both his home in Union Square in New York City and his beautiful home on the South Side, a converted Serbian Orthodox Church.

Pelusi, 64, said dropping out of school when he did, in the late 1950s, at 16, was traumatic because almost no one he knew in his neighborhood of Bloomfield quit school.

"I fell into an old trap of playing pool all day, and trying to be cool," playing drums in rock 'n' roll bands, and "finding girls," Pelusi said. "It was considered very negative, and you felt like a failure."

Pelusi couldn't go to any of the New York fashion schools, like he wanted to, because they all required high school diplomas. So he enrolled in the Pittsburgh Beauty Academy, which was fine with his 10th-grade education from Central Catholic High School in Oakland.

Pelusi opened his 13th salon in the Pittsburgh area last year in Robinson Town Centre.

"What's high school got to do with anything?" asked Dominic Gigliotti Sr., CEO and general managing partner of Gigliotti Holdings in Wexford. Gigliotti, 57, a North Hills developer who lives in Treesdale, left school after sixth grade. He was 15 at the time, having moved from Italy with his father to Greenfield.

"It's all about the drive in your heart that makes you do what what you want to do," said Gigliotti, who quickly graduated from fixing shoes Downtown to shoe repair shop owner; then developer.

Like yesteryear, there is a sense of autonomy embedded in today's dropouts' decision to leave school, although some have grown to regret it.

Shonte Williams, 18, of Hazelwood, feels bad about her decision to leave Brashear High School last year, saying she misses the social touchstones and that she disappointed her father.

"I wish I had stayed for the prom and graduation," Williams said. "He wishes I could have done better than he did," she said, of her father, who also dropped out of high school and is a sanitation worker in Washington, D.C.

Williams received her General Equivalence Degree with the help of the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Center this May. Today she goes to ICM School of Business & Medical Careers in Downtown, studying to become a medical assistant. She said that is what she wanted to do anyway.

"I think it was better that I dropped out, I think it started my career earlier," said Williams, who lives with her mother, and son Carlos, 1.

But Matthew Krill, 19, of Spring Hill, said, "getting a job is pretty hard," as a dropout.

Krill left Perry Traditional Academy in 2001, before finishing the 10th grade, because he said, "I couldn't do the work, I couldn't stay focused, I couldn't keep up."

Krill has worked at Giant Eagle and Family Dollar since dropping out, and said he missed a chance to be an assistant manager at Giant Eagle because he didn't have a degree.

He took his GED test last month and is waiting to hear if he passed.

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