Summary: It was a joke. Edit
On July 9, 2002, the Grable Foundation, The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation made extraordinary news by stabbing the backs of the kids in the city with the suspending of promised funding to the Pittsburgh Public School District. The district counted upon the promised funds. The efforts at the schools went up in smoke on many fronts.
The decision to leave the district in a lurch was made because of a sharp decline of governance, leadership and fiscal discipline in the city's public schools, so said the foundation community. The $3.5 million in funding was withheld because of a lack of confidence that funds would be used wisely -- and to the maximum benefit of students.
Although Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy has no jurisdiction over the city's public schools, the foundations called on him to take action. He responded by appointing a Commission on Public Education, which had few meeting in its nine months of operation. None of the meetings had any minutes.
The group claimed to examine three areas: school finances, school governance and student performance. The Commission comprises civic leaders, business officials, university educators, lawyers, union members and parents, as well as representatives of the three foundations.
The commission was a front so that appointed school board members would take over the district, rather than elections and democracy.
Reactions from Mark Rauterkus Edit
Mark Rauterkus Mark@Rauterkus.com 108 South 12th Street Pittsburgh, PA 15203-1226
412-298-3432 = cell
Open Letter Key Communicators with the PPS
Dear Fellow Key Communicators and Concerned Citizens,
The Mayor’s Commission on Public Education issued a report this week -- something I’ve called ‘pond scum.’ In my not so humble opinion -- we, the citizens and parents, need to organize quickly and make a measured reply and response to the commission and the media.
The kids and volunteers (as well as others watching this madness now and for the years to come) need to witness and come to know that we are not happy. They need to know that we will work to not only set the record straight -- but work to uphold quality of life issues.
A measured response is necessary in the days ahead -- not weeks or month to come. We need to act quickly.
This media response needs to be much more than a few ‘letters to the editors’ or ‘talk-show rants.’ The put news throughout the Post-Gazette - and on the front page. The media is waiting for our reply and will allow for this story to turn into a healthy debate.
I think the best response from Dr. Thompson, the elected board, principals and staff is “NOTHING.” The scrap that is yet to come can be with the Key Communicators. I want to carry the burden and headaches of a tangle to ourselves so the school people can keep about their business in the care for our children and educational missions.
Perhaps the best way to proceed it to have three planning meetings. If you can attend any one meeting, then you’d be able to have a spot on the agenda for the press event. Then we’d have a reply in the middle of next week with a press event. All meetings could be held at Connelley, perhaps, or else another PERC. Or, perhaps South High School’s cafeteria might be available.
I’d love to get a bit of a boost from the School officials -- in getting the initial call out to the various schools, getting the building permits, and opening up a back-channel email flow of info for those who are willing to contribute ideas.
Mark Rauterkus mark@Rauterkus.com
Mayor's Commission on Public Education wraps up, but members seek to continue mission
Thursday, November 20, 2003 By Jane Elizabeth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Members of the Mayor's Commission on Public Education, who nearly two months ago released an intensely critical report on the city's schools, already said their goodbyes to each other at a recent farewell party.
But they're still seeking to keep their work alive, primarily through a "citizens alliance" currently being recruited from the Pittsburgh area.
Two task force members appeared at a forum last night at the University of Pittsburgh that was sponsored by the Pitt School of Public Affairs and Amizade, a service learning organization.
The planned alliance will "speak for all those people who can't speak for themselves," said Rosalyn Guy McCorkle, an attorney and a member of the leadership committee of the mayor's commission.
While the makeup of the group hasn't been decided, commission members are "looking for diversity," said Carey Harris, former executive director of the South Side Local Development Co. and a member of the school funding committee of the commission.
"The alliance will hopefully be a body that looks like Pittsburgh," she told the small gathering at David Lawrence Hall, and would be asked to "push for a [school] reform agenda."
Mayor Tom Murphy put together the 37-member commission last year after growing complaints about Pittsburgh Public Schools' leadership and academic quality. The group, split into three committees, spent more than a year working on recommendations that were released in September.
The 144-page report calls for the school board to be appointed by the mayor, the closing of several schools and a 2 mill tax cut that would reduce the district's $82 million reserve fund, which the commission considered too fat.
Executive director Eloise Hirsh said this week that the advocacy group likely wouldn't be created until after the new school board is sworn in next month.
Patrick Dowd, a teacher who unseated longtime board member Darlene Harris in this year's election and will take his seat next month, was a panelist at last night's event.
He noted that while he wasn't opposed to the commission's call for an appointed school board, it should be considered "only if we fail. But not now. Now we have a chance to move forward; let's do it."
He said that progress has been made in the weeks following the release of the report.
"Can you imagine this forum happening two years ago?" he said. "I can't."
(Jane Elizabeth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1510.)