For the first time since he joined the district 3 1/2 years ago, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt is summoning all teachers, aides, principals and other academic administrators to a joint in-service program today.
Mr. Roosevelt wants to thank the 3,700 employees for their cooperation as he's closed and reconfigured schools, implemented new curricula and taken other steps intended to improve the district's academics and finances.
With all instructional personnel in one place for the first time during his tenure, he'll also take the opportunity to explain how the pieces of his improvement campaign fit together and why he's happy with the results so far. Scores on state reading and math tests were up in many areas last school year.
"I guess I'm apologizing that I haven't done it before," Mr. Roosevelt said of the joint meeting.
The session will be he held from 8 to 10:30 a.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. Shuttle buses will transport teachers to and from the meeting.
There are no classes for the district's 26,650 students today, a professional development and clerical day for teachers, marking the end of the first semester.
To encourage his troops, Mr. Roosevelt has arranged an appearance by John Deasy, deputy director of education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and former superintendent of the Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland.
"We asked him to speak because he is highly credible on multiple levels," Mr. Roosevelt said.
Dr. Deasy is credited with improving test scores and narrowing achievement gaps in Maryland's second-largest district, which has faced some of the same academic problems as Pittsburgh. He used some of the same strategies that Pittsburgh is using, too, such as incentive pay for employees and data to fine-tune instruction.
He said he'll tell Pittsburgh's instructional corps that an academic revitalization is "not an easy task, but do-able" and that the district has the resources needed to accomplish the task.
He cited the district's relatively small class sizes, decision to put academic coaches in every building and the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program. In Maryland, he noted, "We didn't have the Promise."
Dr. Deasy said he'll allude to the Steel City's pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution and tell teachers that they have a role to play in a "second level of transformation," a national campaign to make all children ready for college and a high-tech workforce.
"I believe the brawn needed this time is the brawn of courage to do this," he said.
Also speaking will be Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President John Tarka; Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Promise; and Franco Harris, chairman of the Promise board. Mr. Tarka said it's fitting that the district pause to thank the teachers and aides for their efforts.
"I'm pleased to have an opportunity to share that message," he said.
Mr. Roosevelt is not the first superintendent to have a large-scale in-service program. His predecessor, John Thompson, liked to begin the school year with an employee rally at Mellon Arena.
Joe Smydo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548.