Lane presents state of the district for Pittsburgh Public Schools

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At the first state of the district presentation tonight, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane called for all hands on deck to tackle academic and financial problems facing the district.

"We have to solve both problems at the same time," she told an audience of district and school administrators, school board members, parents and community members at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 Downtown.

She also said, "We are definitely going to have to think differently. We want to engage our community, our board and parents around what are some ways we can solve this problem.

"It may involve some priority setting. We may not be able to do every single thing."

She said the district will have to look at everything.

"It could be that we look at something and say, no, we reject that [idea]. We don't have support for that. We're not going to do that. But I do believe we have to talk about everything."

Ms. Lane said the district's efforts to improve the effectiveness of teachers is critical to academic success.

She said the district also is working to foster more parent engagement, including paying teachers to encourage parent involvement in a school.

"We absolutely need the support of our parents, but I have to say, whether we get that or not, we still have a responsibility to educate children," she said.

The district this week released a $521.8 million proposed preliminary budget for 2013 while warning the deficit is growing so much that the district is expected to run out of money in 2015 if changes aren't made.

District officials also have been disappointed in the results on the latest Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests.

The session was streamed live and can be viewed on the Internet at www.stateofthedistrict.org.

Questions also were submitted -- and can still be submitted -- on Twitter with the hashtag #ppsprogress.

Ms. Lane said tonight was her first Twitter experience.

The session was moderated by Lynne Hayes-Freeland of KDKA-TV.

It included panelists Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise; Kiley Krizan, a Pittsburgh Perry High School teacher who is on the Teacher Advisory Council for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Pam Little-Poole, a parent who is a family and community organizer for A+ Schools; and Pedro Noguera, an urban sociologist at New York University who is a consultant for the district.

Ms. Little-Poole, who said she is the parent of three black males, said she is concerned about schools that have high concentrations of black students who are not performing well. She also is concerned about a low graduation rate among black males.

She said there are nine schools with small racial achievement gaps in reading and seven in math.

"What I want to know is what those principals and teachers are doing to create a culture of achievement," she said.

Mr. Noguera said, "The potential is here. When I came, I was impressed by the ability of people in leadership to explain what they were doing, what the strategy was. All of it struck me as cutting edge, what the research says we should be doing to move the system forward.

"The more I get to know the system, the more I get to see people work, I see gaps."

He said some of those gaps are "between what people say and what's actually happening."

He said teachers need to be shown what an excellent teacher looks like and leadership needs to work together.

Ms. Lane noted a collaborative effort to reach a teacher contract and work on the teacher effectiveness program.

"When we get pressed, we do it," she said.

Ms. Krizan noted a new teacher evaluation system provides constructive feedback.

"We're actually being able to grow as teachers," she said.

From her national experience, she said, "We are truly leading the way in many, many ways in this district."

Mr. Ghubril noted that 3,800 city school graduates have received Pittsburgh Promise scholarships and have gone on to have a strong retention rate in college and trade schools.

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Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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