Pittsburgh school finances attract much interest

Three more sessions are slated

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Caleb Coleman, a program manager for a social service agency, understands the financial challenges facing Pittsburgh Public Schools are serious enough that the public can't get the whole cake.

But he wants a slice.

"You need to give us something," said the graduate of Pittsburgh Peabody High School who works for YouthPlaces, which offers after-school programs to high-risk youth.

Mr. Coleman was among about two dozen people -- some from community service agencies, others from the general public -- who participated Tuesday in the first public community conversations around the "Whole Child, Whole Community: Building a Bridge to the Pittsburgh Promise" report issued by the Pittsburgh Public Schools in December.

The report, part of the district's $2.4 million envisioning process, suggested cuts that could yield savings of $17 million to $44 million a year by 2016, depending on which options the board chooses.

The report also suggested new initiatives that combined could have a one-time cost of $3.8 million to $8.7 million and annual recurring costs of $4 million to $9.9 million.

Tuesday's conversations with superintendent Linda Lane and other administrators were hosted by YouthPlaces and the Hill House Association at Blakey Program Center in the Hill District.

Three other sessions, all from 6 to 8:30 p.m., are scheduled:

• Thursday, Trinity AME Zion Church, 3105 Allendale St., Sheraden, hosted by Trinity.

• March 17, East End Cooperative Ministry Community House, Penn Circle North, East Liberty, hosted by Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee, Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition and Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

• March 18, Institutional Church of God in Christ, 302 W. North Ave., North Side, hosted by Christians Investing in Education.

At Tuesday's session, administrators presented portions of the plan dealing with living within the district's budget, investing in student performance and investing in people. Those attending were encouraged to offer their own ideas.

Mark Rauterkus of the South Side, a parent and swimming coach at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12, noted the "Whole Child" report's suggestion that five to 10 schools be closed, consolidated or reconfigured in fall 2015 but did not name them.

Mr. Rauterkus said this has created uncertainty, fear and doubt that can lead to families leaving schools in case they might close.

Mr. Rauterkus is among those who have issued their own reports making suggestions, in his case, about sports. His report can be found at http://CLOH.wikia.com/wiki/Fewer_Sports_Alternatives.

A coalition called Great Public Schools- Pittsburgh recently issued a wide-ranging report that can be found at www.gpspgh.com.

The "Whole Child, Whole Community" report can be found at pps.k12.pa.us/wholechild.

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

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