Pittsburgh Public schools approves consultants to 'envision' the future

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Pittsburgh Public Schools board tonight approved spending up to $2.4 million in grant money for consultants to help it "envision" the future.

The Fund for Excellence, a local consortium of foundations, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will each pay $1.2 million to hire FSG, a Seattle firm, to provide "expertise and technical assistance" as the district works on "envisioning a 21st century educational delivery model."

The resolution calls for FSG to provide a "sequenced roadmap, timeline and financial modeling" for implementing a new model over the next three to five years. The contract includes "implementation support" in 2014 and 2015. The contract starts tomorrow and runs through Aug. 3.

The contract amount is not to exceed $2.4 million. Superintendent Linda Lane said the funders did not recommend whom to hire or set conditions on that.

Ms. Lane told the board that the district faces two major challenges: finances and academics.

"We're trying to do this and meet both of these challenges in a context that is dynamic, is complex and is political," Ms. Lane said.

The action came at a special legislative meeting so the plan can get moving as quickly as possible, Ms. Lane said, adding it already had been delayed.

Ms. Lane said that she realized the despite school closings and other cost-savings measures "we haven't solved our financial issue." She also was concerned about how to execute an equity plan in tight financial times and how to keep the efforts to improve teacher quality going.

She said she realized "we're going to do some things differently than we've done in the past and we need to have a way to get there."

She added, "Nobody came in and said you have to do this. Nobody can in and said you have to use this company."

Board member Mark Brentley Sr. criticized Ms. Lane for not selecting local experts.

Mr. Brentley and Regina Holley voted against the proposal.

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


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