Pittsburgh schools superintendent gives preview of envisioning plan


Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane tonight gave a sneak preview of the envisioning plan she is scheduled to release Wednesday when she gives a state-of-the-district presentation.

While many details are yet to be revealed, the presentation to the board proposed closing, consolidating or reconfiguring five to 10 schools. So far, Ms. Lane has proposed closing the district's smallest school, Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5 on the Lawrenceville-Bloomfield border, and the board has begun the public comment process on that.

Ms. Lane said the report Wednesday will not name any schools but the schools of concern are ones that are "very small" but not necessarily the smallest. She said there are other factors to consider, such as where the students would go.

"It's more complicated," she said.

Ms. Lane and board president Thomas Sumpter emphasized that this is not a final plan but is open to discussion by the board and the community.

For the envisioning process, the district is spending $2.4 million on consultants paid for by foundation money. The goal is to address both financial and academic challenges.

The information shared last night largely mirrored a report given to the board last month.

It suggests increasing high school class size, having some high school teachers teach more classes and reducing the number of high school periods while keeping the length of the school day the same.

It proposes making personnel reductions in central office, fewer sports, less school cleaning, and slower technology and textbook replacements.

Bus schedules could change, and all high school students except those at Pittsburgh Brashear could ride the Port Authority buses.

Some special education students who are served in regional classrooms would be moved to their feeder school, a change Ms. Lane said is more driven by the state Department of Education than by the "modest" savings in transportation.

The recommendations in the report will fall under four areas: improve fiscal sustainability; investment in people, culture and structures; refocusing on milestones; and partnering with the community in a new way.

The report will include milestones for academics as well as developmental skills and habits.

The academic milestones are kindergarten readiness; third-graders reading on grade level; algebra readiness; and graduates who are ready to receive the Pittsburgh Promise postsecondary scholarships and ready for college and careers.

Some developmental milestones are characteristics such as self-regulation, motivation and citizenship.

Some board members questioned some of the suggestions. Regina Holley thought feeder schools may be overburdened if regional special education classrooms are closed. She also expressed concerns that large groups of students may congregate Downtown if they take PAT buses.

Board member Mark Brentley Sr. said he wanted the board to agree on a plan and then have it presented to the public. He also wants any plan to include ways to increase revenue, such as by selling certain services.

Ms. Lane said there is a revenue-generating portion of the report.

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

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