Education

We cover how our residents are growing and learning, starting from pre-K, through higher education, and beyond, into adulthood. 

Coverage of education in western Pennsylvania on 90.5 WESA is supported by a generous grant from
The Grable Foundation.

Yoshimitsu Kurooka / flickr

A western Pennsylvania school district has averted a teachers' strike after an overnight bargaining session resulted in a tentative contract.

Teacher in the Greensburg-Salem School District has planned to strike Wednesday morning, halting classes for nearly 3,000 students in this district 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Pine-Richland School District Asks Judge To Dismiss Bathroom Policy Suit

Nov 15, 2016
Toby Talbot / AP

 

A western Pennsylvania school district wants a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by three transgender students challenging a rule requiring students to use either unisex restrooms or those corresponding to their biological sex.

The Pine-Richland High School students, two who now identify as female and one who identifies as male, sued in October.

They contend the district let students use restrooms based on their gender identities until the school board changed the practice in September until it can adopt a formal policy.

Homewood - Brushton YMCA Opens Creative Youth Center

Nov 14, 2016
Marcus Charleston / WESA

Giordan Dixon, 16, stuck to his script at the new Homewood – Brushton YMCA on Bennett Street in Homewood South.

“I want to be a singer and a music producer,” he said, guiding small tours.

Joshua Rice / Pittsburgh Public Schools

Many of Tim Mielke’s students are too young to remember previous presidential elections.

The ninth grade social studies teacher at Taylor Allderdice High School said his challenge this year has been explaining the unique aspects of this election by comparing it to previous election cycles.

Allderdice was one of 13 local high schools that participated in a mock election organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Black Pittsburgh Public students are far behind their white counterparts regardless of economic status, according to a report from Greenways Strategy Management.

Lead consultant Martha Greenway told school board members this week that the disparity was the most critical issue the district faces.

Nationally, there isn’t often a gap in achievement between black and white students who are economically disadvantaged, she said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

 

 

Classes have resumed for more than 100,000 students who attend Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities.

Rich Copeland / WITF

  The union representing striking professors at 14 Pennsylvania state universities says it has reached a tentative contract agreement and is ending its walkout, now in a third day.

The strike had disrupted classes for over 100,000 students.

Professors walked off the job Wednesday after the union turned down what the university said was its last contract offer.

Union spokeswoman Kathryn Morton said Friday it had made concessions on salary and benefits in return for the university system withdrawing proposed contract changes faculty had opposed.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools students are graduating from high school at lower rates than the national average, according to state and national reports.

Matt Rourke / AP

 

Penn State's former president says he issued a statement calling criminal charges against two of his lieutenants groundless because he'd known and worked closely for them for 16 years.

Graham Spanier testified Thursday in the defamation and whistleblower lawsuit against the university by former assistant football coach Mike McQueary.

Spanier compared former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director

Tim Curley to Boy Scouts, saying they had a history of being completely straightforward with him.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

 

Professors, students and supporters are taking to picket lines at state universities around Pennsylvania, including dozens at Slippery Rock University.

Matt O'Brien / AP

Two Pittsburgh area school districts—one thought of as affluent, the other, not so much—are partnering to tackle a common problem for young children from poor families:  a huge disparity, not just in financial resources but also in vocabulary.

“We’re looking at how we can really reduce the 30 million word gap,” said Megan Cicconi, the director of instructional innovative leadership in the Fox Chapel School District.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

In a time of shrinking school budgets, arts education sometimes takes a back seat to academics. In order to introduce students to arts not often taught in schools, the Pittsburgh Promise hosted a series of immersive dance and music classes taught by local artists.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public officials have installed between three and six water bottle filling stations in each the district's 54 schools after finding 141 water fixtures texted positive for elevated levels of lead.

Plum Borough School District

  A western Pennsylvania school board is preparing to release a report on how administrators handled reports and rumors that teachers were having sex with students.

The Plum School board has moved its Tuesday night meeting to the junior high school to accommodate a larger-than-normal crowd.

Flickr user hradcanska

A group of Pine-Richland school district alumni is planning to protest the district’s transgender bathroom policy at tonight’s school board meeting.

In early September, the board passed a resolution requiring students to use either the bathroom that matches their biological sex or a unisex bathroom.

But Molly Steadman, who is organizing the protest, said that policy is akin to the “separate but equal” doctrine that kept public schools legally segregated until 1954.

Duquesne University

 

Law school dean and legal scholar Ken Gormley has taken the helm as president of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

The 61-year-old lawyer and professor was installed Thursday as the 13th president of the 137-year-old private, Catholic school.

Gormley was hired as a law professor at Duquesne in 1994 after first teaching at the University of Pittsburgh and practicing privately. He's been dean of the law school since 2010.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

An audience of about 50 people watched uncomfortably as a man named Jon confessed he raped a girl in high school.

The confession was actually part of a scene in the play, “Tape,” a story about sexual assault, performed at the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The play follows the character Jon’s confession to his friend, Vince, that he raped a woman 10 years earlier. In the play, the two men both dated the woman, Amy, in high school.

Canon McMillan School District

  A public school cafeteria worker has quit over what she considers a "lunch shaming" policy in one western Pennsylvania school district.

Stacy Kotiska says she quit last week after she had to take a hot lunch away from a child because their parent had fallen more than $25 behind in paying for his school lunches.

The Canon-McMillan School District enacted the policy to deal with a backlog of about 300 parents who owed tens of thousands of dollars. Now fewer than 70 parents owe money, and the district says the policy isn't meant to shame students.

Michael Conroy / AP

When the for-profit college ITT Technical Institute ceased operations this month, officials at the Community College of Allegheny County decided to help.

“This is a group of people who are just blindsided by this, they have an interest in moving forward and maybe we can help,” CCAC Provost Stuart Blacklaw said.

Blacklaw said CCAC has several programs similar to ones offered at ITT.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools students are getting hands-on education for careers in emergency medical services, firefighting and the police force this year.

Students from across the district can take the course at Westinghouse Academy in Homewood. Fifteen are enrolled this year. City and school officials said the hands-on training will help prepare a new class of workers and could help to diversify the city’s police force and fire departments.

Longitude Latitude / Flickr

Residents of the Hill District, Uptown and West Oakland will soon qualify for a free course that could help lead to union jobs through the Community College of Allegheny County. The course will help those seeking a union apprenticeship refresh the math skills needed for an interview.

A grant from Pittsburgh Mercy's foundation McAuley Ministries will cover a minimum of 15 students’ $109 course fee.

CCAC’s Vice President for Workforce Development, Teresa Bryant, said the grant comes at a time when union jobs, such as construction, are in higher demand in the region.

AP

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled a virtual charter school in Pennsylvania should be classified as a private corporation, not a public institution. The decision only directly impacts that one school, but it could have farther-reaching legal implications.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

About 200 Wilkinsburg-area teens started school at Westinghouse Academy in Homewood on Monday.

Teachers and community members lined Westinghouse's entrance, cheering, “Good morning, we’re glad you’re here. Have a good day! Have a good school year!”

They wanted to help ease the merger of Wilkinsburg and Westinghouse, they said.

Ernest Bey, a member of Wilkinsburg community group Mad Dads, which works to keep youths out of trouble, held a sign reading, “Don’t forget your past, look forward to your future.”

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA


The Wilkinsburg School District has seen a high turnover in leadership in the last several years. It’s on the state’s watch list for low academic performance which, combined with declining enrollment, led to the closure of its middle and high school in May. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A group of middle-schoolers sat quietly at their tables in South Fayette Intermediate School this past June, while getting some last minute programing and building instructions from teacher Michael Lincoln. He was all that stood between them and a pile of still-boxed, black drones.

Lincoln, who usually teaches at Avonworth Middle School, encouraged the kids: “Use everything you’ve learned,” he said. “Don’t just start doing things. Think before you do.”

 

Faculty at Pennsylvania's 14 state universities are scheduled to vote on whether to authorize a strike next month.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties announced Thursday that faculty will vote on the campuses from Sept. 7-9 and members of the coaches belonging to the union will vote a week later.

Union president Kenneth Mash says its members don't feel the state system has negotiated fairly.

The State System of Higher Education says it wants to reach a fair contract but noted the system's financial strains.

WITF

 

All schools remain closed in a Cumberland County district while work continues to clean mold from the buildings. 

The school superintendent says East Pennsboro Area Middle School, East Pennsboro Elementary and West Creek Hills Elementary will be closed until Tuesday.

Air quality tests found elevated levels of spores in the Middle School and West Creek Hills school.

They'll be cleaned over the weekend. 

The first week back to school was thwarted after mold was found on ceiling tiles at the high school.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Students in Pittsburgh’s hilltop neighborhoods will go back to school in a fully renovated building next week.

The 78,000-square-foot property that housed the former Philip Murray Elementary in Mount Oliver is now home to the newly-upgraded Arlington Elementary.

In the school’s old location, a half-mile away from the new one, its students were housed in two buildings that had fallen into disrepair, Arlington K-8 Principal Holly Ballard said.

Humphrey's and Partners Urban Architecture

The Pittsburgh Public Schools board plans to lessen the tax burden for a New-York based developer to build a high rise apartment building in Oakland.

The developer, Park 7, plans to turn several properties on Centre Avenue from North Craig to North Dithridge into a 17-story mixed use development with 14 floors of residential space.

Emma Lee / WHYY

 

With its new student-weighted school funding formula, Pennsylvania took a big step forward this year to begin to correct decades of inequities.

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