90.5 WESA's Essential Pittsburgh

Essential Pittsburgh airs weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. and is repeated at 8 p.m.
Paul Guggenheimer

Essential Pittsburgh is a locally produced program from 90.5 WESA dedicated to developing a deep, ongoing exploration of critical issues affecting Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, as well as featuring community leaders and newsmakers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, healthcare, government and education.

  • Call (412) 246-2002 from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays to participate in the discussion.
  • Dial (412) 256-8783 to leave a question or comment before or after the show.
  • Follow #EPLive on Twitter or tweet your question to @esspgh.
  • Continue the conversation on our station Facebook page.
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  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 
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Government & Politics
12:01 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

FBI Agent Selected As Pittsburgh Public Safety Chief

Mayor Bill Peduto announced Wednesday that he has chosen FBI Special Agent Stephen A. Bucar as the city's new public safety director.

Bucar is currently assigned to the Washington, D.C. FBI office as a Supervisory Special Agent Section Chief in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. Peduto points out that Bucar has experience overseeing the analysis of information associated with domestic and international terrorism at both the federal level and for New York City.

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:55 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Wednesday Rundown: Mayor Peduto on How Pittsburgh Can Be A Model By Modeling Others

Photo of a solar settlement in Germany, tweeted by Bill Peduto
Credit Bill Peduto / Twitter

These topics air Wednesday May 14, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Making Model City Ideas Work for Pittsburgh

Since Bill Peduto was sworn in as mayor he’s done some pretty extensive traveling in order to gather and share ideas for a new Pittsburgh vision. From Chicago, to Washington D.C., to Ludwigsburg Germany, we’ll talk with him about what he’s learning from other cities, and how he’s working with local communities to apply those ideas in Pittsburgh.

Set to Music

Carnegie Mellon Ph. D candidate Ben Tengelsen put his songwriting on hold indefinitely. However, the birth of his son, and motivation from his wife, provided inspiration. The result is the song Allegheny which is featured on a new cd by the a cappella group Vocal Point. One of the members of the group is Jake Tengelsen, Ben’s brother. We’ll meet the Tengelsen brothers and hear their musical collaboration. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:44 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

After 20 Years, PennDOT Evaluates Problems With the Parkway East

Traffic backups are a common occurrence in the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. PennDOT is looking for input on how to improve traffic conditions.
Credit Flickr user daveynin

Negotiating the roads around Pittsburgh isn’t easy. For a long time, one area of contention has been I-376 East.

So the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is now asking for public feedback on traffic conditions for the route known as the Parkway East. PennDOT District 11 Executive, Dan Cessna said this is the department’s first evaluation for the Parkway East in 20 years.

Cessna pointed out how infrastructure and safety impact Parkway traffic flow on a daily basis.  

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:19 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

With Tom Wolf Leading in Polls, Competitors Point to His Political Shortcomings

Tom Wolf is one of four remaining candidates in Pennsylvania's DEmocratic primary race for governor.
Credit Tom Wolf Campaign

In one week, Democratic Party members from across the state will choose their candidate to face Governor Tom Corbett in November’s gubernatorial election.

Last night, the remaining Democratic candidates for governor; state treasurer Rob McCord, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, Katie McGinty and front-runner Tom Wolf faced each other for a final debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Capitol correspondent Mary Wilson covered the debate.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:43 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

A Week-Long Celebration of Small Businesses

Rebecca Harris is the Executive Director of the Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship
Credit Rebecca Harris / Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship

This week is National Small Business Week. Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, discussed the week-long celebration. 

She explained that more than half of all Americans either own or work for a small business, and each year these businesses create two out of every three new jobs in the United States.

“[This week] is really designed to recognize the nation’s top businesses, the entrepreneurs,and really the business advocates. There are a number of activities; there are panel discussions, there are forums, there are workshops, there are webinars,” Harris said.

“It’s a big, big venture and it culminates with the naming of the Small Businessperson of the Year in Washington D.C. at the end of the week.” 

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Essential Pittsburgh
9:40 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Tuesday Rundown: Breaking Down the Gubernatorial Debate

The PA capitol building in Harrisburg
Credit 90.5 WESA

These topics air Tuesday May 13, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Highway Construction

Negotiating the roads around Pittsburgh isn’t easy but, PennDot is asking for citizen input regarding the Parkway East (I-376). Joining us to address the results of an online survey and traffic evaluations, about the future of this stretch of the parkway is PennDOT Dist. 11 Executive, Dan Cessna. He’ll also fill us in on upcoming road construction projects that could cause delays.

Gubernatorial Debate

The remaining Democratic candidates for governor; state treasurer Rob McCord, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, Katie McGinty and front-runner Tom Wolf are taking part in their final debate. The primary election is a week from Tuesday. We'll talk with capitol correspondent Mary Wilson who covered the debate.

WESA Celebrates - University of Pittsburgh's Keep It Real Program 

Many of the students at the University of Pittsburgh’s “Keep It Real” program manage to make time volunteering to help Somali Bantu refugees. This week WESA Celebrates profiles the program in which students tutor and mentor Somali Bantu refugees throughout the Pittsburgh area.

National Small Business Week

According to the Small Business Association more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, which creates two out of every three new jobs in the United States each year. This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the impact of small businesses. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:01 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

What Arts Organizations Across the Country Can Learn From the August Wilson Center

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Downtown Pittsburgh
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

Throughout the last year we’ve heard, and discussed at length, the problems faced by those who wish to save the financially troubled August Wilson Center.

Right now the fate of that facility is in the hands of a judge who may sell the building to pay off the center’s debts.

Janera Solomon, Executive Director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater acknowledged there were missteps that led to the current state of affairs at the August Wilson Center. She is leading a group committed to achieving a vision for the center that will celebrate August Wilson, African American culture, and the city.

She said while the troubles faced by the August Wilson Center are unique for Pittsburgh, when it comes to cultural organizations throughout the country, many struggle in their first 5 to 10 years. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:36 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Remembering Bill Nunn Jr., A Legend in Pro Sports and Racial Integration

Steelers talent scout Bill Nunn Jr.
Credit SteelersGab

Last week saw the passing of a Pittsburgh sports legend. When Bill Nunn, Jr. first started writing for the Pittsburgh Courier in the 1960's, he was not allowed in the press box at Forbes Field. His annual selections for the black All-American football teams were ignored by the struggling Steelers.

Nunn overcame numerous racial barriers during his lifetime. He opened sports reporting for African-Americans and helped turn the perennially awful Steelers into a dynasty during the 1970’s.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Andrew Conte, is writing a book about Nunn and wrote his obituary for the Trib.

Conte said Nunn was a talented athlete who received an offer to try out for the New York Knicks and the Harlem Globetrotters. He decided to follow his father into newspaper reporting, with the hopes of more financial stability, but many barriers.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:18 pm
Sun May 11, 2014

Monday Rundown: A Vision for the August Wilson Center and Remembering Bill Nunn Jr.

Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

These topics air Monday May 12, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

August Wilson Center Recovery Committee

Our guest, Executive Director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Janera Solomon, acknowledges there were missteps that led to the current state of affairs at the August Wilson Center. However, she is leading a group committed to achieving a vision for the center that will celebrate August Wilson, African American culture and the city. She joins us in studio to share her vision for the center’s future.

Remembering Bill Nunn, Jr.

Last week saw the passing of a Pittsburgh legend. Bill Nunn, Jr. was more than a sports reporter for The New Pittsburgh Courier. He was a pioneering journalist who, according to our guest, Pittsburgh Tribune reporter Andrew Conte, was instrumental in "breaking down racial barriers across sports and in American Life." 

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:11 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Climate Change Could Make Pennsylvania's Ecosystems Resemble Alabama

By 2050, Pennsylvania's ecosystems could be vastly different if we don't pass an appreciation for nature along to the next generation.
Credit Tim McCabe/USDA

A national climate change study released earlier this week warns of drastically different climates in the future for the state of Pennsylvania.

The commonwealth is among a number of Northeast states expected to experience heat waves and extreme precipitation.

Cities such as New York have already begun to prepare for climate change effects by installing flood pumps in their subway systems.

John Radzilowicz, Director of Professional Development ASSET STEM education at CMU said, if we don’t start making big changes in industrial pollution policies and even simple conservation changes on a personal level, the Pennsylvania landscape will be completely different by 2050. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:22 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

The Devil's Arithmetic, a Tale of Time Travel and the Holocaust Brought to Life on Stage

Young cast members in the Prime Stage play, The Devil's Arithmetic. From left to right: Victoria Perl as Esther, Lily Lauver as Shifre, Julia Zoratto as Hannah and Megan Krull as Rachel
Credit Rebecca S. Antal / Prime Stage

The Devil’s Arithmetic is an award-winning historical novel about time travel and the Holocaust by author Jane Yolen.

The book has been adapted for the theater by Lancaster, PA resident Barry Kornhauser. This weekend Prime Stage Theater gives the first performance of the adapted play, at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.

The story centers on Hannah, a modern day teenager who is mysteriously transported back to the time of the Holocaust. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
11:04 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Friday Rundown: The Next Generation of Wildlife, in the Face of Climate Change

A NASA satellite image of Hurricane Sandy as it rolled up the Eastern seaboard in 2012 and wreaked havoc on the Mid-Atlantic states.
Credit NASA / Fotopedia

These topics air Friday May 9, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between noon & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Climate Change and the Commonwealth

A national climate change study warns of drastic climates in the future for the state of Pennsylvania. The commonwealth is among states in the Northeast expected to experience heat waves and extreme precipitation. We'll talk with John Radzilowicz, Director of Professional Development ASSET STEM education at CMU.

Climate Change's Impact on Wildlife

From tornadoes to floods, weather events are intensifying and wreaking havoc on the country. What toll have these events taken on wildlife? We’ll pose that question to Ed Perry, Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. We’ll get his reaction to the National Wildlife Federation's new report entitled, Wildlife Legacy: Climate Change and the Next Generation of Wildlife.

The Devil's Arithmetic

Jane Yolen's best-selling young adult novel, The Devil's Arithmetic is a work of historic fiction about time travel and the Holocaust. It's been adapted for the stage by Lancaster resident Barry Kornhauser. The play premieres this weekend with Prime Stage Theater at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side. Kornhauser and Director Lisa Ann Goldsmith talk about how this show is meant to help young people better understand what happened during the Holocaust. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:37 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Going Co-Ed: Seton Hill's Past Plays a Role in Chatham University's Future

Buhl Hall Science Complex is just one of the buildings on Chatham University's campus that will have an increase of male students in its halls in the upcoming years.
Credit Daderot / Wikipedia

    

In the United States, single-sex colleges and universities have seen a steady decline in enrollment over the past few decades.

With fewer students, these institutions are struggling to finance their schools and many have had to change the makeup of the student population.

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Essential Pittsburgh
8:28 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Thursday Rundown: Admitting Undergraduate Men at Chatham and the Coed Transition

Chatham University has a very long history in Pittsburgh, the school was women only for much of that history. But Chatham's board of trustees has voted to admit undergraduate men starting in 2015. We'll talk about the transition plans.
Credit Daderot / wikipedia

These topics air Thursday May 8, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Going Coed, Seton Hill Shares Their Story

In the United States, single-sex colleges and universities have seen a steady decline in enrollment over the past few decades. With fewer students, these institutions are struggling to finance their schools and many have had to change the makeup of the student population.  Due to enrollment difficulties, Seton Hill University officially became coeducational in 2002, opening all academic programs to male students. We’ll talk with Mary Ann Gawelek, Provost and dean of the faculty at Seton Hill University, about what it was like becoming coeducational and the takeaways they have from the experience. 

Transitioning to Coed at Chatham

Last Thursday the Chatham University Board of Trustees approved a three-part resolution which would include the admission of men to the undergraduate community in the Fall of 2015. This would make Chatham completely co-ed for the first time in nearly 145 years. The controversial decision comes as a result of a steady decline in the university’s enrollment and subsequent financial woes. We’ll talk with Bill Campbell, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Chatham University, about how the resolution will affect the school, and the campus community.

Out of State Amusement Parks

People chase their endless summer in different ways. Some visit ballparks, others beaches. A dedicated group of fun seekers visit amusement parks in search of the perfect roller coaster thrill ride. This week, travel contributor Elaine Labalme, suggests some out of state coasters to visit.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:27 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

How Cell Phone Search And Seizure Could Radically Affect Privacy

The United States Supreme Court heard two cases last week involving search and seizure of cell phone information. If determined constitutional, police could use evidence found in the phone during a trial without a warrant.
Credit Jonas Seaman / flickr

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases with outcomes that could have a big impact on the future of information privacy.

These cases question the Fourth Amendment exception, which lets police to search any items on a person at the time of arrest, including cell phones.

Yet many argue that cell phones should be treated differently. University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris explained why many say cell phones are more akin to a diary than a wallet and should require a warrant for search and seizure.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:12 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Why Pittsburgh's Theater Scene Is Ideal For A Fringe Festival

A French circus performer advertises an upcoming fringe show in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Credit Kim Traynor / wikipedia

In 1947, eight theater companies in Scotland were not invited to the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival.

Instead of going home, the companies set up on the outer edges of the festival, where they could take advantage of the large crowds and showcase their alternate brand of performance. Since then, these “fringe festivals” have expanded across the globe.

Dan Stiker had long dreamed of bringing a fringe festival to the Steel City, and this year that dream has become a reality as Pittsburgh stages its inaugural Fringe Festival.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:36 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Wednesday Rundown: The Future of Cell Phone Privacy

What are your rights when it comes to the police searching your phone data?
Credit Highways Agency / Flickr

These topics air Wednesday May 6, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. 

Join the conversation between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. 

Cell Phone Searches

How private is the data on your cell phone? Most smartphones hold a large amount of personal data, and last week the US Supreme Court heard two cases with outcomes which could have a big impact on the future of information privacy. University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris explains the issues these cases raise with regards to privacy.

Fringe Festival Comes to Pittsburgh

Across America cities and towns are recognizing the value of the arts in boosting the economy. Fringe Festivals, which began in Edinburgh, Scotland are showing up in more in U.S. cities. This year marks the first Pittsburgh Fringe Festival. Joining us with details about this cultural event is Dan Stiker, founder & executive artistic director of the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival.

To leave a voicemail before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here

Essential Pittsburgh
6:18 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

With a Raise in the Minimum Wage, Where Would Businesses Find the Money?

What approaches can be taken to improve wages for restaurant employees and keep customers?
Credit LetsGoDine.com

Last Wednesday, the US Senate voted down a proposal by President Obama to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.

Many contend that such a steep raise would cripple job growth and small businesses. Others say more money and spending power for workers would be a boost for the economy overall. 

Art Helms, a Wendy’s employee and member of One Pittsburgh has been organizing for fair pay and a union for fast food workers in Pittsburgh.

He said he makes less than $10 per hour and has worked for Wendy’s for 27 years. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:08 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

From Politics to Consumerism, The Business of Mother's Day

Credit Etsy ketsy / flickr

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson’s presidential decree that made Mother’s Day a national holiday, and in that time it has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending in the United States and around the globe.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris points out that Mother’s Day was not always about gift-giving. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
10:00 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Tuesday Rundown: Small Business and the Minimum Wage

How would a raise in the minimum wage affect workers and small business owners, particularly in Pittsburgh's restaurant industries?
Credit MattFour / Flickr

These topics air Tuesday May 6, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.  

The Small Business Impact of a Higher Minimum Wage

Last Wednesday the US Senate voted down a proposal by President Obama to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Many contend that such a steep raise would cripple job growth and small businesses. Others say more money and spending power for workers would be a boost for the economy overall.

We’ll talk about how a higher wage might take a toll on small business or offer a boost, with Alex Halper, Director of Government Relations for the PA Chamber of Business & Industry, and Art Helms, a Wendy’s employee and member of One Pittsburgh who is organizing for fair pay and a union for fast food workers. We’ll also get small business owner perspectives from Sonja Finn, Chef and Owner of Dinette restaurant and bar in East Liberty and Chris Dilla, owner of Bocktown Beer & Grill.

WESA Celebrates – Mary Savage

The former community relations director at the Carnegie Library in Homewood is profiled in this week’s WESA Celebrates. We’ll discover how she’s worked to make Homewood a better, and more colorful, place resulting in being identified as “the Flower Lady.”

The Business of Mother’s Day

Mom’s special day is this Sunday. From cards to candy to flowers, this week, contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of Mother’s Day.

Essential Pittsburgh
5:32 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Net Neutrality 101 and What's at Stake With the FCC Ruling

Earlier this year a federal appeals court struck down key provisions of the FCC’s net neutrality rule causing concern over internet users' accessibility.
Credit Lindsey Turner / Flickr

Net neutrality, the concept used when we talk about the importance of a free and open internet has an uncertain future. Recent rule changes from the Federal Communications Commission may alter the way internet service providers offer access to consumers. 

Orion Czarnecki is an internet security consultant who breaks down the concept of net neutrality.

"When a consumer would increaser or request any type of traffic over the internet, whether its video, a website, email, that traffic is treated by their internet provider as equal. No traffic is favored over another type of traffic. So a video from Netflix is not favored over a video from YouTube. A webpage request at CNN is not favored over a webpage request from MSNBC." 

But this concept has changed with a new ruling from January of this year.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:50 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Responding to Bad Behavior in Professional Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers protest the racist comments made by their owner by wearing their shooting shirts inside out.
Credit Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

After racist remarks from L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling were published online, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life from the NBA and fined him $2.5 million.

Veteran AP sports editor and journalist John Affleck, a Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society at Penn State talked about how far sports leagues should go to clean up bad behavior, not only by owners, but coaches and players.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:57 pm
Sun May 4, 2014

Monday Rundown: Preserving a Free and Open Internet

Credit Seeweb / Flickr

These topics air Monday May 5, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

New Rules for Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is the concept used when we talk about the importance of a free and open internet. But recent changes from the Federal Communications Commission may change the way service providers provide access to consumers. Orion Czarnecki is an internet security consultant who can break down the concept of net neutrality, the new rules, and what's at stake.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:43 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Life of Learning: A Deeper Look In Innovative Education

Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy teacher Matt Ferrante works with sixth grader Hunter Bash during a recent school day. Ferrante, who teaches music technology, said unlike some other schools where he’s taught, he never feels peripheral at SciTech.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

From flipped classrooms to blending the arts and sciences, what does it take to bring innovative approaches to the classroom?

Technology and innovation are being utilized as teaching methods by several school districts in the greater Pittsburgh area. This innovation has been recognized as the Pittsburgh area recently received the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards in New York and was the only city to get the award.

The Flipped Classroom Approach

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:18 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Friday Rundown: A Deeper Look at Local Innovation in Education

Innovations in education can be as simple as a return to elective courses such as this construction technology class at Sto-Rox High School.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

These topics air Friday May 2, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Life of Learning Innovation Special

From flipped classrooms to blending the arts and sciences, what does it take to bring innovative approaches to the classroom? As part of 90.5 WESA’s Life of Learning Initiative we’ll explore how technology and innovation are being utilized as teaching methods. Our guests include Dr. Bart Rocco, superintendent of the Elizabeth Forward School District, Dr. Bille Rondinelli, superintendent of South Fayette School District and Dr. Lynne Schrum, Dean, College of Education and Human Services at West Virginia University.

To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here

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