Pittsburgh Public School District

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools’ new Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, now a month into the job, said student and teacher input will be essential to the district's strategic plan going forward. 

In an update to the school board Tuesday, he called the first phase of his 90-day transition plan, “a listening tour.”

“We must focus on teacher input and best practices when we consider introducing more research-based, proven models that drive student outcomes,” Hamlet said. “But, you must do this by a bottom-up approach with our best teachers taking a leadership role in the conversation.”

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board approved two contracts with separate consulting groups to help new Superintendent Anthony Hamlet and district staff develop a strategic plan for the next five years.

Ronald Joseph, chief operations officer for the district, said it’s standard practice for a new leader to have an unbiased third-party look at the needs of the organization. He called both contracts – totaling $274,000 – economical solutions for an in-depth analysis and forming a strategic plan.

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Pittsburgh Public Schools board members will decide Wednesday if the district will move forward with a plan to provide social services to students and the communities it serves.

It would follow the community schools model which provides students with equitable access to programs and services like medical care, psychological services, access to a food bank, English as a second language training or work education programs, all in a familiar building: a public school. 

Governor Wolf Administration / Flickr

The Pittsburgh Public Schools board will vote later this month on a policy that would allow nurses and school police to administer the drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, in the event someone on school grounds overdoses from opioids.

US Department of Education / Flickr

A shortage of certified substitute teachers is leading school districts across Pennsylvania to put students in gyms and cafeterias instead of classrooms.

“It’s a crisis,” said state Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), the minority chairman of the Education Committee. 

According to Dinniman, school district officials told the committee that they’ve only been able to fill 70 percent of vacancies because of the lack of certified substitutes. He said the shortage is impacting urban, suburban and rural schools.

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The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board voted against a motion to rescind newly hired Superintendent Anthony Hamlet’s contract Wednesday night after a month of scrutiny over discrepancies in his resume.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

More than half of the 85 registered speakers in an almost four-hour meeting Monday vented to Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education members about new Superintendent Anthony Hamlet.

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Water used for drinking and preparing food at Pittsburgh Public Schools is now being tested for lead.

The Allegheny County Health Department will work with Pittsburgh Public Schools and local water authorities to pinpoint and shut-off dangerous outlets throughout the 70 district facilities. All testing will take place this summer.

Even though there is no federal or state law requiring drinking water to be tested for lead, Pittsburgh Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Ronald Joseph said district officials want to take a proactive approach.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board is expected to review claims that new Pittsburgh Superintendent Anthony Hamlet plagiarized a phrase in his resume and a statement to the press when his appointment was announced, spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

One Pittsburgh Public School is using a grant from the American Federation of Teachers to train students for careers as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The district showcased existing Career and Education Courses to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Monday at Westinghouse Academy in Homewood.

The grades 6-12 school is one of five Pittsburgh secondary schools with CTE programs, boasting disciplines like cosmetology, culinary arts, carpentry, automotive body repair and multimedia production, among others. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools is turning to more progressive methods of discipline, after finding that cut and dry methods, like Zero Tolerance, led to too many suspensions.

Back in the ‘90s, many schools started using those methods as a way to motivate kids to behave.

They put police officers in schools, along with metal detectors. They issued harsh punishments to prevent bigger offenses. 

It became a way of doing things, but opponents say rather than getting students to behave, it was just pushing them out of school. Now administrators shy away from those methods.

Pittsburgh Public Schools / http://discoverpps.org/westinghouse

Middle and high school students from the Wilkinsburg Public School District could be going to Pittsburgh schools next year. 

In a joint move Wednesday night, the Wilkinsburg district announced it will close its grades 7-12 school building and send those 200-plus students to Westinghouse 6-12 next year.  The plan is still pending approval next month by the boards of both districts.

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Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane has announced she will let her contract expire in June 2016 and will not seek an extension. Lane first served as deputy superintendent and spent the last five years in her current role.

Photo: MoD/MOD / Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania law requires school districts train teachers and other staff members to report suspected child abuse, but those laws don't cover every aspect of the growing danger involved with potentially improper contact between district employees and the students they're charged to teach.

“Pennsylvania does not have, at this time, a state law which mandates school district have policies regarding electronic communications.  Many states do,” said Ira Weiss, Pittsburgh Public Schools solicitor.

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Ten percent of children in schools have reported being involved in student-teacher fraternization.  While these interactions have been around for decades, some recent high profile cases have turned a spotlight on the problem.

Charol Shakeshaft, a professor of education leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been studying the subject for more than twenty-five years.  She said through educating students, teachers, and parents, predators can be caught and brought to justice. 

“One in ten kids,” Shakeshaft remarks, “That’s a lot.  And it happens in all kinds of schools.  Don’t kid yourself that it wouldn’t happen in the school district in the town that you live in. It would.”

More than 230 air emission sources and 350 natural gas drilling sites are located within one mile of a school in southwestern Pennsylvania, according to Women for a Healthy Environment.

Charter schools in the commonwealth have grown rapidly. Over a five year period beginning in 2006, enrollment in the state increased by 54 percent, and according to the most recent data, 6 percent of Pennsylvania students now attend a charter school.

But a study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at Penn State has found that charter schools are more racially segregated than their public school counterparts. 

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Public school watchdog group A+ Schools wanted to know what principals in the Pittsburgh Public Schools were doing to help support students, so they asked them.

Carey Harris, A+ Schools Executive Director, said they found that many of the schools – even those with a large number of low-income students – are getting “great results.”

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Seventy years ago this month, Pittsburgh native George Pietropola battled frostbite in the Ardennes Forest during World War II. Just after the war ended, then-Staff Sgt. Pietropola was presented with a Bronze Star for his heroism under fire from February 9th to February 24th. 

"It looked more like a slaughter to me. It was terrible. That was one of the worst things I’d ever seen – that ever happened, all the time I was in the war." - George Pietropola

Flickr user joseph a

Pittsburgh’s City Task Force for Public Education has achieved its primary goal of preventing any school closures for the 2014-15 school year, but City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said there’s still more work for the group to do.

That’s why she is sponsoring legislation to turn the temporary task force into a permanent commission.

The Pittsburgh Public School District has claimed $3 million of $63 million being handed out Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice aimed and increasing school safety efforts nationwide. The grants come through the National Institute of Justice’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative.

A voicemail threat left on a West Liberty Elementary school number has prompted the Pittsburgh Public School District to evacuate West Liberty, South Brook 6-8 and Pioneer.

The voicemail apparently threatens that a sniper would be at the school today. The message was found shortly before school started. Police are investigating the threat.

Thanks to a federal program, all 25,000 students in the Pittsburgh Public School district will be offered free breakfast and lunch for the next four school years.

The district was recently approved to take part in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Community Eligibility Provision contained in the National School Lunch and Breakfast program.

“Students who are healthy and adequately nourished can learn and learn better,” said Curtistine Walker, director of Pittsburgh Public School District Food Services.

Despite its lengthy waiting list, the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park (ECS) was recently denied permission to expand by the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) Board of Directors.

ECS is a K-8 school created in 2008 to provide alternative education with a focus on the environment. According to ECS Director of Innovation and Development Nikole Sheaffer, the school has a yearly waiting list of 400 to 500 students, and sought to expand to serve that demand.

Educators, administrators and parents from across the country are gathering in Cincinnati for the next three days to discover how to best coordinate support services for students and parents beyond the classroom.

About 30 Pittsburghers, including Board of Education members Carolyn Klug and Sylvia Wilson, the city’s chief education officer Curtiss Porter, teachers and representatives of Great Public Schools Pittsburgh are attending the Coalition for Community Schools' annual forum to “learn how they help the children succeed” according to Klug.

Every year, the city of Pittsburgh collects about $10 million in taxes that many members of the Pittsburgh Public School Board feel is rightfully the district’s. 

Now, Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto says he might be willing to send the cash back to the district, but only if the city’s nonprofit sector steps up with a few dollars of its own.

“It has never come up for discussion,” Peduto said, “but that has to happen in conjunction with a long-term commitment from the major nonprofits, because we don’t have enough money to just open up our budget and give anybody money.”

Minority and special-needs students are more likely to be disciplined by being suspended or expelled from schools. That’s according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania: Beyond Zero Tolerance: Discipline and Policing in Pennsylvania Public Schools.

The study’s author, ACLU’s Harold Jordan, aggregated data from the commonwealth’s 500 public school districts on out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and removal by police.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

After Election Day, the Pittsburgh Public School Board will experience its largest turnover since 1999. Four members, including the longest-serving, decided not to seek re-election and will be done after the group’s final November meeting.

Jean Fink has been on the school board since 1976 – with a one-term break in there somewhere. The District 7 member says her reason for not seeking reelection is simple.

“I’m tired” said Fink. “I just turned 69 a couple of weeks ago and it’s just wearing on me all the running around.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Lost in the conversations surrounding education are often the voice of those being educated — the students.

By introducing the Pittsburgh Student Bill of Rights, a group of high school students is trying to make their voice heard and change what they perceive as the notion that they are “just kids.”

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Since the inception of the Pittsburgh Promise, 4,101 students have received college scholarships, and that number will go up to more than 4,600 when scholarships for the class of 2013 are factored in.

With 707 recipients graduated from college, program leaders say the Pittsburgh Promise is having a positive impact on students and the district. The 2013 Report to the Community shows some areas of change, including two demographic shifts.

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