Pittsburgh Public Schools

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

As students in Pittsburgh and across the state prepare to head back to school, they will be required to comply with a new immunization policy from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board unanimously agreed Thursday that the district needs a committee to create a plan to address what one board member called "an alarmingly high" rate of suspensions.

City education advocates have been pushing the Pittsburgh Public School district to address the high number of suspensions for years. For several months they’ve asked the board to ban suspensions for non-violent offenses for students below sixth grade.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The tension between charter school advocates and those who support traditional schools often comes down to money. Charters are public and funded by tax dollars, but many argue the schools siphon scarce resources.

Last year, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called for an overhaul of the state’s charter school law.

“I am not saying we have the worst charter schools in the United States, " he said. "I am saying we have the worst charter school law in the United States." 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Every day at Urban Academy Charter School in Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood begins with students, teachers, support staff and administrators gathered in the cafeteria.

Mornings start with brief presentations on black history, followed by song: “I Believe I Can Fly,” the black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and once in a while, a little Bruno Mars.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Fourth grade students at Propel Hazelwood gathered in a circle around another student summarizing a class text. As she spoke, each student gave her a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Consultant Brian Burley says his new book YNGBLKPGH (Young Black Pittsburgh) is proof that his community produces a lot of success stories and that the next generation can go even farther.

The book highlights 140 black professionals from the city. Each wrote an open letter to fellow young, black Pittsburghers.

90.5 WESA’s Virginia Alvino Young talked to the author about his book and the social movement Burley says he hopes it will create. 

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Zainab Adisa’s love for writing blossomed in high school, but it took her some time to get there. She spent several years in elementary school in English as a second language classes.

“I thought I was fine, but apparently (teachers) heard what I couldn’t,” she said.

Adisa was born in the United States, but her family immigrated from Nigeria. Her family spoke Yoruba at home, which made learning English challenging, she said. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Sala Udin, Veronica Edwards and Terry Kennedy won seats on the Pittsburgh Public Schools boards Tuesday night, in the only contested board races.

Kennedy, the incumbent District 5 representative, garnered nearly twice as many votes as opponent Ghadah Makoshi.

In District 3, former city councilman Udin beat out opponent James Myers, a Schenley High School grad and outreach coordinator for the Pittsburgh Green Innovators.

And Edwards narrowly defeated incumbent Carolyn Klug for the District 9 seat.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The May 16 primary, in addition to shaping the mayoral race, will be an opportunity for Pittsburghers to cast their votes for members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools board. 

Two races are uncontested and only one has no incumbent as Thomas Sumpter, who represents district three, is not running for re-election.

Chris Stalnaker / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools has aggressively marketed its vacant school buildings for the last five years. It’s sold 13 in that time and put out a request for proposals in January for the remaining nine. The district gave organizations two months to figure out a development plan.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Misbehaving students in Kindergarten through fifth grade would no longer be given out-of-school suspensions under a measure introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

House Bill 715 would require districts to find alternative disciplinary methods for elementary students for anything other than offenses that put the health of students or teachers at risk.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Kenyale Cottingham has always wanted to help people. That’s why she’s training to become a paramedic.

“I feel like saving people’s lives will make everybody happy,” said the Westinghouse High School junior.

Cottingham is one of 15 students receiving paramedic training as part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Career and Technical Education, or CTE, Emergency Response Technology program.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Pennsylvania gets a failing grade for its efforts to protect children from high levels of lead in the water at their schools, according to a report released two weeks ago from Public Interest Research Groups, a national federation of left-leaning, independent nonprofits.

It advises—among other things—that schools install water filters as soon as possible while working on longer-term solutions.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross is leading a fundraising effort to buy lead-filtering water pitchers for families with young children.

She said the city could provide a countertop pitcher to each of Pittsburgh's estimated 25,000 households with a child under age 6 for less than $1 million. She said she hopes private foundations and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority will be able to allocate funding within a month.

Gerry Broome / AP Photo

Updated: 1:53 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, 2017.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools District says it is committed to supporting transgender students and has not changed its nondiscrimination policy following the Trump administration’s move to rescind protections.

alamosbasement/ Flickr

The union representing Pittsburgh Public School teachers is offering resources explaining how they can help immigrant and refugee children whose families are at risk of deportation.  

Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said teachers have asked the union for ways they could support their students.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: Feb. 8, 2016 at 2:17 p.m.

As many as 300 local high school students gathered Downtown and marched to Sen. Pat Toomey's Station Square office Wednesday to voice their displeasure over Department of Education Secretary pick Betsy DeVos.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Emmaline Thompson, 9, danced around the dining room table with her 3-year-old sister and the family’s pitbull as her mom prepared dinner. Her mom, Rebecca Maclean, gathered the kids and made them sit at the table to watch as Emmaline opened a letter from the Pittsburgh Public School District.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A group of 75 teachers, parents and administrators have finished reviewing options for a new literacy curriculum for Pittsburgh Public School Kindergarten through fifth grade students.

Just last month, Angela Allie joined Pittsburgh Public Schools as the Executive Director of Equity. A PPS graduate herself, Allie said she always knew she'd return to the district where she started her education. 

The Pittsburgh native formerly taught English at Oliver High School in the North Side and served most recently as principal of Propel’s Andrew Street High School in Munhall.

She said her focus has always been education justice for traditionally under-served students.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Public Schools has released a request for proposals for the sale and development of nine vacant school buildings and 13 parcels of land. Sale of just the buildings could bring nearly $5 million to the school district's coffers.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

For the third straight year, the Pittsburgh Public School’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a general budget without a tax increase.

Yoshimitsu Kurooka / flickr

A new program aims at rewarding Pittsburgh employers who hire Pittsburgh Promise scholarship recipients.

Councilman Corey O'Connor announced the program on Monday. Businesses that hire Pittsburgh Promise alumni would be eligible for grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000.

Companies must hire a college graduate for full-time employment and retain the employee for at least six months. O'Connor says the money will benefit employers and employees. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A report released Monday from the education advocacy group A Plus Schools found that suspensions and chronic absenteeism continue to be a barrier to learning in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

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.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Every Friday during the school year, Moira Kaleida gathers a group of volunteers at Pittsburgh Montessori School in Bloomfield to fill backpacks with food for students to take home over the weekend.

“We know that 62 percent of kids in Pittsburgh Public Schools are economically disadvantaged, so this came out of the need to make sure kids have food on the weekends,” Kaleida said.

The kids usually get two lunches, two breakfasts and some snacks tucked inside their backpacks.

Traisaun Leake / Hazelwood Youth Media Justice

If a student misbehaves in a Pittsburgh Public School, the administrators are bound by a disciplinary code. But which reactions are punitive? Which are restorative? And what's more likely to help the student and his or her classroom culture?

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.

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