Monday, December 3, 2007

Monday: Things You Should Know By Now

Something called a Green Summit is coming to Pittsburgh in February. (P-G, Rich Lord)

In Mr. Peduto's idea of a green city, those who walked or biked to work might get incentives. People who drove hybrid cars or carpooled might get reduced rates in city garages, or preferred spaces.

Residents could garden on vacant lots, using compost made from city-collected vegetable waste. Schools would have botanical "green roofs" that reduce storm water runoff.

Recycling receptacles would dot parks and public places, and often-ignored rules requiring companies to separate out their bottles, cans and paper would be enforced.

Mr. Peduto could be settling in for a long, comfortable tenure as the Councilor Who Greened The Bejeezus Out Of Pittsburgh.


Meanwhile, Jeremy Boren and Peduto team-up to bodyslam Luke Ravenstahl on the issue of street sweeping (Trib, Jeremy Boren).

Pittsburgh has 14 street sweepers -- half of which don't work -- and nine sweeper operators to cover 16 daily routes. City law requires parking enforcement agents to shadow the street sweepers to ticket illegally parked vehicles. The Pittsburgh Parking Authority, however, only has six such agents.

Sounds about right.

Part of the problem is getting motorists to obey street signs that ban parking on one day every other week on streets throughout the city. Peduto wants to raise the fine to a slightly more attention-getting $25 or more.

He has a case in point: Peduto said he has received and paid four $15 parking tickets this year because the threat of the paltry fine didn't motivate him to move his Mini Cooper.

So close to escaping both articles without appearing ridiculous.

He also wants to computerize street sweeping decision-making, and to issue parking citations regardless of whether or not streets are actually swept.


Joe Smydo kicks off the era of investigative City Schools reporting (P-G, Joe Smydo).

Carnegie Mellon University and UPMC say they're not looking to buy the Pittsburgh Schenley High School building in Oakland, but the University of Pittsburgh won't say one way or the other.

Is that loud and clear enough for everybody?

The denials haven't reassured school supporters, who have been poring over documents to try to poke holes in renovation estimates and debunk the district's concerns about an asbestos-related health hazard.

They say asbestos, cited as the building's main problem, would account for only $8 million of the $64 million in renovations. Though the district spent $750,000 last summer to patch 10,000 areas of worn plaster, they say there's little danger of building-wide plaster failure. They said documents released by the district support renovation, not abandonment.

$8 million is certainly the lowest figure we've heard so far.


Meanwhile, Bill Zlatos issues a City Schools article on efficiency and local control (Trib, Bill Zlatos). We hereby dub it Must-Reading.

"We do have to explore whether site-based budgeting has gone too far," said city schools superintendent Mark Roosevelt. "We see some schools where some decisions are at least perplexing."

Perpexity is in the eye of the beholder, friend.

Roosevelt would not identify the schools, but he said he is concerned that the system has led to reductions in expensive vocational and technical education in favor of adding assistant principals where they may not be needed.

Well this sounds entirely reasonable. Why pour money into excess layers of administration when we could add more direct value to our students.

"Of course you want to decease that. It is the major part of the tax budget. The goal is to save money without compromising the value of education," said Theresa Colaizzi, chairwoman of the Pittsburgh school board's negotiations committee.

We are reminded of Twanda Carlisle marching into a District 9 candidate forum in April and declaring with head held high, "We need to account for every dollar spent by Council!"


  1. If UPMC and CMU are not going to purchase the building, why not sell it to a for-profit enterprise like Microsoft? They have the cash for the renovations and asbestos removal, maybe the city should approach MSFT to see if they would collaborate on a school like the one in Philadelphia?

  2. I can't say that's a horrible idea, Schultz. It doesn't Save Schenley, but it might bring something else very useful.

    Meanwhile, I was just tipped off to the saga of South Hills High School. To hear Megan Vaites tell it (SHS 1992), the old school was closed years and years ago, and sat empty ... but needed to be maintained. Recently, the School District actually REMOVED ALL THE ASBESTOS and fixed it up for sale as commercial and whatever.

    Making that building work for the neighborhood after all these years is fine, but how'd they squirrel up the money to remove asbestos from a *closed* school?

    She gets her information from the current issue of the South Hills Almanac, which is not online.

  3. Y'know, the way I remember it going down vo-tech wise was that when Spampinato (remember she of the big buy-out?) was heading up reform she told everyone that all children in the district must be college-ready. Meaning that we were moving away, in a big way, from vo-tech. When teachers asked about kids who wanted vo-tech options, they were told they were defeatists, who wanted to leave children behind.

    Of course, all kids *should have the option* of preparing themselves for college and should leave HS at a minimum community college ready. BUT, the truth is that there are always kids who need well-done vo-tech and many of those jobs are the ones that can't be done by someone on a phone overseas.

    I just wish that I didn't feel like the district was the spinner on a big game board of educational catchy ideas. We're rotating this way and that every few years. We close buildings and open them, buy curricula and then fix it up to our liking and then buy a new one. And so on and so on.

  4. Speak of the devil - Spampinato spoke at the 2006 Schenley High graduation. She sounded like an absolute idiot. One wonders how she's smart enough to keep getting her contracts bought out.

  5. The Trib article was the kind of thing I have been looking for. I would like to know what the per student transportation costs are in addition to the figures provided. Let's be honest about the Vocational programs, those classes have become just a place to put students to keep them out of an academic teacher's hair and to fill a hole in a student's schedule. Since NCLB they are getting attention because all of the sudden every class is supposed to contribute to the positive performance on standardized tests. Reporting of the 14-1 student teacher ratio is worthless in terms of doing any analysis. I can tell you from my experience with my own kids that averages should never apply when discussing educaion. Give me the high number (a mainstream class of say 30) and the low number (a gifted class) of 3. I believe you will find a CAS class that low at a high school. Give me the formula for arriving at the ratio and we can talk honestly. The superintendent is really not to blame for any of this. He came in the summer of 2005 and inherited all this. The school district and the city are in such similiar financial situations because we have gone along spending like we had it to spend for too many years. The saddest part is that PPS, its students and to some extent its staff suffer from an inferiority complex. I have thought that might be the cause for some behavior issues. A student thinks, "why shouldn't I break this rule, the school I go to isn't worth me trying to do well." I look forward to posts telling me I am full of...

  6. A little bit off topic but - If anything we need to offer more vo-tech...

    We need to look at the demographics and employment opportunities out there. A significant number of people are retiring from the old line industries and the industrial service industries in the coming decades. This is an issue that management in these areas are talking about all the time.

    My company hires high school graduates to provide industrial services for the power industry. Good wages, benefits and seasonal work that allows you to continue you education - and we help pay for it.

    Pushing students who are not prepared, not emotionally ready or just not capable of doing college level work down the college route means - best case - they graduate from a low tier 4 year school, with a meaningless degree, high levels of dept, huge opportunity costs and not a great increase in opportunities. Worst case they drop out and still have the dept.

    Everyone should have the opportunity to go to college if that is what they really want. And on average college graduates make more over their lifetimes but this analysis generally does not take into consideration debt levels or ability to start saving at a young age. There are alternatives and we should promote them.

    Today if you do not go to college you are considered a age 18.

    If you are interested in this subject there is a good book called "other ways to win" by a professor at Penn State.

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  8. Jason - I agree. My younger brother is a skilled laborer, a welder, for Delphi Co.up in Western NY. He doesn't have a college degree yet he makes more money than most people my age, including me.

    The people who are b*tching about all of the blue collar jobs going overseas are full of it - the jobs are out there - they just need to adapt, get trained and/or certified, and become more mobile.

  9. Schultz

    Before Felix has a seizure...we have lost significant amounts of blue collar jobs to process improvements and overseas. BUT the MSM, career counselors and educators have positioned it as if we have lost ALL the blue collar jobs or that we will eventually.

    All that is doing is taking these jobs off the table as a perceived viable alternative for young people. Which adds a burden to manufacturers and industry - espeicially small and medium sized ones that only have the budget to recruit locally. Increasing the problem by driving them out of business.