(Tribune News Service) --Mayor Bill Peduto’s Education Task Force today released a report outlining five ways Pittsburgh Public Schools and the city can work together.
The areas are public safety, out-of-school time programming, community schools, school funding and marketing the city’s “excellent public school options.”
The announcement was made at a news conference attended by the mayor, Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane and some members of the task force, including city councilwoman Theresa Kail Smith, whose resolution last fall led to the task force becoming a permanent commission.
Mr. Peduto said there was some friction between the school district and the city in fall 2013 when the idea of a task force began, but the task force, which he appointed about a year ago, has “healed the wounds of the previous decade” and now the city and district are working together.
Mrs. Lane said she is most pleased about two of the areas for collaboration: public safety and marketing the district.
“We have some neighborhoods that make it difficult for kids to concentrate on their academics,” she said.
Ms. Kail Smith praised Ms. Lane for putting her ego aside and working for the betterment of children. With everyone rolling up their sleeves, Ms. Kail Smith said, “At the end, we will have something extremely successful.”
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, a graduate of Carrick High School, spoke of her positive experiences in the schools, and school board member Theresa Kennedy talked about the importance of families choosing to live in the city and the idea that the city and school district “can’t just be in separate silos.”
Stephen O’Brion, a student at Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy in Oakland, said his favorite recommendation is to promote the schools. “There are so many positive stories there,” he said.
Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children, said some partnerships have already begun, including work addressing out-of-school programming.
The 17-page report (explore below), which is the first issued by the task force, suggests the city and district may want to put in place a “more formal inter-governmental structure to support collaboration and dialogue” and potentially have a formal liaison position.
It also asks that the leadership of both the city and the school district “formally accept the mandate to consider these recommendations and to establish working groups consisting of employees from both the city and the district to review and begin working on the recommendations.”
For public safety, the report suggests the city “explicitly prioritize reducing and eliminating dangers in zones immediately surrounding all schools,” adding, “Making neighborhoods safe for children and youth should be this administration’s highest priority.”
For out-of-school time programs, it notes demand for such programs has grown and the “city has an important role to play in supporting the growth and expansion of access to out-of-school time programs and ensuring that all students in Pittsburgh have access to quality programming.”
For community schools, the report notes the advantages of schools that have partnerships with community organizations to serve the whole child, saying the task force supports developing community schools for at-risk,low-income students.
“The key to this model is to balance the active engagement of community members in rethinking the role that schools play in our community and that the community plays in schools....This is an area where the strength of collaboration and leadership between the city and the district will likely define success,” the report stated.
For school funding, the report urges the city and district to advocate together on issues of “mutual benefit” in Harrisburg, such as the state budget for education, the balance of earned income tax revenues and alternative revenue sources.
In marketing the schools, the report praises the district’s early childhood education programs, the varied programs in many schools and the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program.
“As Pittsburgh’s population continues to increase, we must convince families and young couples that the best district to send their children to is Pittsburgh Schools,” the report stated.
As to why the collaboration should take place now, the report said that over the past 10 to 15 years the city and the school district have worked separately to tackle the financial and operational challenges each faced.
“Today those arduous efforts are beginning to bear fruit for both the city and the district. The city and the district will maintain their commitments to their respective strategic plans and goals, while simultaneously offering the energy and attention required for orchestrating more intentional and strategic forms of collaboration,” the report said.
It said that Mrs. Lane has a “robust and clearly articulated vision for our schools” and Mr. Peduto “has sincerely committed his administration to improving relations between the city and the district as a first step towards enhancing the quality of education in Pittsburgh.”
It also said that the school board and city council “recognize and value enhanced cooperation and coordination.”
©2015 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Distributed by Tribune Content Agency