In the next three years we need to compare the Pittsburgh school systems to other urban school systems throughout the country in several areas:
1. Substantially decreasing the percentage of dropouts.
2. Equalizing the racial differences between Black students and Whites. Why aren’t Blacks performing equal to Whites in the same classrooms? This has to be solved.
3. Improving the performances of all students in reading and basic math.
4. Keeping spending at a level in which the budget stays balanced, which includes selling all properties not in use.
5. Implementing after school and mentoring programs across the board to improve not only the academic performances of the students but to expose them to more career fields.
6. Creating a relationship with private industry, non-profits, trade schools and higher education institutions throughout the region to make sure Pittsburgh Public School students are among the first in line when it comes to accepting them and preparing them for the future. Pittsburgh Promise is a great beginning but it needs to be expanded into including more students by getting more businesses contributing to it.
A system must be created that follows the child from pre-school through high school graduation, into college, trade school or military. Beginning to end. Our kids must be prepared for the world they are going to enter when they graduate. This means the school system working with the students, parents, private industry, politicians, trade schools and colleges. No child should be left behind. And no one can do it better than Public Schools. They are doing it at CAPA; they are doing it at Obama Academy, why not all the schools.
Even though I’m very glad to see what Charter Schools are doing and Private Schools are doing, they are still supplements, with nothing taking the place of the Public Schools for low and moderate-income families. If Public Schools are eliminated then there will be lots of kids left behind, who can’t get into these other schools. Many are being kicked out now and sent back to Public Schools. What about the kids whose parent either will not or cannot help them achieve in school?
One of Dr. Lane’s biggest challenges will be creating interest in kids who are coming to school hungry, kids coming from abusive homes, who come from parents or are being influenced by other kids who see education as being an Uncle Tom, or being White. We must show them successful Blacks who were not Uncle Toms, men like Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the many, many others who have put their lives on the line for the progress of Black people through education. They can be found just about everywhere in Pittsburgh. Being an Uncle Tom is really not getting an education. Getting an education gives you the power to determine what you want to be, where as NO education allows others to dictate to you what they want you to be. The doors are generally open for the educated and shut for the uneducated. Our ancestors fought so hard for the right to an education. Most Black colleges were founded by the belief that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. We can’t just give up.
Dr. Lane has a great opportunity to lead Pittsburgh to uncharted territories for an urban school system. And that is to be one of if not the best urban school system in the country, and to be able to compete with the suburban schools despite not having the resources they have or being at the educational level they are at in the beginning. I believe she sincerely wants this system to work, she understands the Black students and the obstacles in their way that they must overcome and her concern for students, teachers and parents will guide her. We don’t need to start all over with a new Superintendent; we need to grow with what we have. She has three years to grow Pittsburgh into one of the best school systems in the country and we all should be helping by working at this through Dr. Lane. If we feel she’s guiding in the wrong direction, or doing something wrong we need to point it out to her. In no way should we rubber stamp everything she does, but we owe her the opportunity to finish what she started. Hopefully we all will benefit from it, especially our children.
(Ulish Carter is managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)