PITTSBURGH SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS ANTHONY HAMLET speaks at the public hearing on education, Jan. 18 at the Hosanna House. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Could be a model for other districts

Whenever the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee holds a public hearing on “Quality Education,” it’s safe to assume that the need for more money will be brought up by the school administrators, board members and education advocates who testify.

And while that was true of the hearing the committee held at the Hosanna House in Wilkinsburg, Jan. 18, the committee also learned of something it might get in return; a model for merging, partially or fully, neighboring school districts that cannot offer students a full educational experience.

Committee member state Rep. Eddie D. Pashinski, D-Wilkes Barre, said he was impressed not only by the partnership, but also by several of the initiatives outlined by Pittsburgh Superintendent of Schools Anthony Hamlet in his presentation—particularly ideas around how the Community Schools and teacher development programs he is implementing can improve outcomes by not just involving parents, but educating them, too.

“This ‘Parent University’ idea you spoke of—I love that idea,” he told Dr. Hamlet. “That could be a whole new concept for many districts who have residents who don’t have resources and may come from situations where they didn’t get the best education.”

But the partnership that brought Wilkinsburg high school students to Pittsburgh Westinghouse after Wilkinsburg asked for their help was of the most interest to the panel of lawmakers, especially after they heard how successful it has been from past Wilkinsburg School Board Chair Ed Donovan.

“Other districts need to know there’s no shame in admitting we can’t do this to our kids anymore—that we can’t run a secondary program anymore because we’re failing abysmally at it,” he said. “Of 250 kids that went to Westinghouse last year, 16 are now at other magnet schools with access to all the richness of the PPS and they’re learning how to take advantage of it. We have over 20 in CTE. Before we had maximum 11 or 12—and it will grow because they can do it right there, they don’t have to leave the building. Attendance is in the high 90s. I take my hat off to PPS and Dr. Hamlet and the district, they are doing everything to help our students succeed.”

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