Sarah Schneider

Reporter

Sarah Schneider covers education for 90.5 WESA. That means looking at how people learn in Western Pennsylvania. Her reporting examines how local and national decisions impact quality and access to education. She loves being in classrooms talking to students and teachers.

She is also a local fill-in host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Previously, Sarah was a reporting fellow at WESA for two years by way of an Americorps affiliated program, Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE). She has interned with newspapers in Illinois, Idaho and Pennsylvania. 

Story ideas are always welcome at sschneider@wesa.fm.

Area educators gathered Monday to discuss best practices in promoting student achievement in public education at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s first Learning Together conference.

The day-long conference featured 50 round-table discussions and sessions showcasing what regional educators do to increase achievement in schools.

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit is one of 29 units in Pennsylvania. It provides specialized education services to the 42 suburban Allegheny county school districts.

In an attempt to draw attention to local businesses, Sustainable Pittsburgh coordinates days for “mobs” of consumers to be intentional with purchases and support stores committed to green practice and sustainability.

Sahar Arbab, a Green Cities Sustainability Corps fellow with Sustainable Pittsburgh, organized the most recent “Cash Mob” this past November in Ambridge. Fifteen businesses were involved in the day-long shopping spree. The organization is offering an opportunity for communities to apply to host a cash mob in June. 

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack is in Washington, D.C. Friday attending his first meeting as co-chair of the Military Affairs Committee of the National Lieutenant Governor’s Association.

Stack was asked to accept the appointment last month by NLGA chair Nancy Wyman, the lieutenant governor of Connecticut. Not only is this Stack’s first appearance as co-chair, but also his first meeting since being sworn in January.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

It’s a conversation heard around countless dinner tables or on the way home. What did you do at school today? The answer most often is nothing or "I don’t know" or "I played."

That one-sided conversation is common in early education students. Parents can try to talk to teachers during the shuffle of picking up their child, but that’s usually only slightly more productive.

Gateway to the Arts

Early childhood learners outperform their peers when they are taught with an arts-integrated background, according to an independent study of a model used in 11 Pittsburgh area schools.

Forty-three percent of Pittsburgh public high school students were chronically absent during the 2013-14 academic year.

More than 250 education stakeholders are expected to attend today’s School Attendance Matters Conference hosted by the United Way of Allegheny County and several other sponsors to discuss ways to change the trend.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Parents, educators, students and political representatives met for two hours Saturday to discuss reducing suspensions in school and create a climate that doesn’t push students out of school.  

The Education Law Center of Pittsburgh and Great Public Schools led a workshop-style conversation at the Kingsley Center in East Liberty titled, “educate don’t incarcerate,” a nod to the notion that disciplining students by pushing them out of school creates a pipeline to future incarceration.

Mark Abramowitz / Opera Theater of Pittsburgh

In an attempt to both re-brand what opera can offer and what it can teach, the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh is developing an opera it has dubbed an, Eco-Opera.

“This whole notion that opera, sometimes is branded as an elitist art form, and very often the subject matter, and the medium, look back into old European works and there’s a strong sense of visiting a sort of musical theatrical museum when you go to the opera. That’s not the way we want it to be,” said the company’s artistic and general director, Jonathan Eaton.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A high school history teacher at Ellis School in Shadyside is showing his 11th grade students the evolution of racial attitudes in America by exploring how common items have had different meanings for black and white people.

Students speak in the first person and personify one item a week including a typewriter, bus ticket, acoustic guitar, police baton and a flapper dress.

Sarah Schneider

Teachers in two Wilkinsburg elementary schools are now using iPads as part of the district’s new personal learning literacy curriculum.  

Kelly Polosky, a fifth grade teacher at Kelly Elementary said her students are able to move at their own pace with the use of tablets.

“During that intervention hour, students are able to stay focused and work on something they specifically need and it’s really hard to get to all those students at a small group table for me to work on, so this is something they can benefit from working on their own.”

In the twelfth day of public debate over whether or not a man or a group of men purposely released air from footballs, a CMU mechanical engineering graduate student traveled to Phoenix to join the discussion.

Thomas Healy said the deflated footballs the New England Patriots used during the first half of its defeat of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game January 18 could be a result of atmospheric pressure and not foul play.

He is presenting his detailed experimental data to several organizations this weekend before Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is taking a strong stance against a bill making its way through Harrisburg that he says would “would hurt city taxpayers & hamstring efforts to cooperate with nonprofits.”

The state’s finance committee passed and sent to the Senate floor last week Senate Bill 4 , which would clarify the Purely Public Charity Act of 1997 to make the legislature the sole body to determine what qualifies an organization as a charity.

The four Pennsylvania school districts with the highest percentage of students living in poverty are in the Pittsburgh region.

The race for the three open seats on the seven-member Pennsylvania Supreme Court is expected to be intense this year, and there is no doubt it is starting earlier than normal.

All six Democratic Supreme Court candidates will be in Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. Sunday for a forum at Chatham University. In total there are 18 announced candidates.

But little is known and will be known about them. 

Cars assembled by middle schoolers zipped down the 65-foot elevated track lining the wall in less than a second.

The cars moved so quickly, the engineers often had to ask if their car won the race.

The dragster car competition was just one of several events at the Technology Student Association (TSA) regional competition at Pittsburgh Technical Institute. The organization focuses on bringing technology into classrooms and extending that learning after-school. Nearly 400 high school students attended the first day and 200 middle school students on the second day.

Courtesy of Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania

Traditionally, learning in the U.S. has been home to school and back to home.

Educators widely agree different approaches are needed for each generation of learners. They also agree that means learning must occur in all aspect of a student’s life.

A group of University of Pittsburgh scientists is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development to create an international network of wheelchair professionals.

The newly formed International Society of Wheelchair Professionals was recently launched with a two-year $2.3 million award from USAID to teach and professionalize device repair, build affiliations and improve the lives of the nearly 70 million people worldwide who require a wheelchair for mobility.

Susan Steel ignored a mole in 2005.

The Chicago resident and mother of two said she put it off but eventually went to her dermatologist only when the mole began to bleed. The first visit confirmed she had melanoma and the growth needed to be surgically removed.

“You go into surgery very quickly and then the surgeon comes out and looks desperate and tells you that you have less than a year to live,” she said.

At that time there were no effective treatments, some options had a “high” 6 percent chance of survival, Steel says.

It might come as no surprise that area food banks say they see an influx in people donating their time, money or groceries during the holiday season, but what many do not realize is that the giving spirit seems to hit a lull after the New Year.

“Member congregations are doing food drives … so we do see an influx (in donations) but the need also is increased this time of the year. It’s actually ever present throughout the year,” said East End Cooperative Ministry Executive Director Michael Mingrone.

The Saturday after Christmas, flocks of area volunteers will scour the region tallying birds as part of the 115th Christmas Bird Count Report.

The annual event organized by the Audubon Society boasts the longest-standing citizen science project. Last year 183 residents Pittsburgh area residents traveled 181 miles by foot and 250 by car to count 66 species and 46,577 birds.

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania operations director Brian Shema said the 115-year-long data set provides a clear picture of the region’s birds.

For the 14th consecutive year, Jewish volunteers will spend time helping at various charities in the region on Christmas Day. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh coordinates the events not only to help those who benefit from the work, but also to give a day off to the charities’ employees.  

“Mitzvah days are done around the country in different Jewish federations. Jewish people are always looking for something to do on Christmas Day other than eat Chinese food and go to the movies,” said the federation’s Volunteer Center Coordinator Jenny Jones.

Chances are the average Pittsburgher won’t buy six geese-a-laying for a loved one this year. But if you choose to, the price has increased drastically since last year.

PNC Wealth Management has for the the last 31 years calculated the price of the 12 gifts of Christmas from the popular song. The department puts a price tag on the unusual modern-day gifts with help from the National Aviary, pet chains, farms and a national jewelry chain. The sources remain consistent yearly, but like the Consumer Price Index, prices fluctuate due to market or business climate changes.

The Northside Leadership Conference will use $900,000 in pledged funding from Highmark, Northwest Savings Bank and the Pittsburgh Steelers to support the North Side neighborhood including small business and strategic real estate development.

Gloria Rayman, past NSLC board of directors president, said Friday because the coalition of grassroots neighborhood organizations has non-profit status, it can partner with corporate sponsors.

Members of Transport Workers Union of America’s Local 555 picketed Southwest Airlines at the Pittsburgh International Airport Tuesday, distributing flyers and holding signs as part of a larger protest involving 15 airports.

The union of grounds crew workers including ramp, operations and freight agents is in mediation with Southwest Airlines since the contract became amendable in June 2011. Under the Railway Labor Act, airline labor agreements do not expire, rather, they become amendable. Until the amendments are agreed upon, the previous contract is upheld.

A report released by the Economic Policy Institute found 122,600 jobs don’t exist in Pennsylvania because of unbalanced trade with China.

Nationally, the trade deficit cost 3.2 million jobs between the same period of 2001 and 2013.

Most U.S. trade comes from manufactured goods rather than agricultural and war materials such as oil or services such as health care, therefore most job creation or loss dependent on trade is manufacturing.

Courtesy photo

Ryan Ahl enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2002 and was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Ahl said his fondest memories from two deployments to Iraq were the days spent occupying observational posts and knowing he had the support of his fellow soldiers.

“You’re in a war zone and you’re with three of your closest buddies and anything could happen," he said. "And it normally did.”

Ahl said he feels part of something bigger than himself. He has gained a respect for freedom and understanding of other cultures through his service.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The adoption of zero tolerance policies in schools has risen sharply since the 1999 Columbine shootings.  But are those policies making schools safer? Many education stakeholders in Pittsburgh say the widespread use of zero tolerance policies has increased the likelihood of students entering the criminal justice system based on school incidents. 

“If we can move from a zero tolerance policy, which excludes children who are having trouble, to progressive discipline, which includes those with a rehabilitative effort to get them back on their feet and back into school, we can do a better job with community safety,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, David Hickton, said at WESA’s community forum entitled "Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline" on Monday.  

Courtesy photo

Ron Worstell served as an infantryman for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1970.

“I tell everybody that my time in Vietnam of one year at the age of 20 something was really five percent of my life at that time, but that experience is 75 percent of who I am today,” he said.

Democratic incumbent Adam Ravenstahl has defeated Republican challenger Tom Fodi in the 20th House District race with 61 percent of the vote. This is the 29-year-old Summer Hill representative’s third consecutive two-year term.

Fodi, 31, said he ran for the seat with increasing disappointment in the party politics of the commonwealth.

Courtesy photo

Tom Jones served aboard amphibious assault ships for the U.S. Navy during the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.

As 18 and 19 year olds, Jones said he thinks he was too young and inexperienced to be scared.

“I think being young at that time, it was just an experience," he said. "You don’t realize exactly what is going on until you get a lot older and reflect back on those situations you were in.”

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