Pittsburgh Public Contracts $275K In Consulting Teams

Jul 27, 2016

Pittsburgh Public Schools Board Member Moira Kaleida argues in favor of a Community Schools strategy that would put social services in school buildings. "This is a step forward in the right decision," she said on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at the board's legislative session.
Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board approved two contracts with separate consulting groups to help new Superintendent Anthony Hamlet and district staff develop a strategic plan for the next five years.

Ronald Joseph, chief operations officer for the district, said it’s standard practice for a new leader to have an unbiased third-party look at the needs of the organization. He called both contracts – totaling $274,000 – economical solutions for an in-depth analysis and forming a strategic plan.

A team from the Council of Great City Schools, a group PPS already belongs to, will spend the first five months of the school year analyzing district programs and operations. Joseph said $156,500 alone will pay for the education experts’ travel. Hamlet said to contract that work to an organization the district didn’t belong to would cost almost $1 million.

Hamlet said the first Great City Schools’ report will be used as the second team of consultants works to understand the needs of the city’s communities.

“Anybody who wants to participate and they have a voice and they want their voice heard in the visioning of the strategic plan of the Pittsburgh Public Schools for the next five years, please come out and participate in the forums we’re having and lend your voice to what we want to put together,” he said.

Greenways Strategy Management will then hold community forums and meet with stakeholders to “embark on an inclusive, capacity building effort to develop aligned coherent and realistic approaches to improve student achievement,” according to the agenda item.

That process will take seven months and cost $117,500, Hamlet said.

The board also approved a Community Schools model that would put social services in school buildings without a specific funding plan. Board members Terry Kennedy and Lynda Wrenn cited that lack of a plan when voting against the model.

Kennedy said she supports the concept of community schools but that the district needs to find a steady funding source that won’t take away from classroom needs.

“What’s going to happen when we have to decide between a site coordinator or a teacher and making class sizes reasonable? What’s going to happen between paying for the custodians to keep the building open on the weekends … versus paying for something else, stuff for the classroom?” she said.

Board Member Carolyn Klug, who voted for the plan, said approving the policy and making the model available to schools would bring funding.

“There will be agencies out there that say, ‘We can supplement this,'” she said. “And sometimes it’s going to be for a while and some a short while and some a long while. But to hesitate on providing services to our children just doesn’t seem like the right decision to make at this time.”

The board also approved training nurses and school security guards to carry and administer the overdose reversal drug, Naloxone. The drugs will be purchased through an existing state grant.