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    City school board scrambles to hold onto Roosevelt

    Ohanian Comment:
    After he was defeated in his democratic bid to become governor of Massachusetts, Mark Roosevelt became managing director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education. He graduated from the Broad Foundation Superintendents Academy in 2003. Yes, he's the great-grandson of Rough Rider Teddy.

    With a BA from Harvard and a law degree from the same institution, Roosevelt was, even with military general's stars, the perfect Broad Foundation candidate.
    Here is a puff piece on Broad superintendents. And, if you can stand it, here is another one.

    Note that the Broad Foundation
    followed this appointment with money
    , and more hinted at.

    Of course the dangling of $50 million in Gates money doesn't have anything to do with this. Across the country, districts are grabbing and gasping for this money. We see these headlines:

  • DPS apt to win Gates grant

  • Hillsborough close to winning $100 million Gates Foundation grant for merit pay and teacher effectivenes

  • Pittsburgh public schools close in on Gates grant

  • And so on. Mark Roosevelt claims, "Improving everyone's craft is at the center of this."


    Mark Roosevelt, author of The Education Reform Act of 1993. which created the opening for accountability through high-stakes testing--in Massachusetts. Then, as "an experiment" Pittsburgh hired this former Massachusetts legislator who had never led a school much less a school district, as superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

    In 2006, Roosevelt announced that Pittsburgh was paying New York-based Kaplan K12 Learning Services $8.4 million to write standardized curricula for grades six through 12. . . all in the name of "coherence and rigor."

    In 2007, he announced that Pittsburgh will pay Community Education Partners (CEP)about $5.7 million a year to operate a to open a school for 432 disruptive students. More about this decision here. And here. And here.

    In 2007, he announced that principals will be on pay-for-performance contracts.

    He added 45 minutes a day at eight of Pittsburgh's lowest-performing schools and 10 more days to their academic year.

    By Joe Smydo

    Although Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt's contract runs until August 2011, the school board is working on a deal to keep him here at least three years after that.

    State law limits the duration of a superintendent's contract, and Mr. Roosevelt already has the six-year maximum allowed school chiefs in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

    If an agreement beyond August 2011 is to be inked as quickly as next month, as some board members hope, the parties will have to take an unusual approach:

    Mr. Roosevelt would have to resign and be rehired under the new contract, officials said. That arrangement would carry no risk for Mr. Roosevelt, they said, noting his resignation would be conditioned on the board's approval of the new agreement.

    If board members waited until the final year of Mr. Roosevelt's contract, state law would allow them to reappoint him without a break in service, officials said.

    But some board members said they want to act now to promote stability and keep Mr. Roosevelt off the job market. The district is four years into an improvement campaign and poised to receive a major grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Mr. Roosevelt, hired in August 2005 and given a three-year extension in March 2007, declined comment. He already has exceeded the average tenure of an urban school superintendent.

    In a survey of its members last year, the Council of the Great City Schools -- a consortium of the nation's 66 largest urban districts, including Pittsburgh -- found that superintendents had been in their posts an average of 3.5 years. That was up from an average tenure of 2.3 years in 1999 and 3.1 years in 2006.

    Only 18 percent of the superintendents surveyed last year had been in their jobs five years or longer, the council said.

    In 2001, average tenure for superintendents at all types of school districts was about 5.5 years, according to a National School Boards Association survey.

    Mr. Roosevelt was hired at a starting salary of $165,000, and annual raises of $15,000 have boosted his pay to $225,000 for the current school year. One official said the new agreement also could offer Mr. Roosevelt $15,000 annual raises.

    Last year, the average salary of urban superintendents surveyed by the council was about $228,000.

    Supported on most occasions by seven of the school board's nine members, Mr. Roosevelt opened new schools, implemented new curricula, started a principal-training program and put principals on performance pay. This year, the district made targets for "adequate yearly progress," the federal achievement standard, for the first time.

    Mr. Roosevelt and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl launched the Pittsburgh Promise, which last year began providing scholarships to city graduates who meet certain enrollment, academic and behavioral standards.

    The Gates Foundation last month said it had put Pittsburgh's proposed package of teacher-effectiveness initiatives -- and similar plans from four other applicants nationwide -- on track for major funding. The district requested $50 million.

    "The forward momentum generated under Mark's thoughtful leadership, and the role that stability and longevity play in maintaining this pace, argue convincingly for a much longer term," Heinz Endowments President Robert Vagt said in an e-mail.

    "Further, we need him to stay, as there is so much yet to be accomplished on key initiatives such as closing the achievement gap, involving and educating parents and implementing the Gates grant," he said.

    Mr. Roosevelt's critics have complained about a lack of parent involvement in policy-making, cited uneven improvement in test scores and criticized the decision to close Pittsburgh Schenley High School.

    School board member Mark Brentley Sr., one of the critics, said a new contract should not be considered until the district commissions an independent evaluation of Mr. Roosevelt's work.

    Another critic, Kathy Fine, a founder of Parents United for Responsible Educational Reform, said she had mixed feelings about efforts to keep Mr. Roosevelt beyond 2011. She said a longer term would better enable parents to hold him accountable for results.

    — Joe Smydo
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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