Parents question pilot program
When Johnny Bush’s daughter brought home an academic contract to be signed from Penn Hebron Elementary School, she had questions of her own about “best practices” within the Penn Hills School District.
“It had to do with taking an active interest in my child’s education, and outlined some of the things that she was expected to do,” Bush said of the “No Child Left Behind” initiative. “My daughter said, ‘But Dad, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you go to school?'”
With that in mind, Bush attended last week’s meeting of the Exploratory Committee for Best Practices, formed to look into establishing the Penn Hills Academy, featuring an accelerated curriculum, uniforms and more parental involvement — including another contract to be signed.
Bush said he still didn’t get his questions answered at the meeting, a general consensus among parents and administrators in attendance who have doubts that the pilot program can be up and running in time for the next school year.
The proposal still lacks the mechanical and logistical nuts and bolts including costs, number of students and number of teachers.
“It’s hard to respond to something that has no concrete perspective to it,” said Sharon Brentley, the mother of a fourth-grader at Washington Elementary. “It’s still not clear what the better practices are.”
Brentley also questions why the concept would be limited to a pilot program, instead of being universally applied across the district.
Rhonda Moon, with two children in the district, agrees with Brentley. She contends that resources needed to bring all students up to standards will be taken away to go toward the academy.
“I still don’t understand why it has to be separate from everything else,” Moon said, adding that she is still against the idea.
The idea’s leading proponent, school board member Barry Patterson, believes that the key to the proposal is setting higher expectations within the district.
“In terms of the scope, we’re looking at all or parts of kindergarten, first grade, sixth grade and ‘walk-ons’ from other grades who want to make sure they’re on the waiting list,” Patterson said.
That’s still a little vague for Theresa Piatek, the director of curriculum in the Penn Hills School District, who said she has a variety of concerns.
“Education is an expensive proposition to begin with,” Piatek said. “And we still don’t really seem to have a grip from an administrative standpoint what exactly this program is.”
As for implementing the academy on a pilot basis, Penn Hills School Superintendent Samuel DePaul said the district still has a long way to go.
“There are a lot of answers that need to be provided before we get to that,” DePaul said. “Hopefully, during the next few meetings, we’ll get some of those things ironed out.”