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A+ Schools plans to assess impact of cuts in Pittsburgh Public Schools

| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 12:12 a.m.

Pittsburgh schools watchdog group A+ Schools is seeking 200 volunteers to interview principals next month about the impact of budget cuts and the availability of resources in the district.

“What we would like to learn is how our schools are working, what are the different practices that contribute to student outcomes,” said Carey Harris, executive director of the Hill District nonprofit.

It's the fourth year A+ volunteers will interview school employees as part of its School Works Initiative. In the first year, volunteers interviewed principals in middle schools, high schools and grade 6-12 schools; in the second year, principals and guidance counselors in those same schools; and in the third year, teachers in those schools. This year, they will talk with principals in all 54 schools.

Harris said the volunteers will ask about the availability of resources, class sizes and discretionary money for principals.

Arita Gilliam Rue, 61, of Manchester volunteered the past three years and plans to do so again. Her daughter, Rozlynn James, graduated from Schenley High School since attending the Rogers CAPA and Friendship schools, all of which have closed.

“Education is a tremendous regional asset. I know we can do it better,” Rue said.

She said her experience with the initiative taught her that the district is doing better than she expected.

“I also learned that we have a lot of dedicated staff, principals, teachers and counselors who are giving it their all,” Rue said. “Unfortunately, I also learned there's an awful lot of inequity in the system.”

For example, after one School Works report cited discrepancies in the availability of Advanced Placement classes and courses for gifted students at some schools, the district made them more widely available, Harris said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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