District, Superintendent Dr.Lane face difficult decisions

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District, Superintendent Dr.Lane face difficult decisions

Don Crawford

Don Crawford

Don Crawford

Link to Dr.Lane

Untitled from Ed Kocur on Vimeo.

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Editor’s Note: This story was written by Tayaunna Jackson and Caley Donovan after meeting with Dr.Lane at a press conference in April. Our journalists asked a lot of interesting questions and it was clear that news of the state’s budget cuts to public education were going seriously alter what we currently see in PPS. Since then, we’ve heard about central administration being cut in half, and news of both school closings and teacher cuts next year.

Dr. Linda Lane, who was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa,  has been the new superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools since January. In her new role, she currently is faced with a budget crisis. Thanks to a shortfall of funding in the new Pennsylvania state budget, she and fellow decision-makers are faced with hard choices. Which programs do we cut? Which positions do we eliminate? It is not going to be easy.

Of course, life for Dr. Lane has never been “easy.” As a student, she encountered many teachers that aided in her becoming who she is today. Like most of us, she spent her kindergarten through 12th grade years in public schools. In high school, she was faced with a strict teacher that would push her to exceed the expectations of others while directing her attention toward positive outcomes. She credits that teacher with making her a better writer and student.

After college, she took advantage of an opportunity to become a first grade teacher in Des Moines Public Schools. Later,she became a central administrator in Des Moines, overseeing many behind-the-scenes areas for the district. Recognized for her commitment and promising work, she was then promoted to a human resources position.  Her road to success continued as she became Deputy Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools a little over five years ago. She ascended to the role of Superintendent this past January after Mark Roosevelt left for a job at the college level.

The position of superintendent is a complicated one. “Every day on the job is different,” says Dr. Lane. “It’s actually very cool.” One day she might end up speaking to students or staff in one of our public schools, and the next to community members in a meeting. Maybe she’ll have to travel to meet legislators in Harrisburg regarding the budget.  Then there is the day-to-day job of running the district and overseeing its many issues.

For her part, Dr. Lane has a favorite part of the job. “I enjoy talking to the community,” she states,” it allows us to understand what they need and want… and parents should know that every phone call gets a response.” In line with this, it is Dr. Lane’s belief that students should not only feel safe, but informed, as well .

On April 5th, Dr. Lane held an interview with the district’s student journalists that addressed many topics. She described herself as trying to convince the board to not cut the district’s budget in areas that directly tie into student programs. She also stressed that at this moment, they are attempting to save as much money as they can, but by the looks of things, there is nothing that can be done to prevent some type of cuts. “We would need millions of dollars,” she explains. She believes in maximizing funding because the small things as well as the big things can make a difference in the lives of students. We asked whether the IB program, which is such an expensive program, also faces some of the district’s budget cuts. She could only say, “I don’t know…” and then stated that there can be no promises about budget cuts at this point and that everything is being studied.

Dr. Lane also corrected a common misconception that since Pittsburgh has been given a lot of money for other projects, why not just use the money– such as the Gates money– to aid in this current crisis. “The Gates money is used to help our work with teachers, to improve effective teaching.” Dr. Lane noted. “It can only be spent on this project. It can’t be re-directed in other areas.” The teacher effectiveness program will begin this fall and will provide new teachers lessons that help them survive the classroom.

Dr. Lane wanted to make clear that whatever cuts are made, they will not affect the education of the students because they are the top priority. The Board of Education is trying to maintain the programs they currently have for the students while also trying to keep in mind that something is going to have to give. Meanwhile, the thought that Dr. Lane spends the most time pondering is the same as it has been: the need to increase the rate of graduating students within Pittsburgh to at least 80%, because at this moment 69.1% of students graduate and move on to college. Her belief is that we need to strive for higher. The topic of educating children brought up another famous topic, the No Child Left Behind law, which is currently up for discussion and said to be under re-construction

It was clear that Dr. Lane had an appreciation for students and community during the press conference and just as clear that she and the school board are facing some tough decisions in the next few months.

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