December 2015: In October 2015, the Board of Education for Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) and the Board of Education for the Wilkinsburg School District respectively approved an educational partnership agreement designed to provide improved opportunities for Middle and High School students and their families. The partnership is based on the premise that collectively, both districts and their surrounding communities can provide the best possible resources and expertise to enhance the education of all children.

Leaders from PPS and Wilkinsburg understand and appreciate that a partnership of this magnitude requires a planning process that is as seamless as possible and includes transition-planning efforts that serve to inform and motivate students, parents, educators, and the community. Accordingly, personnel from PPS and Wilkinsburg have been working diligently since October 2015 to create and implement partnership integration efforts that are being lead by cross-functional teams. These teams have been focusing on the following transition areas that have been deemed to be of critical and immediate importance:

• Student Support Services
• Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction
• Course Offerings and Specialty Programs
• Student Records
• Cross-Cultural Integration Activities
• Finance

Much of the effort associated with the student-specific items (Student Support Services, Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction, Course Offerings and Specialty Programs, and Student Records), has been devoted to carefully reviewing students’ academic standing, course completion status, credit recovery needs, course comparison and alignment, graduation requirements, and special education needs. The point is to make certain that all students will be academically immersed in the most effective learning continuums that will lead to college and career readiness. In short, carefully making informed decisions based on students’ current academic strengths and needs will enable school-based personnel to counsel students and families into choosing placements and pathways that will place them on the road to excellence.

While academics are of great importance, for students to flourish academically, they must feel respected, valued and secure within their learning environment. To that end, a skillful team dedicated solely to promoting positive interdependence through cultural integration has been collaborating to bring both student populations together as one. Wilkinsburg students have visited Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy and met with peer students there. A highly innovative approach has been designed to actively recruit and empower students to assume leadership roles in coordinating and planning cross-district activities intended to educate and inspire all students to realize the incredible possibilities that exist with the partnership. Essentially, students will become change agents and have the capacity to impact their own destiny.

The cross-cultural integration process will begin prior to the winter break. During the week of December 21st, students will complete surveys that have been created to identify potential concerns they might be experiencing as the transition process begins. Once school resumes in January, students will then be recruited to serve on committees, focus groups, and other forums to plan and implement transition activities based on student survey data.
In terms of finance, the chief financial professionals from both systems are evaluating costs related to tuition fees, transition costs, transportation, and a host of other considerations, as all stakeholders throughout Pennsylvania await a resolution to the budget stalemate in Harrisburg. Nonetheless, all possible funding sources are being explored to guarantee that adequate financial resources exist for immediate and long-term planning.

As indicated above, each of these cross-functional teams has been hard at work since the ratification of the partnership in October. However, all teams convene periodically to review the status of the entire transition phase. All teams will convene as a whole once again on Friday, December 18, 2015. Status reports will be delivered and adjustments to the overall planning project will be made. Additional teams to deal with issues such as safety and security will be formed soon.

Thank you for your interest in the PPS-Wilkinsburg partnership.  PPS and Wilkinsburg project planners and leaders feel strongly that a strategic and well-coordinated transition process will allow our students to flourish as they begin the next phase of their learning journey and prepare for successful and fulfilling lives.  We are seeking a transition communication coordinator to expand our reports to the community via social media such as Facebook and Twitter; in the meantime, we will provide these email reports in the best timely manner as we continue to make progress on a seamless, safe transition for our students. If there are specific issues you would like us to address in the next update, please send them to our School Board President at