It really is a sad statement that controversy still continues over IB in Upper St. Clair. Then again, it's encouraging to know there are a few good people left who are willing to stand for freedom and fight tyranny and coercion.
Under pressure from the Switzerland-based International Baccalaureate Organization that designs the curriculum, the school district is proposing to switch Streams Elementary to an all-International Baccalaureate program in the 2012-13 school year, and held the first of two "open mic" nights on the proposal at Boyce Middle School.
The biggest concern among the roughly 60 parents in attendance was whether they'd lose the choice of having their children go to "traditional" classes instead of the IB program.
"What if we were to try and sell our homes and there are people who aren't aware of the IB program or don't want the IB program?" said Kelli Sharkey-Winseck, 40.
Within weeks, parents of students at Upper St. Clair’s Streams Elementary School will receive notification that the district is seeking to convert Streams to a full International Baccalaureate (IB) School.
If implemented by the 2012-2013 school year, Streams might be the first full-IB public school in Allegheny County. Superintendent Dr. Patrick O’Toole said he’ll be contacting Streams parents by letter within weeks, seeking their voice on making Streams all-IB. O’Toole said the district will decide by fall when and how to proceed.
“We’re starting a conversation with parents, we will decide by September on where we are headed,” O’Toole said. “Right now, we are offering IB’s Primary Years Programme (PYP) at Streams, and also the traditional track. Eighty percent of the school’s first to fourth grade students are already in the PYP, and we have a waiting list. This is creating staffing issues at the school,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole said the conversion would be in keeping with a spring 2008 report by an IB evaluation team recommending Streams be converted to full IB in keeping with prior agreements voiced by district officials. According to this report, the next PYP Programme evaluation by the IB parent organization will be conducted in the spring 2013 semester.
In 1997, the Pennsylvania Department of Education gave Upper St. Clair School District $25,000 seed money to seek IB implementation. PYP was implemented at Streams starting in 2003.
According to the International Baccalaureate Organization web site, nearly half the IB World schools in Pennsylvania are split between Upper St. Clair with four, and Philadelphia with five. IB Programmes are offered at Upper St. Clair High School (DP-Diploma Programme), Boyce and Fort Couch Elementary schools (MYP-Middle Years Programme), and Streams (PYP).
If IB is fully implemented at Streams, O’Toole said it was unclear what might befall the 80-some students in grades one to four who have opted out of the program thus far. In the beginning stages of study, he said it was too soon to rule in or rule out redistricting for those students who do not participate in IB.
The district in February 2004 made national news when its school board voted to disband IB. Lawsuits commenced between residents supported by the ACLU, and the then-sitting school board over the IB vote. The school board backed down and opted to retain the IB Programme. But serious questions remained about the cost of the IB Programme, including costs of teacher training and whether it was simply duplicative of the district’s AP Program.
Contentious and expensive elections followed, and board members who supported the Programme were eventually seated.
After release of the IBO evaluation of the Programme in 2008, the recommendation to make Streams an all-IB school became a final flash-point in the divide over IB within Upper St. Clair.
In other news, USC School Board Directors unanimously approved a $59,189,729 budget, which includes a $100,000 cut in the Middle School Sports Budget. Property taxes for USC residents will jump 0.33 mils to 24.1 mills, the highest the board may raise taxes without going to referendum according to the Act 1 state index.
Also eliminated were one administrative position and three profession staff positions. Three support staff will be furloughed. In a quote toThe Almanacnewspaper, Dr. O’Toole said “There is no sugar coating it. These are very difficult cuts that will have a negative impact on our district.” The cuts “will impact class sizes and academic support services.”
Streams Elementary to Comply with IBO?
June 1, 2011 - Further down on this page, readers can find the link to the 2008 IBO "evaluation" of Streams Elementary school which found the school in violation of IBO regulations by not implementing the PYP schoolwide. Today, an article in Patch reveals that in three years, this issue was never corrected and is just being dealt with now.
Obviously, IBO's regulations are meaningless as long as the checks continue to pour in.
THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE WHO SUED THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF UPPER ST. CLAIR COSTING THE TAXPAYERS MORE THAN 300,000 DOLLARS IN LEGAL FEES. SOME OF THEM HAVE LEFT THE AREA AFTER CREATING HAVOC AND MANY OF THEM ARE TRANSIENTS WHO MAY JUST USE THE DISTRICT AND LEAVE OTHERS WITH THE TAX BILLS.
Upper St. Clair, Pa. is a southern suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The School district has had a long tradition of academic excellence, however oversight by the School Board had been waning and fiscal concerns rising due to Board and administrative complacency. The township was dominated by Republican candidates who lost focus due to lack of political competition and the consolidation of power among a few elite. The Republican committee, headed by an attorney, had long been a determining body of politics, however candidates emerged who did not receive endorsement from him. Although his committee saw great promise in a return to traditional conservative principles and endorsed candidates who fit those characteristics, he resisted the vast majority of his fellow committee members. When his committee voted against his recommendation overwhelmingly, he resigned unexpectedly during the annual Republican dinner shocking his colleagues. Many felt he resigned in disgrace and that his resignation was little more than a political tantrum.
The conservative candidates began to win elected office and in 2005 gained majority control of the School District vowing to restore accountability in academics and fiscal restraint. During the campaign, a candidate was asked a question about the International Baccalaureate program and its role in the USC educational plan. He stated that he knew little of the program but he believed that whatever we taught our children should be in keeping with the traditional Christian values on which our Country was founded. Unbelievably, this tiny phrase created a fire storm of retaliation from IB supporters who viewed the statement as offensive and a direct attack on IB. This very reaction made many wonder what the true intent of the program was and why these people would find offensive traditional American principles. A few students and parents protested at the polls and an IB administrator participated in the political events using school materials and property to facilitate a political outcome in violation of established school policy. The Administrator, who had written a doctoral thesis on IB facilitated by the District; and who was scolded for a lackluster and inadequate review of the Middle Years Program two years prior, was disciplined by the superintendent without Board intervention. His review contained no critical data and lacked substance, but was filled with platitudes and insubstantial backfill.
A scheduled review of the Diploma program was delayed a number of times by a former superintendent . The reasons for the delay were not made clear, but the board respectfully awaited the review.
In the mean time, the election noted above occurred and the newly seated Board was told the review would soon be presented. Interestingly, the person who was the target of the IB activists, amassed the largest vote total. Members of the board who had been through the previous review did not want another non-substantive review session touting the established programs without hard data. Very specific evaluative data were requested including comparative test scores of IB and non-IB students (including comparisons with the well established AP program), metrics related to post-graduation performance in Colleges, scheduling irregularities, a listing of the substantive differences in curriculum, and actual costs. The Administration gave only a partial cost analysis, a brochure from the AP, and a question and answer type document which was later found to be plagiarized from a document created to answer similar questions which arose during an IB controversy in Minnetonka, Minnesota (These documents are both available on this website for your review and comparison). Additionally, Board members conducted independent research suspecting a "Dog and Pony show" as had been delivered earlier. The administrative review was little more than a cheer leading session and when hard questions were asked, the administrator who had chaired the review could not answer substantively. When it was shown to him that his committee had promoted the Minnetonka documents as unique to Upper St. Clair, he admitted his deception. He denied that any evaluative data were available. Proving that the program did not distinguish itself after the failed presentation, the program was cancelled.
Following a frivolous and malicious ACLU lawsuit which cost the taxpayers 300,000 dollars and was projected to cost more than 750,000 dollars, the fiscally conservative board relented and reinstated the program. No wrong doing was ever found, however Board members and their children faced death threats, physical assault, verbal and physical harassment, and property damage. Board meetings became so unruly that a full time Police Officer was called in to ensure the safety of the public and the Board members. A highly respected local civic leader even wrote an essay on the subject called "Legal Terrorism". Contact with an IBO school in Europe by Board Members confirmed that the IBO did send feedback data from every student exam and also evaluated the in-house teachers,comparing their grading to the international scorers. Later, the administrator finally confessed that he, in fact, did receive feedback and evaluative data from the IBO stating that he did not think the Board should have them. These data have never been released to the School Board.
The community of Upper St. Clair has not recovered from the fallout of the ACLU lawsuit. In fact, the IBO has been emboldened by the lawsuit. A recent review of the Primary Years Program done by IBO states that the USC program is inadequately delivered and the IBO further demands that the entire school be forced into the IB program or the program cancelled. It is feared that the IBO will demand this of all schools in the District and that parents will lose local control of their School District. The neighborhood public schools will be lost to the international body. Meanwhile, the liberal fringe was restored to power after a nasty record-breaking 40,000 dollar campaign, proving that political motivation was the impetus for the discord all along.