Public statement, not delivered, to the PPS Board & Administration, except with email and this posting

Housekeeping update:

Sadly, my name was not on the list to speak at public comment of 2/19/2018. I had called, but I didn’t answer that follow-up / return call, as that is part of the normal process. Oh well. Here is what I wanted to share.

Citizens give public comment to board and administrators at Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Dear Superintendent, Administrators and PPS Board Members

I’m Mark Rauterkus, I reside on the South Side. My children are PPS graduates. My father is a PPS retired teacher, and we remember the long teachers strike in the 70s. Presently, I am the longest-serving varsity swim coach for PPS.

Earlier this month I loved seeing a social media mention from Superintendent Hamlet about a swimmer, Noah Jamison. He is a junior on the boys team at Obama where I am the coach. He swam to the #1 ranking in the Class AA in all of the WPIAL in the 500 free. That in-season ranking slipped to second two weeks later. But more alarming was disappearance of the social media mention. Humm. I don’t want to disappear. I don’t wish to go away. You’re stuck with me, one way or another.

New business cards

At the first of the year I entered a new role, I’m the first executive director for a national nonprofit, SKWIM USA dot org. This opportunity can bring our city kids new resources.

Recent meeting

The other day, (9/16/18), I had a wonderful meeting with David May Stein and LouAnn Ross concerning my hopes of expanding AQUATICS within PPS Community Schools.

Concept Maps

I’d love it if the board and administrators would check out a few concept maps of sports and my vision of aquatics. I presented these as an invited speaker at a Rotary Club meeting (2/19/18) and to the Pacific Swim Coaches Clinic in Napa, California, (1/5/19). (See end of this post.)

Teachers’ Contract Negotiations

I was excited to read an update that COACHING is part of the bargaining discussions among the PFT and the district. I’m an outsider and do not have a clear understanding as to what was discussed and pitched, nor agreed to. Things might be fluid and pending. Plus, I couldn’t ascertain any details in the released blurb. But, I do know a few things about coaching in PPS.

Perhaps there is a 12% raise?

What about playoff pay?

Really needs are for nimble staffing adjustments. When new sports emerge and students show interest, such as with water polo, and we’re told, “we can’t do that because it is not in the teachers contract.” Ugh. That’s not such a “great thing.”


When Dr. John Thompson was the PPS superintendent, he told concerned citizens that in the next PFT contract, PPS sports coaches would be removed from the scope of the PFT contract. That was about 16 years ago. It didn’t happened. Serious discussions about PPS sports and its coaching are not new.

Splashing ahead

As we look to use the pools for inspiring programs, it is nearly impossible to be a PPS teacher while coaching and operating high-quality programs in:

  • – Afternoons,
  • – Evenings,
  • – Nights,
  • – Weekends,
  • – Holidays,
  • – In-service days,
  • – Vacation days,
  • – Before school for 6 AM practices, and
  • – Throughout the summers.

Of course, swim coaches leading school teams have plenty of influence with student-athletes. The school-team coaches should sustain their coaching with year-long roles within aquatics for the sake of the developing athletes.

As we “expect great things” with aquatics, school-based programs need to be part of a network and coordinated with community opportunities. With our population base, we need more planning and more integration to become highly competitive.

Consider the upcoming swim championship schedule. The WPIAL meet occurs on two days, a Thursday and Friday. The trip to the Pennsylvania State Swim Meet (PIAA) absorbs three days with a midnight return from Lewisburg. This year I hope to go to these meets for the 9th consecutive year. Often, I am the only one representing PPS at these high-level meets.

Since I am not a PPS teacher, when I coach at these meets, substitutes are not needed for my replacement. I am a coach, not a teacher. I am free to support our swimmers at the various times, without conflicts of other teaching duties. Meanwhile, others who are PPS teachers (and PPS aids) need to be removed from their day-time students to coach a small number of elite swimmers.

Contract governs third-party interests

The PFT contract dictates swim coaching roles, and I am not a PFT member. Outside coaches don’t have a seat at the table. Often the outside coaches are not even considered PPS EMPLOYEES. Go figure.


Remove all swim coaches from the scope of the PFT contract. Better to remove all athletic coaching positions from the PFT contract – as that has been done in many other districts. Then we can get to the serious work of expecting great things with AQUATICS.

Next tweet soon!

Board members, thanks for listening. The next steps await. Doctor Hamlet, I hope to forward you tweets from the podium again so you can continue to showcase our PPS swimmers and coaches.

Concept Maps

Tip: Click images for a larger view.



Sweet spot.

We’ve been talking about these issues for 20 years. The time is now.

Some public school advocates where excited for a fall-2017 public policy victory with Pittsburgh Public Schools. The school board voted and eliminated the practice that gives a school suspension to children in the youngest of grades. Yep. Those in first and second grade are not going to get suspended any longer.

Is that a victory that gives pause and a cause for a celebration?

Some wonder if in reality the suspensions still going happening but have been classified with a different name. Ugh.

The challenges facing Pittsburgh Public Schools are enormous and fixing this one problem is nothing that excites me to a point where we now have the confidence to proclaim Pittsburgh Public Schools is back to where it should be in terms of educating our city’s youth.

Twenty years ago we were talking about these issues with sports, athletics, participation in fitness activities and other areas I care about — such as swimming — for the sake of the educational value, community enrichment and personal growth. And, frankly, little has been done. Nothing of significance was going to happen in the era of Dr. Linda Lane in terms of PPS Athletics — except a continued back slide in expectations and standards.

Below is a blog post from 2010 that featured a “blast from the past” from another, older posting from 2001. We have been talking about these issues when the kids who are graduating from college were born. We’ve lost entire generations due to inaction from PPS.

Read this makes me frustrated.

From: Saturday, May 15, 2010, as published at

Blast from the past: A PPS sports proposal is uncovered and mostly unrealized.
I did not write this. I did just re-type it. It is not on the internet, until now.

My slim connection to this report below comes from the follow-up meetings that were held in the wake of this report’s delivery. There were a few meetings among concerned parents and community members that were held. I attended a couple of them. After a while, the meetings stopped.

A fellow parent with kids in PPS who has also worked in a couple of different government posts with community and economic development was my contact to that group in the past. Furthermore, this parent stayed involved in the process into 2011.

This report was the first matter of business, of sorts, for the new task force. It was shared by Mike G, of PPS, as a way to kick off the conversations and review what was suggested in the past and how much and how little was changed as per these suggestions.

Recommendations for the Improvement of the Interscholastic Athletic Program of PPS:

Submitted to Dr. John Thompson, superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, by the Athletic Excellence Task Force, 2000-2001


The School District of Pittsburgh is committed to providing a comprehensive educational program that addresses the intellectual, emotional, social and physical growth and development of every child. Interscholastic Athletics has always been an important part of that educational experience for the student athletes and the student body at large. Students participating in the Athletic Program get a chance to learn not only the knowledge and skills associated with the sport, they also develop important life skills such as teamwork, sportsmanship, cooperation, planning, goal setting, time management and many others. Many student athletes develop lifelong relationships with teammates and colleagues through their involvement with Interscholastic Athletics.

The Athletic Program has provided the opportunity for many students to utilize specific talents and ability while participation in an enjoyable part of school life. For most athletes, sports activities provide the involvement in and connection to school that raises self-esteem and school pride. It also provides an opportunity for parents to become involved in their child’s school activities. It has long been a way for the community to remain involved in the total PPS program.

The athletic program may not only be physically demanding but also academically challenging for the student athlete. Student athletes must devote countless hours to athletic practices and contests while remaining their commitment to academic success. Therefore, we owe the student athlete, their parents and peers, excellence in Athletic Programming including coaching, facilities, equipment, training and academic support. Since athletics is such a positive experience for many students, we must not only continuously improve the program we must also provide a system that ensures maximum student participation.

It is in this regard that the Athletic Excellence Task Force was convened. We offer the following recommendations as a means to improve the overall Athletic Program. While there are many recommendations included in the report, we are prepared to remain as an advisory committee to the District, to develop a prioritized action plan for implementing any recommendations that may ultimately be approved by the Board of School Directors.

Participant List from 2000-2001

Ray Ames, Faculty Manager
 Patsy Aluise, Principal
 Cherri Banks, TLA
 Dwight Clay, Official
 Terry Cowden, Coach
 Rico Davis, Official
 Al Fondy, PFT
 George Gensure, PFT
 Kelli Jackson, Coach
 Brenda Jones, Coach
 Phyllis Jones, Coach
 Andrew King, Student Services (what?), King was PPS Administration
 Fred Lucas, Coach
 Sarah Martin, Health & Wellness
 Robert Miller, Principal
 Pamela Murray, Parent
 Robert Pajak, Athletics
 Vernon Phillips, Principal
 Sandford Rivers, University Staff
 Dana Schumacker, Parent
 Donald Smith, Parent
 James Solters, Moderator
 Bill Tenney, Parent
 Un-Named Parent
 Art Victor, Parent
 Brian White, Student Services

General Recommendations

Athletic Program

Where possible have two divisions for all Interscholastic Sports at the Middle and High School levels. Schools would be periodically reassigned to a particular division to maintain parity and competitiveness among teams. Longitudinal studies could be completed every three years to determine divisional assignments.

Require each school to play a minimum number of exhibition and regular games to increase the playing experience of teams.

Modify the Middle School program to include:

  • Football at the 7th and 8th grade levels,
  • Baseball instead of Softball,
  • A track and Field program,
  • Interscholastic opportunities at K-8 schools.

Maintain Intramural funds centrally and allocate to schools once program is established.

Explore strategies to enable elementary and middle school teachers to coach at the High School level with minimal intrusion on their teaching responsibilities.

Explore strategies to minimize the intrusion on teaching and learning activities due to student participation in athletic contests.

Establish equity of access to athletic programs, equipment and facilities: this may involve use of alternative sites for practice and contests and pairing of schools to ensure adequate team membership.

Add an additional professional position to assist the Program Manager of Athletics with the following:

  • Completion and implementation of a systemic plan for implementation of Task Force recommendations;
  • Developing a PPS Athletic Program web site.
  • Developing and implementing a marketing plan.
  • Establish partnership with the City for sharing fields and other facilities.
  • Establish partnerships with local professional teams for financial and marketing support.
  • Establish viable and active PPS Interscholastic Alumni group.
  • Develop equitable funding formula for all sports.
  • Monitor practice sessions, athletic contests and intramural activities.
  • Assist with the selection, training, and evaluation of coaches.
  • Developing a plan to secure supplemental funding from private and public sources.
  • Establish a Pittsburgh Athletic Association to support the PPS program.

Student Participation

  • Develop and adopt a Code of Student Sportsmanship that would be signed by student athletes and their parents. This code would establish parameters for acceptable behavior during practice and athletic contests.
  • Develop a form for spectators or staff to use when reporting an alleged incident of unsatisfactory sportsmanship. Form would be submitted to Athletic Office and appropriate principals and the incident would be investigated.
  • Increase number of viable junior varsity athletic teams by including more sports and adding an assistant coach where appropriate.
  • Develop manual for all student athletes that includes eligibility guidelines, college entrance requirements, NCAS guidelines and academic support information, e.g., tutoring, mentoring, homework assistance and Code of Sportsmanship.


  • Improve and maintain a safe and appropriate surface on all grass fields.
  • Explore possibility of another site for playing District football games and Track and Field events and Baseball games.
  • Establish equitable sizes and seating capacities for gymnasiums.
  • Provide equal access to gymnasiums for Middle Schools.
  • Develop multi-sport training facilities.
  • Group schools where possible to increase access to adequate facilities.
  • Ensure that each program has access to safe and appropriate equipment for training needs.

The report also has some background memorandums.

One is from John Walluk, Director of Facilities, dated May 10, 2001, about costs to bring all the high school and middle school athletic field facilities up to an equal standard. It includes a few charts.

Another memo is about substandard Middle School Gyms.

The student eligibility memo from the task force is enclosed too. It was prepared by a sub-committee. I’ll re-type that memo soon.

Selection of coaches is another memo with a sub committee. That inclueds some forms for coach application resumes for the Human Resource Dept of PPS.

The code of ethics for coaches is enclosed as is another memo, training of coaches. That included a coaches rating factor table. It was from a sub committee for the evaluation of coaches.

It is 2018, and I’m still trying!

For our swim team at Obama Academy, and throughout the city at a majority of the other schools, it is easy to say that many things have gotten worse.

For the first time ever, we have not been permitted to have 6 AM swim practices at Obama. They blame security.

I don’t want to list all the ills. But, they’re documented in my archives. The sports-dystopia is bigger, bolder, and stronger than ever.

Planning meeting to come.

In a week or two, a meeting has been scheduled with a few top administrators. I’m excited to have that next opportunity to make a case as to what should be done, urgently, for our city kids, their schools, our larger community and the taxpayers as well.

Pittsburgh Public Schools was on a kick to start “Community Schools.” That is a nice place to start. We can put swimming, aquatics and athletics into the PPS Community School model and get some progress in the weeks to come, with some programs that span among a few different schools and covers some of the city.

Forming an All-Star Aquatics Team — Today. Heading to the PPS Middle School Swim Championships

Same info, but without the PDF format follows.


Coach Mark Rauterkus

Head Boys Varsity Coach at PPS Obama

Executive Director, SKWIM USA

108 South 12th Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15203-1226

412-298-3432 = cell

January 24, 2018

Delivery to participants and spectators at PPS Middle School Championships

Dear Swimmers, Guardians and Coaches:

Three cheers to you for completing the middle-school season and competing in today’s championships. Hopefully, you choose to continue swimming, as we’d love to see you at 11:30 am on Saturday at PPS Oliver High School on the Northside.

You are invited to sign-up for a brand-new,

All-City, Aquatics All-Star Team!

First meeting and swim clinic is this Saturday, January 27, 2018, from 11:30 to 1 pm on the Northside at PPS Oliver High School, 2323 Brighton Road, 15212.

Second meeting and clinic is next Saturday, February 3, 2018, from 11:30 to 1 pm at PPS Oliver.

If interested, call, text or email.

Or, sign-up in advance at

We are seeking 25 or more middle-school athletes, boys and girls, of any swimming ability, for this low/no cost program. It is a labor of love from the coach(es). We hope to organize the swimmers, guardians and boosters for an All-Star experience with specialized practices, coaching, training, and lots of play and competitions. We’ll swim, exercise, use technology tools. We’ll also learn, practice and play water polo and SKWIM, a water-disk game. We stress sportsmanship, teamwork, and conditioning with help of digital badges. Playing well with others happens with in-house meets and game-days — if we get your support and your participation.

Expect more information at the first clinics. Other practice opportunities in other city neighborhoods are possible too. Call with questions. See

Boost your fitness, swim knowledge, circle-of-friends, swim speed and aquatic game-play so that you can become a future lifeguard and a stronger varsity athlete, in any sport.

Thanks for the consideration.

Coach Mark Rauterkus

Expect Great Things, the slogan of Dr. Anthony Hamlet, superintendent, Pittsburgh Public Schools

Hamlet at podium
Dr. Hamlet, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, opens the Maker Space at Obama Academy in December 2017. Dr. Hamlet has branded the expression, Expect Great Things, into the mission of the district since his arrival.

The psychology and deeper meaning of the new vision for Pittsburgh Public Schools has merit, if it is put into practice. The slogan is being put everywhere, such as on the web site, on stationary and on posters throughout the district. The slogan is getting plenty of practice, as it is repeated often. But is its message being implemented?

The motivational message makes sense. Furthermore, the actions need to speak volumes too. Words and deeds are both required.

Headline: Expectations leads to manifestation. 

You get what you expect. Your expectations are the source code of your creative possibilities.

We are all swimming in a soup of sensory inputs. So focus is needed. Easy to understand that the leaders of Pittsburgh Public Schools are confronted with a seemingly endless set of challenges. The leaders are putting out fires on multiple fronts any given week, day and hour. But, what are they really hoping to accomplish and what is expected?

What the leaders pay attention to is what they see and hear. Sadly, it seems to me, the leaders do not pay much attention to the support of those who are expecting greatness.

Understanding the power of expectations comes with both opportunity and warning.

My mission and what I’m looking for with PPS builds upon the concept of “summer dreamers” and goes to “year-round achievers.” I expect great things and have always lead the struggle to bring brushes of greatness to the students, through sports and swimming programs. Our holistic approach offers championship competitive swimming, but it goes to personal improvements and building upon our shared community capacity of playing well with others.

Part 2 goes to leadership.

Our swimmers are intellectual bloomers. We have the magic sauce for the self-fulfilling prophecy that has proven itself every year, to a certain extent, with most of our student-athletes on the varsity swimming team. 

Agents and management have to understand the power of expectation and also keep grounded in the real world. When we have coaches and principals with ordinary track records and below satisfaction results, be done and find others who want to reach and want to aspire to the performance high bar.

Message from Dr. Hamlet at the opening of the maker space at PPS Obama Academy in December 2017

Let’s replicate the model deployed for the district’s Athletic Trainers and apply it to AQUATICS.

All high schools with scholastic-sports teams within Pittsburgh Public Schools have athletic trainers that help to care for the health and wellness of the PPS student-athletes. These athletic trainers are present for practices and competitions. They serve boys-and-girls and work among various venues.

Presently, the existing model for the Athletic Trainers deployed at Pittsburgh Public Schools is great. I love it. It works well. I’ve always been grateful of the support received from the Athletic Trainers. The model for the service delivery provides a huge assets and support for the athletes, coaches, guardians and administrators.

The athletic trainers, with the initials, A.T.C., after their names, are professionals, academically trained and certified. They get continuing education and are hired, managed and evaluated from a central office. The division head for athletics in Pittsburgh Public Schools, Mr. Mike Gavlik. He supervises the service contract for athletic training with UPMC Sports Medicine. The contract details the services rendered so that the school principals and coaches do not need to worry about coverage from the athletic trainers. A well executed, district-wide approach makes great sense. It is efficient and effective. Bravo to you all for such wonderful results.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh Public Schools, in AQUATICS, a much different model and resulting outcomes are unfolding.

With our swim teams and with our programs at the various PPS swim pools in after-school hours programs, everything is site-based. Site-based aquatic programming isn’t working, IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion).

Pittsburgh Public Schools (and taxpayers) have 15, indoor, swim pools within our schools. My audit and experiences show that we are lucky to get two-percent of the value in community benefits of our paid-for facilities in OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME activities.

I am worried about activities, programs, leadership and opportunities offered our kids and the communities at the pools in afternoons, evenings, nights, weekends, holidays, vacations and throughout the weeks of summer.

Most of the time, the pools sit idle. They are closed.

To be clear, what happens in Physical Education in the normal school day is not a concern of this suggested proposal.

Just as UPMC Sports Medicine handles system-wide needs for athletic training, PPS needs a system-wide approach to what happens in the swimming pools beyond the school day.

The engagement for the students, the competitive swimmers, and the communities is suffering and an overhaul of purpose, methods, programming, hiring responsibilities and mission in AQUATICS is needed and can be delivered with an AQUATICS DIRECTOR.

Take these tasks off the backs of the school principals.

Let’s deploy a system and thrive. Let’s train lifeguards, compete around the region, and deliver serious health and wellness benefits.

One of the most simple and direct paths for implementation of this suggestion is to attach AQUATICS to the budding PPS Community Schools network. The new PPS Community Schools program began in the fall of 2017. This trailblazing program that was championed by the PPS School Board before the arrival of the existing superintendent, Dr. Anthony Hamlet, aims to form a model for increased engagement and cooperation among community agencies, school staff, students and families. The first five designated community schools in PPS include three schools with under-utilized swimming pools: Westinghouse, Arsenal, Langley. The PPS Board made a dramatic step to embrace the concept of PPS Community Schools, as a pilot, among five of its schools. These suggestions for AQUATICS go hand-in-hand with the efforts of PPS Community Schools. Let’s make a splash with AQUATICS with PPS Community Schools.

Let’s coordinate human resources among lifeguards, swim instructors, coaches, rec organizations and have an aquatic mission that fits the various facilities and interests of the kids and grows as they improve.

Our students need to know that their devotion and investment into swimming is supported. The un-tapped potential within Pittsburgh’s kids in aquatics is phenomenal. But, we as coaches and administrators, we need to be nimble at the pools and offer excellent programs. Aquatics can be a vital cornerstone for PPS Community Schools.

These programs can pull their own weight financially. Creative and inspiring leadership coupled with important partnerships can make the AQUATICS programs sustainable.

To implement the vision, the Administration and PPS Board negotiators should carve out AQUATICS from the realm of the PFT Contract. Assigning coaching duties, instructors and lifeguards need to be fluid and flexible, coordinated and well deployed. Accountability, certifications, and alignments to systems, squads and developmental pathways need to make sense.

Go figure: Last year, a swim meet between Obama and Allderdice as impossible to schedule.

A four-fold increase in both quantity and quality is expected as a first-year bump.

In 2017, PPS has about 250 kids who swim. With the pools we have, PPS could have 1,000+ kids calling themselves swimmers.

Going swimming and being a swimmer are different.

We want to turn around the opportunities so our kids become:

  1. scholarship student-athletes,
  2. employed at the pools,
  3. competitors with anyone, and
  4. know how to play well with others.

Progress should happen in 2018. Let’s make it happen. Your reactions in the comments below are welcome.