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.

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.

Obama Swim & Water Polo

Time to get back into the water!

After-school aquatic fun with Coach Mark begins this week.

Bring your swim suit and show up to the Obama swim pool after school, every day except Fridays.

Middle School at 4 pm to 5 pm, then activity bus.

High School students from 5 pm to 7 pm.

Adults and community programs at 7:30 to 9 pm on Mondays & Wednesdays.

All abilities welcome. Even if you don’t know how to swim,

we’ll teach you.

We’ll play water polo, SKWIM, and refine our swimming strokes, dives, flip turns and gain plenty of fitness.

Extra Coaching and game days: Saturday Swim School, Oliver HS pool,

2323 Brighton Road, Northside from 11:30 am to 1 pm.

Coach’s contact: 412-298-3432

Back To School Event — #WeArePPS — District visits Langley on 8/21

All from Pittsburgh Public Schools are headed to a back-to-school event at Langley K-8 from 1 to 5 pm on Monday, August 21, 2017 — and everyone is reminded to bring their swim suits, towels and goggles.

The Langley pool is small, but a nice place for a full-pool SKWIM game, Ultimate-style. Coach will bring the disks, head-bands and fins. We hope to get some kids from Summer Dreamers back in the water and even a few spectators to watch, learn about SKWIM, cheer on the kids and begin to plan on attending the Saturday Swim School events that are slated for throughout the school year.

The Langley Water Polo Stadium

Pittsburgh Langley K-8 is located at 2940 Sheraden Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15204.

After the Langley event, our next couple of practices for kids and adults happens on Tuesdays

  • 6 pm to 7:30 pm on Tuesday, August 22, at Northisde’s Citiparks Sue Murray outdoor pool
  • 6 pm to 7:30 pm on Tuesday, August 29, at Northside’s Citiparks Sue Muray outdoor pool


About 20 kids got in the water at the pool at Langley for the special event. There were hundreds of kids and parents present, including administrators and Antonio Brown of of the Steelers.

Video show off from Camp King, Squads Voyageurs and Wind Cave


Includes: Mia, Terrance, Terry, Imani, William, Donovan, Brooke.



Winning a swim race!

N swimming with underwater view


Cameron and some others

Damian doing butterfly

Damien getting a pull on his underwater pushoff in the streamline by coach.

Surf around and see some other swimmers at

August 21 event, #WeArePPS, at Langley to feature SKWIM & Water Polo

Pittsburgh Public Schools will be hosting its annual back to school event, #WeArePPS, starting at 1 pm on August 21, 2017 — and this year’s event at Langley K-8 is going to include SKWIM and Water Polo.

Every year, families of Pittsburgh flock to an event designed to equip the kids with the resources necessary to achieve a healthy start to the 2017-2018 school year. #WeArePPS is open to all current Pittsburgh Public School students and it takes place at Pittsburgh Langley (2940 Sheraden Blvd., Pittsburgh, PA 15204) on Monday, August 21, 2017, from 1-5 p.m.

The events in the swim pool are going to happen from 1 to 3 pm. Advance sign-up on a web form is coming.

The event happens on a Monday as barbers are freely available to administer haircuts. This event includes a parent resource fair with information in alignment with districts beliefs. PPS aims to serve students and schools and create effective family and community partnerships in every school.

Click for larger view.

Other organizations, companies, and/or PPS departments can be a part of this event by hosting a table in our Parent Resource Fair. Or, you can offer to help us out at the swim pool by leaving a note below in the comment section of this posting. Follow up is expected. In addition to hosting a table, PPS is accepting donations (refreshments, books, school supplies, etc.) to distribute to families. If you’d like to host a table at the resource fair, please respond to Merecedes Howze, mhowze1 – at – by email by Friday, July 21, 2017.

Good News! PPS has already received 98 stuffed book bags from Pittsburgh Moms Blog! There are dire needs for book bags and school supplies.

Game demonstration and competitions with students from Summer Dreamers Swim & Water Polo as well as The Pittsburgh Project are being scheduled.

PPS Langley is one of the five schools designated for the new project, “PPS Community Schools.” Read more insights in efforts to include aquatics as a feature of this venture.