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 Rauterkus.blogspot.com:

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.

About the author 

Mark Rauterkus

Swim, SKWIM and Water Polo coach and publisher in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Executive Director of SKWIM USA, a nonprofit advocate organization and webmaster to the International Swim Coaches Association. Head varsity and middle-school swim coach for The Ellis School. Former candidate for public office on multiple occasions.

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