On Common Ground: Number 9, Fall 2001

A Three-Way Partnership

By Esther L. Barazzone

The Pittsburgh metropolitan region has a long history of public-private collaborations and partnerships, perhaps most notably the joint efforts of business and government that dramatically transformed the city from one of smoky steel mills into one of the country’s “Most Livable” cities. In the education sector, Pittsburgh’s partnerships encompass an extraordinary and longstanding agreement among the nine colleges and universities in Allegheny County providing for student cross registration (Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education, known as PCHE); a math-science collaborative between The Carnegie Science Center and the region’s teachers dedicated to instructional improvement; and a diverse array of specialized projects between state schools and individu al colleges and universities.

When the opportunity arose to apply to consider creating a new, national demonstration site in Pittsburgh to build on the success and example of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, the decision was reached to develop the Pittsburgh Teachers Institut e (PTI), a unique addition to Pittsburgh’s partnerships. No previous collaboration had linked diverse cooperating institutions of higher education together with an urban public school district and its many schools to support primary and secondary educatio n.

The Pittsburgh Teachers Institute consists of Chatham College — a 1000-student, private liberal arts institution with an historic women’s college and coeducational graduate programs; Carnegie Mellon University — a world-renowned, major research institu tion; and the Pittsburgh Public School District — the largest school district in the region, serving the urban municipalities of the City of Pittsburgh with 97 public schools, 2800 educators, and 40,000 students, nearly 65% of whom are economically disadv antaged. The new partnership had strong institutional bases on which to build. Chatham College and Carnegie Mellon University have a long history of interinstitutional cooperative projects. For example, Chatham has provided teacher certification for Carnegie Mello n students since l950. While each had a wealth of individual linkages to the community, however, including to the Pittsburgh Public School district, the two had never joined forces on any project for the community, The third partner, the Pittsburgh Public School district has a history of receptivity to innovation and teacher development initiatives.

More intangible forces pointed positively toward this project as well. Faculty members from both Carnegie Mellon and Chatham responded very positively to the idea of the Institute from the beginning. Faculty in both institutions are residents of the ci ty of Pittsburgh, and, thus, would have, through this project, a means to impact directly their own and their neighbors’ children’s education. It also helped that the original Yale-New Haven project would proceed by extensive sharing of its experience and insights with the new generation of partners. Finally, as all successful projects must, the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute had an outstanding leader ready to begin its work. A deeply respected and well-known educator in the City, Dr. Helen Faison, Chair o f Chatham’s Department of Education, had recently come to Chatham after a distinguished career with the Pittsburgh Public School district, which included ten years of service as Deputy Superintendent, and was delighted at the prospect of the creation of the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute.

In 1999, the PTI was awarded a $390,000 three-year implementation grant from the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Demonstration Project. Our partnership’s euphoria on being selected as a demonstration site was tempered by some initial concern that the additional, matching fundraising now necessary for the Institute might conflict with the fundraising efforts of the cooperating organizations. Chatham College was just beginning a major campaign for pressing capital and endowment needs that might be seen to preclude directing fundraising opportunities for projects that primarily served the community, regardless of their importance. Similar concerns existed also for the other partners. The Pittsburgh Public Schools, for example, regularly received funding from local foundations for projects that could be perceived as more directly in the district’s plans than the faculty development provided by PTI, which is not even directed by the district, but by the teachers themselves. Carnegie Mellon was already dee ply into a campaign with other declared objectives.

Concerns over conflict with other priorities were quickly mitigated for all. For Chatham, growth in the prominence of the College’s education programs is a main institutional strategic objective, and, thus, the full consonance of the Pittsburgh Teacher s institute with the mission and directions of the institution was emphasized. The experience of building working relationships with the District and strengthening existing ones with Carnegie Mellon were also seen as building blocks for the future of anot her, also important, kind. It was decided that the increased visibility for Chatham that PTI would bring warranted placing it among the College’s fundraising activities, even though virtually none of the funds would go directly to the College, supporting instead PTI and its participants. Chatham decided not to count the funds raised toward the fundraising goals of its campaign, but indeed to consider this a case of true “friendraising.” The College believes that PTI was valuable enough in itself to warran t our participation, but also that over the long term, there would be indirect fundraising benefits. Increased, positive visibility would enhance the institution’s opportunities to raise funds, as donors recognized that the success of Chatham’s Education Department would be essential to the continued life and success of the Institute.

For fundraising purposes, PTI was positioned as a separate entity from any of its three constituent elements. By agreement among the Presidents of Carnegie Mellon and Chatham and the Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Chatham became the a dministrative home and fiscal agent for the Institute, and the College’s foundation fundraiser assumed the primary responsibility for coordinating the pursuit of the required match. Every effort was made to explain and to represent the PTI collaborative a s a consortium, just as if it were separately incorporated. When visits were made to foundations, it was the director of PTI and a representative of the school district who attended, and not officials of Carnegie Mellon or Chatham College. Because Chatham College did not include results of any fundraising for PTI in its campaign totals, its separateness was underscored. The structure and concept of PTI — with the integral role K-12 teachers play in its planning and operations — also helped separate it con ceptually from the district and the institutions of higher education. The distinction was valid, and most foundations accepted PTI as a consortium, different than its institutional parts that were committed to serve teachers. No donor who had supported th e College replaced that gift with support for PTI.

The Pittsburgh region’s foundations (an extraordinary and collaborative community of funders) were interested in and supportive of PTI from its inception out of their own deep commitment to our community and the education of its students. They made it possible for us to meet the required match for the first two years very quickly. As the issue of establishing long-term funding for the PTI emerged, one lead-ing foundation official has offered to convene a meeting of regional education funders.

As hoped, the involvement of Chatham in PTI has meant that some funders who might not otherwise have known about or supported Chatham, now have a new perspective on the College, its mission both to prepare teachers and to contribute actively to improvi ng K-12 education in our region. That we are participating in a national demonstration project further enhanced the awareness of the significance of this potent and innovative, albeit small, college to our region. At least one local donor whose guidelines had made it difficult earlier to give to the College now was encouraged by a national foundation to consider supporting Chatham because of its role in PTI. Other national donors now show greater awareness of the College than before because of the associa tion through PTI with the distinguished Yale-New Haven project. This should all help the College and its education department in the future as we build better working relationships in our community and get greater recognition for our work.

Challenges for the Consortium for the future still exist: will we be able to expand the collaborative to all the PCHE institutions and their neighborhood schools; will our local foundations weary of supporting this extraordinary partnership, even in it s current configuration on an ongoing basis? This remains to be seen. But based on the success so far, we have seen that PTI need not be in conflict with the fundraising of any individual institution, and that foundations and corporations will step forwar d to reward and support partnerships truly directed toward education and the public welfare.

The Pittsburgh Teachers Institute, directed by Dr. Helen Faison, offered its first seminars in March 1999. In the two seminar periods since then, it has offered 10 seminars for 75 K-12 teacher Fellows, from the 20 schools the Pittsburgh Public School D istrict selected to participate in PTI’s initial implementation period. One of the PTI teaching Fellows, an elementary school teacher, was selected as a semi-finalist for the national President’s Teaching Award, for the curriculum unit she developed throu gh PTI. Over time, it is hoped that PTI’s reach will extend to all schools within the District. For more information on the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute, visit http://www.chatham.edu/pti/.

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