Putting Research into Practice: The Forum Convenes 51 Superintendents from Across Western PA

by Jerry Longo

The Forum for Western Pennsylvania School Superintendents (The Forum) met in December, bringing together 51 superintendents, guest researchers, and university faculty. This professional development conference was designed to promote the use of research in planning and decision making by school leaders. The Forum, sponsored by the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh, is among the oldest regional superintendent professional development organizations in the nation.

As a former school superintendent and charter member of The Forum, I serve as it’s executive director, as well as being an associate professor of Administration and Policy Studies at Pitt.

During my tenure as the superintendent at the Steel Valley and Quaker Valley school districts, I sought every opportunity to interact with scholars who were performing pioneering research in the field of education. These interactions often led to innovations and improvements in curriculum, instruction, and technology.  Thus, my hope for this professional development conference was to construct a bridge uniting university researchers with many of the region’s leading school superintendents.  

We accomplished three objectives at the fall professional development retreat:

  1. We honored our 2014 Voice of Advocacy Awardee.
  2. We welcomed six superintendents as new members of the organization.
  3. We learned about leading-edge educational research from distinguished faculty lecturers and recent School of Education doctoral graduates.

Voice of Advocacy Award
The superintendents presented the Voice of Advocacy Award to Ronald Cowell, president of the Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC), which is an independent, non-partisan and not-for-profit organization based in Harrisburg. Cowell has long been passionate about fair, adequate, and equitable funding for public education. He strongly believes that every child in Pennsylvania deserves equal opportunity for educational programs and services, regardless of what community in which they live as well as their family’s socio-economic background. As an advocate for children and youth—as well as an educated citizenry and an educated workforce—Cowell has used every possible platform available to him to crusade against Pennsylvania’s broken system of public school funding, which perpetuates an over-reliance on local property taxes and less-than-adequate state support of public education.

New Members
Membership in The Forum is by invitation and is limited to practicing chief executive officers from public school districts, intermediate units, charter school districts, and parochial school districts in western Pennsylvania. The Forum welcomed new member superintendents:

  • Jeanine Gregory, South Park SD
  • Joseph Pasquerilla, Northgate SD
  • Matt Curci, Apollo Ridge SD
  • Pat Mannarino, North Hills SD
  • Randy Lutz, Baldwin Whitehall SD
  • Tom Ralston, Avonworth SD

Recent doctoral graduates from the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh presented their dissertation research in a poster session.
The presenters and their topics were:

  • Ashley Coudriet, Riverview School District “An Arts-Based Analysis of Interdisciplinary Teaching Practices.”
  • Carrie Rowe, Beaver Area School District “Ensuring Fiscal Prudence and Dynamic Instruction in a 1:1 Environment.”
  • Erica Kolat, McGuffey School District “Blended/Online Learning in Traditional Schools.”
  • Jackie Removcik, Westmoreland Intermediate Unit “Professional Development and Mathematical Pedagogy.”
  • Jeff Evancho, Quaker Valley School District “After-school to School Reform.”
  • Mandi Davis Skerbetz, University of Pittsburgh: “The Use of Choice to Address Engagement and Performance.”
  • Marguerite Imbarlina, Hampton Township School District “Supporting Secondary Principals to Implement a Comprehensive Literacy Plan.”

In addition, University of Pittsburgh colleagues presented  Distinguished Lectures on topics related to their research and publications.  These included:

  • Mary Margaret Kerr, a professor in Pitt’s Psychology in Education program and chair of the Administrative and Policy Studies Department. Her talk was titled, “Preventing School Violence: Research Revisited and Lessons Learned.”
  • Sean Kelly, an assistant professor in the School of Education’s Department of Administrative and Policy Studies. His presentation was titled, “Twelve Questions about Curriculum Tracking in your District.”
  • Lindsay Page, an assistant professor of research methodology at the School of Education and a research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Her topic was “From College Intending to College Attending: Strategies to Mitigate Summer Melt.”

As advocates for children and youth, The Forum’s over-riding goal is to provide the kind of leadership that identifies and supports innovation and best practices in our region’s schools. As a university professor, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to interact with colleagues whose work in curriculum, educational equity, and school safety is widely recognized by scholars and practitioners. This recent professional development retreat was a large step in our efforts to bridge the gap between research and practice and between scholars and practioners.

 If interested in joining The Forum or finding out more information, contact Jerry Longo at longoj@pitt.edu or 412-648-1937.