Despite a critical evaluation earlier this month, the board of Pittsburgh Public Schools approved funding to continue the city schools' contract with The Academy for the second half of the school year (see News: "School of Hearty Knocks," Jan. 28). The Academy's day school, a private nonprofit school operated at least partially under the auspices of the Allegheny County juvenile courts, was established last fall to serve 40 of the city's high schoolers who had been involved in the court system.
Teens who attend the Academy are the city's most vulnerable. Most were recommended for Academy placement because they were on probation from the juvenile courts and weren't attending school or were getting suspended repeatedly -- a probation violation that could land them in a more restrictive placement such as Shuman Juvenile Detention Center. According to Academy Executive Director Joe Daugerdas, many of The Academy's students are several grade levels behind in their schooling.
The new agreement between The Academy and PPS requires more professional development for The Academy's teachers, individual student learning plans, bi-weekly observations and formal feedback, and other forms of collaboration with the public schools. Because the district is offering more services, the per-pupil tuition was reduced from $12,800 to $9,600. But since the board authorized an increase from 40 to 50 students at The Academy, its funding from the district was unchanged.