Sunday, April 30, 2006

Lebo: 42nd District Campaigns Swing into Action

Yard signs for Matt Smith (Dem) and Mark Harris (Rep) started popping up in Mt. Lebanon this week as the race for the 42nd district seat in Harrisburg, currently occupied by Tom Stevenson, got underway.

So far, I've also seen television ads for Harris and for the incumbent.

The Post-Gazette ran this summary of the candidates.
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Lebo: Why the Top 25 List was News

Today's Post-Gazette runs two pieces that explain why the "Top 25" list in Mt. Lebanon raises issues worth covering:

Mackenzie Carpenter, The trouble with how boys talk

Sally Kalson's column
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Friday, April 28, 2006

Lebo: Character Issues Go National

In the continuing tale of the degrading list of Mt. Lebanon high school women, this morning's Post-Gazette coverage brings a hint that the School District is slipping even farther behind in what should be its efforts to bring closure to this issue. The District is still waiting for the police to say something. Meanwhile, the National Women's Law Center, a leading advocacy organization for women, based in Washington DC, is now on case.

Lebo is going national.

Among the many problems here is a failure of leadership -- not only a failure of District leaders to respond swiftly to an obvious crisis situation, but a failure of those leaders to anticipate that this could happen. Read through this recent summary of the best known and most widely-studied recent episode in successful crisis management -- Johnson & Johnson's response to the Tylenol poisonings of 20+ years ago -- and watch for echoes of what MtLSD could and should have done, and should do, differently.

Effective leaders anticipate and plan, and when the worst happens, they're immediately in control of the situation. "The List" came to light in Mt. Lebanon almost three weeks ago. When it was brought to the attention of school administrators, an effective immediate response could have kept it out of the Post-Gazette, out of the Tribune-Review, out of the hands of the police, and the courts, and out of what may become the national spotlight.
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mt. Lebanon Announces New Fire Chief

The Mt. Lebanon Fire Department would like to announce the hiring of Nicholas Sohyda as their new chief. Nick is only the fifth chief in the history of the department.

For more information regarding Chief Sohyda, please see the official press release.
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lebo: Character Education

Pittsburghers woke up this morning to front-page P-G coverage of a story that's been circulating Mt. Lebanon for several days: Some number of high school students, presumably boys, assembled and circulated a grotesque "list" of high school girls.

The weak-kneed response of the School District so far, especially as described in the paper, is almost as grotesque as the list itself. The Superintendent referred the matter to the Mt. Lebanon Police. Rightly, I think, the Department has concluded that this isn't a criminal problem. Instead, it's the District's problem. Among the District leaders quoted in the Post-Gazette, only Mark Hart seems to have a grasp of the seriousness of the issue and of the District's role.

Isn't anyone at the School District paying attention to what's going on these days on the Duke campus? When school leaders have their heads in the sand, first bad things happen, and then it gets worse. Failure to act strongly in this case -- that is, failure to exercise some *leadership* -- will have profound consequences later on. It won't be pretty.

Does the District have authority to act here? Of course it does. This doesn't need to get wrapped up in what constitutes "sexual harassment." It's bullying, plain and simple, and the District has to have a policy against bullying. Doesn't it?

And should the District act? Of course again.

Step one: Identify all of the students involved. The students know who is responsible for this. In all probability, parents do, too, or will soon. If necessary, bring every student in the school in for Q&A, starting with the seniors.

Step two: Punish them, and punish any adult employees of the District who had any knowledge that this was going on.

Step three: Immediately and publicly re-declare a zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying, at all ages and grade levels.

Step four: Initiate a comprehensive review of Mt. Lebanon's vaunted and nationally-recognized Character Education program, which now appears to be a complete failure.

I went to the District website this morning and did a search on the word "Character." Here's what I got back: "Search the MTLSD Web Sites for: character. Total Records Returned: 0. Your search did not produce any results."


UPDATE #1 (4/27): The Post-Gazette follows the story. Unfortunately, the story focuses more on the battle of the lawyers rather than on educational and ethical issues.

The Trib has an interesting story about an underappreciated aspect of this situation: Internet technology magnifies the effect of rumor and innuendo in ways that neither schools nor students really appreciate. A piece of paper that gets passed around doesn't cause harm on the scale of an email or website (or MySpace or facebook) that gets sent around. I asked my kids whether Mt. Lebanon High School offers any instruction in the *ethics* of technology. Answer: No.

UPDATE #2 (4/27): Just in case that it's not otherwise obvious from the format of this blog, this post represents my views alone. (The Comments represent the views of their respective authors.) To avoid any appearance of a possible conflict of interest, however, Josephine Posti, who is a member of the School Board, has withdrawn from her association with the blog as a whole. I thank Jo for her earlier contributions and wish her well in everything.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lebo: Library Book Sale

The Friend of Mt. Lebanon Library is holding a book sale from May 5 through May 11. Check the Library website for details.
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Lebo: Computer Recycling

Have a closet full of old computers? Mt. Lebanon Public Works is holding a computer recycling event on Saturday, April 29. Download the details [pdf].
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Lebo: Earth Day Cleanup

Mt. Lebanon Public Works is looking for volunteers to help with an Earth Day trash pickup this Saturday, April 22 [pdf].
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Monday, April 17, 2006

MtL Theater Alumni reunion

Following up on a story in the April Mt. Lebanon magazine, there will be a reunion for alumni of the High School theater program. It's June 3, 7pm, in the High School auditorium. For more information, contact Cynthia Schreiner at or call 412-344-2030.
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Monday, April 10, 2006

Lebo: Is the Denis Going Down?

I heard a rumor over this past weekend that paperwork is in process to authorize the demolition of the Denis Theater. Is that true? If the Denis goes, will the other businesses on the corner (Potomac Bakery, for example) go too? Are there plans for a new building on the site?
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Friday, April 07, 2006

Lebo: *Not* Rodeo Drive!

Rich W. summarizes a clip from KDKA that characterized Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon as "Pittsburgh's Rodeo Drive." Ouch! I suspect that a lot of people in Mt. Lebanon will disagree with me on this, but that label hurts. First of all, it isn't accurate. I've walked and driven the real Rodeo Drive. I know the real Rodeo Drive. Washington Road, you're no Rodeo Drive! Second and more important, the real Rodeo Drive is the heart of an insufferably self-important upper crust community.

Wait a minute . . . .
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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lebo: Crime Wave?

Is drug-related crime getting out of control in Mt. Lebanon? Has some of this activity moved into Lebo from Bethel Park, where they have stricter policing, more experienced officers, and more resources? That's one way to read the comments by the Chief of Police.
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