South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By David Assad
Contributing Writer 

Phillips principal introduced to the South Side community


First-year Phillips Elementary principal Rodney Necciai said the school was already running smoothly before he arrived there this past June.

However, that does not mean Mr. Necciai is not striving for the school on Sarah Street (between 19th and 20th streets) to achieve more.

The principal addressed local residents at the South Side Community Council meeting October 23 at the Brashear Center, just across 20th street from the school.

With the closing of South Vo-Tech several years ago, Phillips is the only Pittsburgh Public School on the South Side Flats. Its location provides the school's faculty and students with many educational opportunities.

The school is actively involved with the South Side Branch of the Carnegie Library, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, the Brashear Association, the Joseph-Beth book store in the SouthSide Works, the South Side Local Development Company, the Western Pa. Conservancy, River Quest and Junior Achievement.

The school also has a partnership with the South Side business community, most notably three of the major banks in the neighborhood: PNC, National City and United American.

“We have lots of partnerships with the local community,” Mr. Necciai said.

There are two class rooms for each grade level at the school (K-5) with one component being a traditional school for children in the neighborhood and another offering a magnet curriculum (Spanish) for students who can apply to the school from any where in the city.

“The staff, parents and communities of Phillips Elementary are committed to educating our children academically, socially, emotionally and physically, according to Mr. Neccai.

“Through the integration of the educational system, along with parental support and community resources, Phillips students will be prepared to contribute productively to society,” Mr. Neccai said.

There are approximately 290 students enrolled at the school with each class room containing about 25-26 pupils per class.

The vast majority of the students have been achieving at the proficient or advanced level of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) which means the school is one of the highest-achieving in the city-wide elementary system.

Mr. Neccai credits former Phillips principal Dr. Barbara Rudiak for making the school one of the highest achieving in the district.

Prior to his arrival at Phillips, Mr. Neccai served as the principal at Knoxville Elementary for four years before the school was closed last June.

A Western Pa. native, Mr. Necciai began his career in educational administration in 1998 after serving a number of years as a physical education teacher in the city schools and in Tampa, Fla. prior to that.

The turnout at the community council meeting was not very large (about 20) or about 100 fewer attendees than the previous month's SSCC meeting when a discussion about Pa. liquor licenses proliferating in the South Side business community was the hot topic.

Nevertheless, there were a few interested mothers with young children (mostly pre-school age and younger) at the meeting inquiring about the school's curriculum and other related topics pertaining to Phillips.

Mr. Necciai invited them to tour the school and meet the staff and parents of current students to get a feel for what Phillips is all about.

“I was hoping to meet with more prospective parents tonight, but you parents [at the meeting] can spread the word,” said Mr. Necciai. “The school has a top-notch reputation which is in demand by parents throughout the city.”

“Phillips is a great place to work for our staff,” Mr. Necciai said. “The school is well-managed, motivated and focused. Everyone has an opportunity to succeed in whatever walk of life.”

The curriculum is basically the same for the magnet and non-magnet students, save for the Spanish language component for the magnet students. Mr. Necciai said he wished the Spanish program could be more comprehensive and demanding.

However, to add more Spanish classes for those magnet students would mean having to take time away from the school's proficient math, science and social studies programs.

Those students attending the magnet program will be able to move on to Frick Middle School and Schenley High School for their respective international language studies magnet programs.


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