Without water, we have been known to still climb high.

Thanksgiving break with Pittsburgh Public Schools means five days without swimming. Sadly, the swimmers can not get into the swim pool. And the day before the vacation begins, many were already checked out.

When without a swim pool, we often turn to joint practices or else the stairs of the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt. Climbing the steps is a great, timeless workout. Often, the swimmers at Obama go a couple of times each year.

In 2017, our goal was to hold a swim scrimmage with The Ellis School as they had class on Monday after Thanksgiving. But sadly, they didn’t get the okay from Chatham University for our squad to join them for the practice. Next year, perhaps.

Those that attended got Jetpack stickers and a Milestone Pod too.

Entering Obama Academy’s pool


School web page: http://discoverpps.org/obama

1. Location

Pittsbugh Public Schools’ Obama Academy 6-12 is located at 515 N. Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15216.

Obama is at the corner of Highland Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard at the edge of the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Highland Park and East Liberty.

Landmarks: The school is not too far from the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Obama Academy is across the street from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a diagonally from The Home Depot.

Go Figure

Obama Academy is where Peabody used to be. In reality, Obama used to be Schenley.  


2. Building and parking

There is a modest sized parking lot at the front of the school that is generally filled to capacity on school days. In the evenings the parking lot most often has spaces for visitors to park.

Parking lot at Obama Academy at corner of Highland Ave and East Liberty Blvd.

Street parking around the school happens on East Liberty Blvd and along Highland Avenue. Avoid parking in areas needed for school buses at the end of the school days. School dismissal times extend from 2:30 to about 5:30 pm.

Visiting teams should park along Highland Ave, on the street, heading to East Liberty Blvd. If necessary, drive around the block to face in that direction for curb-side drop-offs. The school parking lot is  suited for bus traffic.

3. Front doors

View from Highland Avenue. Front door of the school is up the steps in the dark hole in the center of the building.
Ramp from parking lot to the left avoids the steps.

Visitors enter the school’s front doors that face Highland Ave. Go to the middle of the building and walk up the steps or the ramp to the left.

4. Entry

The front doors of the school remain locked nearly all the time, especially when school is in session. At the front door to the school, there is a buzzer, a bit like a door bell. Pushing the button alerts the school security office. However, this buzzer won’t be helpful if the security folks have already departed for the evening. That generally happens at 7 pm unless there is a big event such as a basketball game or musical performance. First step, try the buzzer.
Coach Mark’s cell phone, 412-298-3432. Use this to get into the pool if the door is locked. We’ll send someone out to give you entry. Call. Do not text, as the text message won’t get noticed and you’ll be standing there for some time.

5. Inside

Entry into the school, just inside the front door, comes with a walk through the medal detectors.
Past the front doors, the office is to the left. Turn right and see the Obama swag and head through those double doors to get to the pool, gym, cafeteria and auditorium.
Hallway just past the cafeteria sports the Obama Eagles decor. A few historical elements from the days as Peabody High School remain in a couple of the trophy cases.
On the right are the doors that lead into the gym.

6. Final steps

Front lobby and hallway. Auditorium and cafeteria are to the left and gym and trophy case to the right. Pool doors and snack bar / student store are straight ahead.
The pool entry doors are generally open at night and in practice times when the pool is in use. Find these doors on the right side at the end of the school’s front hallway.
Swim pool at Obama Academy is with six lanes and 25-yards long. Pool has electronic timing and end-zone seating with pillars.

7. From the pool deck, more steps to the locker areas

Off the pool deck near the shallow end backstroke flags is a door that leads to the shower and locker areas for both the boys and girls.
Steps to the locker areas. Go down and the boys do a U-trun at the first landing and the girls go straight.

8. Future

Since the move of Obama from Schenley to Reizenstein to the former Peabody building, a number of basic building modifications have been suggested. We hope that the accessibility can be improved so that the school and its pool can a better community resource and eventually comply with the ADA law passed in 1990.


The swim pool needs an accessible family changing room / rest room somewhere on the same level as the pool deck.  Presently, if anyone wants to go swimming, expect to go down and up two flights of steps to reach the pool’s showers, bathrooms and locker areas.

Restroom upgrades were made in other parts of the building in the summers of 2016 and 2017. In the summer of 2018, the school is going to be used as a site for PPS’ Summer Dreamers Academy. We want to keep the pool opened in the summer of 2018.


A proposed new entry to the swim pool could serve as a conduit for entry and exit from the street and sidewalk to not only the swim pool but also to the athletic field.

The swim pool would be well served with an entry into the pool area directly off of the front sidewalk on Highland Avenue into a new foyer and lobby that is presently only a back door to the pool. A lighted, covered, entry that goes right into the pool area would offer higher levels of safety, security and convenience.

Underwater Hockey returns to the swim pool at Pittsburgh’s Obama Academy — Rookies welcome!

  1. Wed. Oct 18, 7:30 to 9 pm at Obama.
  2. Mon. Oct 30, 7:30 to 9 pm at Obama
  3. Mon. Nov 6, 7:30 to 9 pm at Obama
  4. Mon. Nov 20, 7:30 to 9 pm at Obama

Obama is at the corner of Highland Ave and East Liberty Blvd. Enter school’s front doors and turn right. Walk past the gym to the pool. If front door is locked, call the coach’s cell: 412-298-3432.

Bring swim suit and if you have them, fins, snorkle, mask. But, we’ve got some loaner equipment too.

Additional insights and other dates and community aquatic activities with Coach Mark Rauterkus​ can be found at the Google calendar at CLOH.org.

NA Tigers host a Water Polo Tournament — without PPS Obama

Once again, another fall sports season comes and the city kids don’t have a seat in the fall water polo tournaments. School and district administrators don’t care to support the program by simply approving the submitted pool permit requests so that the team can hold practices. Get this: Pool permits were put into the school in mid-August, and as of September 8, there is still no news.

Avoidance rules in some sectors of PPS.

Frustration mounts, even with the new principal and new superintendent.

Running to States on the track by way of swim pool

Runner in pool
Obama runner and state qualifier in the 100-yard dash, gets in a pool workout after city championships and before the PIAA T&F Meet.

Track star running in the pool with our home made drag device, a milk crate and an old bike tube looped with an aqua jogger belt, for comfort’s sake.

He goes to PIAA T&F Meet in two weeks and hopes to go 10.8 or so. He also plays football and is thinking about attending WVU, Temple, Akron, and a few others.

Dorian Jackson, city champion, 100-yard dash.

Welcome to Pittsburgh Obama! Handout about swimming for the incoming 6th grade students and families.

Open Memo:
To: Obama Students and Families

From: Swim & Water Polo Coach, Mark Rauterkus

Contact: Mark@Rauterkus.com, -or- MRauterkus1@pghboe.net


May 2017

Just to be clear, “Swimming is the best!”

We hope you come to the pool and find out for yourself why this is true. At the end of this newsletter, we’ll provide you with pointers to our schedule so you can start right away. But first, let’s look at a few of the many benefits of being an aquatic athlete.

Over the years, members of the swim team have always been high achievers in academics. Swimmers excel in the I.B. program, perform well on the tests, and thrive in the classroom.

Swimming and water polo are international sports. Water polo was the first team sport played in the Olympics. We all know how well the USA swimmers have dominated the world stage in swimming and more and more men and women of color are earning medals too.

Swimmers get jobs. Many become Citiparks lifeguards and get plenty of hours with a good pay in a fun job, with lots of responsibility. Others get to work with our PPS Summer Dreamers and become swim instructors, coaches and camp leaders with Swim & Water Polo Camp. In 2017, we’ll be able to work on the Northside in the mornings at The Pittsburgh Project with 140 campers, grades K to 12. And, we’ll have 80+ campers at U-Prep and Allegheny (on the Northside by the Aviary) in the afternoons.

Swimmers play SKWIM and Water Polo at Obama too. Offense, defense, passing, goal keeping, teamwork and sportsmanship are all part of play with others in the city and around the state. Older kids get to play with Masters squads against college teams too.

Swimming presents a time to be peaceful and calm in the water. Jumping in the pool clears your head. It gets your heart and all the muscles working. The fitness aspects for the whole body, without head injuries, make strong bodies and give confidence.

Swimming happens at throughout the school year, the school week and the school day – from 6 am practices, to weekends to afterschool and evenings. We’ve got some flexibility. We learn time management. We learn to communicate.

The Varsity Obama Swim Team has some of, if not the best, athletes in the school. We have won city titles, WPIAL gold medals and this year, Sead, Class of 2018, set a new WPIAL record. Our top swimmers have gone to the State Championships every year for the past eight seasons.

We want your future to include swim and water polo experiences. We make friends and keep them for years to come. And, we get into and are welcomed into the best colleges, in part, because of the lessons. leadership and skills we develop with the swim and water polo program at Obama. It is fun, challenging and rewarding.

See http://Swim.CLOH.org for insights into Underwater Hockey, Water Polo, SKWIM, Open Water and afterschool activities. Kids and guardians should subscribe to the Google calendar at CLOH.org and our Facebook pages: Pittsburgh Schenley Swimming and Pittsburgh Schenley Waterpolo.

Middle School practices in the spring – but confirm with the calendar as some travel dates are pending:

4 to 5 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Obama with Coach Mark.

4 to 5 pm on Fridays at Obama as part of a service project with Sead.

Saturdays at Oliver High School on the Northside, 2323 Brighton Road, 11:30 to 1 pm.

High school swimmers are encouraged to join us at Pittsburgh Masters Water Polo sessions and with the Pittsburgh Underwater Hockey practices too.

On Monday evenings throughout the summer, we’ll do open water swimming at Moraine State Park and expect to have a car-pool or van. Departing the city about 4 or 4:30 pm.

On Tuesday evenings throughout the summer, we’ll be playing water polo and SKWIM at Citiparks Ammon Rec Center Pool, Bedford Ave and Memory Lane, weather permitting, of course.

Volunteer spots and some staff positions for our varsity kids remain open for mornings at The Pittsburgh Project on Charles Street and afternoons with PPS Summer Dreamers Swim & Water Polo Camps to happen at both PPS U-Prep in The Hill District and PPS King/Allegheny on the Northside.

From time to time, we’ll compete throughout the summer. Watch for events at North Park.

In August, we’ll gather for regular practices and make a water polo team and enter games and tournaments, with high school, middle school, and even adult (masters) levels. Let’s get in shape this summer, do a triathlon or two, and get cooking for next school year’s success.

Feel free to call me at any time:

Coach Mark Rauterkus

412-298-3432 = my cell


See CLOH.org

Statement to the school board of Pittsburgh Public Schools, March 20, 2017

statement to PPS-March-2017

Public Statements: March 20, 2017 to PPS Board and Administration:

Mark Rauterkus, Varsity Swim Coach, Obama Academy.

I lead Swim & Water Polo after-school programs at Westinghouse (Mondays), Obama (Tuesdays & Thursdays), Allegheny (starting on Wednesdays), Arsenal (starting Fridays). Our Saturday Swim School (Oliver HS pool on the Northside) continues from 9 am to 1 pm (most weeks). At 6 am I’m at Sci-Tech three days a week. I coached Manchester Academic Charter School at the Sarah Heinz House and help with Pittsburgh Masters Water Polo and, of course, PPS Summer Dreamers. This year PPS Summer Dreamers’ Swim & Water Polo is at King and U-Prep.

These activities are open to new participants, especially the Saturday Swim School. See my web sites at CLOH.org for details. CLOH = Creating Literate Olympians Here.

As we look to the summer, I’m going to be creating a new swimming, water polo and TRIATHLON team, on the Northside on Charles Street with The Pittsburgh Project.

Kids, adults, teachers, … we’re hiring. Some of the varsity swimmers help, but we need about 35 as swim instructors, junior captains, guards, and coaches. Much of this work happens with the help of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, and I’m activity recruiting employees.

Apply at the link at CLOH.org.

News flash:

Earlier this month, an Obama Swimmer, Sead Niksic, junior, set a new WPIAL Record in the class AA 100-yard backstroke. This is the first time a PPS student in any sport broke a WPIAL record. That news got a mentioned on the PPS home page.

All-in-all, our swimmers performed in brilliant fashion at the WPIAL and PIAA meets. After the snow storm, I took three of the Obama students to the PIAA meet. The Obama boys team finished in the top 20 in the state. All of the swimmers set personal and school records.

This was the 9th consecutive season our PPS kids from Schenley / Obama went to states.
Sead was second in the back and third in the fly. Noah scored 13th in the 500 free in his first trip to states as a sophomore. Amila, a freshman, dropped an additional 1-second in her backstroke, after getting 2nd at the WPIAL championships, having been seeded 10th.

Next news flash:

You, your spouse, coaches, swimmers, lifeguards, PE teachers, and all community members are invited to join in at a seminar and demonstration as well as post-game social to be held in Pittsburgh’s South Side starting at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at the historic, Citiparks’ Oliver Bath House. Out of town guest include aquatic experts with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA.org) and Kevin McCarthy of Washington state, inventor of the aquatic game, SKWIM. Bring your swim suit and towel as we will put our PA friends into SKWIM games with opponents from around the nation. We’ll learn about this terrific game, talk swimming, and find out what you might want to do to help get our kids swimming, more fit and safer in the water. We need to better utilize our facilities too.

After our time at the Oliver Bath House, all are invited to walk to a post game social starting at 9 pm at our home / office at 108 S. 12th Street, South Side, Pgh 15203.

Gratis Tickets / RSVP at Swim.CLOH.org.

October Reminder

In October 2016, I came to speak. My specific ask was for PPS support for WATER POLO instead of GOLF. The Obama golf team had one kid this year and none have made it to the final city-league match in the past two years. We have dozens of water polo players, and we own the pool. This would be a tremendous help for the students, programs and district in many ways. And, as a switch, it can be “budget neutral.”
I made that request to the board and the top administrators because you are the ones that will have to make it happen.

I find it sad that I have heard nothing about this issue from any of you since then.

Let’s fix this for fall 2017.

New & Old Issues:

Furthermore, other matters, not well suited for public comment, need some attention. As we talk about district supported water polo, (we mainly need money for officials, some bus transit to matches and practice times at the school pool), we can share that list. This focused list of suggestions has many repeated requests from the past.