Friday, July 01, 2005

Letters to the editor: 7/01/05

Two interesting letters to the editor on education follow. They are from today's PG and hold different views.

Letters to the editor: 7/01/05

Moving for school

As someone with a young family who is actually moving back to Pittsburgh, I have to speak up about the Board of Public Education's new hesitation to approve the design and construction of the addition to Colfax Elementary School, as reported in the June 23 Post-Gazette. An addition is necessary to accommodate the growing population at Colfax.

This is occurring long after the board approved the change to a K-8 school and new grades have already been added. How the board thinks making and breaking decisions from one year to the next will lead to any improvement and stability in the schools is beyond me.

Our decision whether to live in the city instead of the suburbs rests on a good public school system. I visited Colfax. The active, engaged learning I observed, the diverse population and the fact that it is a K-8 school are the reasons that we want to move back into the city. Why else when I can get a nicer house for less money and pay far less taxes in the suburbs?

Believe me, I understand that there are financial problems. Our children are coming from the Baltimore school system, which has had even greater financial difficulties. I witnessed the Baltimore board change plans after decisions were made. And I saw the devastating effects these constant changes had on schools that had been steadily improving and had been generating renewed support for the public schools. Uncertainty and instability doesn't help students, schools or communities. I hope the Pittsburgh board will do better.
SARAH BERMAN, Baltimore, Md.

Quality, not size

With all respect to Principal David May-Stein and the parents who so badly want $15 million to support Colfax Elementary School's expansion to K-8: Even if K-8 is better for the middle-school years (we can find studies that prove both good and bad), your kids aren't the ones who need it the most.

Your children have the options to go to some very high-performing middle schools: Frick International Studies Academy, Sterrett Classical Academy or Rogers School for the Creative and Performing Arts. None of these schools is far from Squirrel Hill and none of them are in dangerous neighborhoods. They all have high test scores and their graduates have gone on to do great things.

The kids who may benefit the most from a small middle school environment such as would be provided in a K-8 setting are the ones whose parents probably can't write letters to the editor, attend school board meetings en masse or even supervise their kids' walks to school or homework.

If the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education chooses to add K-8 programs, it should allocate the district's dwindling finances to the kids and neighborhoods that need improved programming the most. And Squirrel Hill is not in that category.

I'm a parent, too. I've sent four kids through East Hills Elementary School. Three have gone through Frick (one is just about to go) and two are in CAPA High School now. I could complain about lots of small issues, but I prefer to praise these schools for their overall programs. The fact that we have any of these choices is remarkable.

Nearby high-performing school districts such as Mt. Lebanon and North Allegheny all have large middle schools. I think the issue is not so much K-8 vs. middle school only but how these schools are funded and operated. Small classes, good facilities, well-trained teachers...

The dynamics in the city school are not like those in many other places around here. Some people go to city schools and are stuck here. They are not leaving. They can't leave. Leaving isn't an option. They cope and deal as best they can with what they got. Kids grow. Go with the flow of life -- but getting a new home in the suburban areas is asking way to much. It's not going to happen.

Other people are here by choice. They can move. Many do. Some choose to stay. To stay makes a constant decision. Once the situations are so bad at home, then the grass looks much greener elsewhere, then the family packs its life and finds a home and schools elsewhere.

Mostly, those who are the poorest are the ones who are in the first situations. They are stuck, in part, because they can't afford to move into a more expensive home, lifestyle, district.

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