Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tinker: Major suggestions from citizen, Henry C. Schmitt, about Rogers

Good Afternoon Mr. Roosevelt and Members of the Board -
Two weeks ago I came before you to let you know that I support the Right-Sizing Plan for the Pittsburgh Public Schools. I still do. Although as Mr. Roosevelt said in the media "it needs some tweaking." With that in mind, I'd like to bring the following issue to your attention.

The current plan has the Rogers CAPA program moving to the Baxter building, and the Letsche Education Center moving to the Washington building. Initially seems like a good idea, but on closer examination there are some problems. This would necessitate the moving of two student populations, over 500 students, and the capital improvement of two buildings.

This move seems to give the Rogers CAPA program room to expand, but I believe it does not. The numbers I found for the 2002-3 school year, the final year the CAPA High program was in Baxter, showed an enrollment of 330 students, about 45% of the building's capacity. However, an article in the June 12, 2003 Tribune Review quotes a CAPA student, Jessica Burch, as saying "...she will miss taking singing lessons in a janitor's closet" and "Our Spanish room is also the dance studio...we have to move the desks out...every day." This does not indicate a building with excess capacity; it indicates a building bursting at the seams.

Some of the parents and faculty of Rogers would like to propose the following alternative: Instead of moving both the Rogers CAPA program and the Alternative Education program, leave the Alternative Education program where it is, and move the Rogers CAPA program to the Prospect building in Mt. Washington.

We have gathered the data to show how this new proposal would be better for the CAPA program and the district as a whole. I have prepared a chart based on the 10 criteria you used for the original proposal that compares the two moves. In all cases, the move to Prospect is equal to or better than the move to Baxter.

I will provide you all with copies of the chart, but let me mention the highlights: only the 300 students at Rogers would need to be moved, only one building would need capital improvements. The central location of Prospect near downtown would reduce transportation costs and increase ties to organizations in the Cultural District. The location of Baxter in the far east end would have the opposite effect.
I think that if you look at the data, you will see that this proposal deserves careful consideration. Thank you for your time.

Henry C. Schmitt

Students that go to Rogers might one day work for Disney.

Next, to figure out how to put the plan, a table, on this blog. Humm... Okay, I've got 10 points in the comments section of this blog posting. Each shows the baseline reason, what the present plan has for its strength, then in bold, the new idea's reasoning / strength. Keep reading.

Plus, I've inserted two bonus points after the first 10 to cover some extras I just pulled out of the sky.

November 29, 2005
Mr. Roosevelt & Members of the Board:

As you are aware, both my husband and I are very active in our children’s education and are willing to work to make it the best it can be. We are also strong supporters of public education. We also, like you, believe on making our decisions based on data. Although we first thought moving Rogers to Baxter was a good idea, after reviewing the data, it now seems clear that such a move would be detrimental to the CAPA middle school program, and have a negative impact on the district as a whole. Much of the data we looked at was readily available on the PPS web site, but information about the Baxter building was hard to come by. We received information about Baxter from the Parent-Teacher organizations at Rogers. Working within your proposed plan, the Parent-Teacher group raised an alternative location – the Prospect building.

To better understand the merits of both plans, we looked to the criteria for right-sizing as listed on the PPS website, gathered what data we could, and compared each plan to the criteria. The following table clearly shows why we now believe moving to Baxter is not in the best interest of the CAPA program or district, as well as why Prospect should be considered as a viable alternative.

We look forward to working with you to bring about positive change to the Pittsburgh Public Schools

Katherine Schmitt
Henry Schmitt
Parents of students at Minadeo and Rogers CAPA


Mark Rauterkus said...


Current Plan
Rogers->Baxter->Washington Polytech
Close Rogers and Prospect

Alternative Plan
Rogers-> Prospect Baxter->Baxter
Close Rogers and Washington Polytech

Mark Rauterkus said...

1) Keep high-performing schools open if they can operate with a fair share of resources

No effect – from information on website and from when CAPA high moved from Baxter, all schools within 300-500 capacity range.

CAPA Middle School may have higher % of resources initially, but will fall in line as attendance grows

Mark Rauterkus said...

2. Move students to higher-performing school or school with enhanced educational program

Move to Baxter detrimental – due to small useful capacity (when CAPA HS left, it was cramped at ~330 students) and further distance from community partners and programs in the Downtown Cultural District

Move to Prospect advantageous due to larger, better facility and closer proximity to community partners and programs

Mark Rauterkus said...

3. Promote socio-economic, racial, educational program and facilities equity

Negligible effect – CAPA program will not have space to grow

Positive effect – CAPA program will be able to grow, creating more openings at a high performing middle school for all students in PPS. As a magnet school, diversity is maintained and students attend from all areas of school district

Mark Rauterkus said...

4 Look at facilities that have space and conditions to support the moves

1)Baxter was crowded at 330 students when HS moved out. Rogers currently has over 300 students, so there is barely enough space to accept current program, let alone grow.
2)Baxter is currently configured for the Student Achievement program necessitating major changes to bring it back online as a CAPA program, as well as additional renovations at Washington Polytech to configure that for a Student Achievement Program
3)There is interest for growth in the CAPA MS program – currently Rogers CAPA must turn away between 30 – 66% of the applicants (depending on major) it receives due to lack of space.

1)Prospect is a larger school allowing for growth
2)Prospect has basic requirements for CAPA program including Stage and Auditorium and has space to allow reconfiguration for CAPA requirements.
3)Reconfiguration for CAPA requirements will lower capacity closer to growth target of CAPA program. Looking at data from Rogers*, changing to a CAPA configuration drops the capacity of the school by ~25% - thus Prospect's capacity as a CAPA school would be ~650.
*2004 Capacity was 500, current plan capacity 374-a 25% drop, although no actual changes were done to facility.

Mark Rauterkus said...

5 Convert excess capacity resources to funds available for enhanced educational programs

??? I do not have any data to compare the options against this criterion. I do not have access to the relative worth of Prospect and Washington Polytech buildings ???

Mark Rauterkus said...

6 Preserve the diversity across the District

Negligible effect – the CAPA program enrollment will not change significantly

Since CAPA is a magnet school, it must maintain diversity, therefore, as CAPA enrollment grows, the overall diversity of the district is positively impacted.

Mark Rauterkus said...

7 Consider number of students moving

~550 (combined student populations of Rogers CAPA and Student Achievement Center)

~300 - Rogers CAPA student population

Mark Rauterkus said...

8 Asses impact and opportunity on attracting and holding students

Negative impact due to location of Baxter – This is citywide program, but Baxter is located at far east of district making it less attractive to students in the northern, southern and western areas of the city.

Positive impact due to more central location making it attractive to all areas of city. Also the closer proximity to the Cultural District will enhance community and private partnerships, enriching the curriculum of the school, again making it more attractive.

Mark Rauterkus said...

9 Reduce future capital investments

Increased future capital investment as additions or future move will be required to allow program to grow

Prospect has room for program to grow, reducing need for future capital investment

Mark Rauterkus said...

10 Consider impact of transportation
Move to Baxter will increase disparity of transportation times, with students from northern, southern and western areas of the city having significantly longer transportation times than those from Eastern section.

Transportation to events with community partners more difficult – with longer transportation times, there is less time for joint activities

Since the location of Prospect is more central, the travel times would be more equally divided among the students attended, with no one group of students having an inordinately long travel time.

Also its proximity to the cultural district will enhance the community partnerships and allow expanded joint programs with them. Furthermore, this also allows the use of public transportation to these events rather than chartered buses.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Bonus point #1 from Mark Rauterkus

Should Westinghouse and Peabody become single gender schools, both will be magnets. They might also be single-gender middle schools too. That would put four new magnets (2 HSs, 2 middle) in the east end of town.

Schenley HS is also moving to the east end.

Perhaps it might make some sense to move a magnet into the central or near south part of town?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Bonus point 2 from Mark Rauterkus.

Prospect Middle School has a swim pool. I do not think there is a swim pool at Rogers! (is there?)

Dancers love to swim. Good for flexibility. Good for rehab too should there be an injury.