Saturday, February 16, 2008

School update -- it's going to be gut check time this week

Public Hearing: Monday, February 18th, 7:30 pm, Board of Education (BOE) Building in Oakland. Email your comments or sign up to speak before noon by calling 412-622-3600.

Agenda Review: Wednesday, February 20th, 6:30 pm, BOE.

The Board and staff review and discuss the education and business/finance items on the agenda.

This meeting will be available for viewing on City Channel Pittsburgh, Comcast Channel 13, on the following dates and times:
Thursday, February 21, 7:00 PM
Friday, February 22, 10:00 AM

Legislative Session: Wednesday, February 27th, 7:30 pm, BOE.

The Board will take action on education, business/finance and personnel matters on the February agenda.

This meeting will be available for viewing on City Channel Pittsburgh, Comcast Channel 13, on the following dates and times:
Thursday, February 28, 7:00 PM
Friday, February 29, 10:00 AM

So, the vote to begin moving programs will take place at the meeting on the 27th. Guess when the first meeting to "ask for input" from parents about these changes (the A+ schools meetings) is scheduled? On the 28th.

As far as we know, the plans for Schenley have not changed at all, save for the building closure vote being taken off the table. That means these plans are likely to be voted on at the legislative meeting (sorry for all the asterisks, they're at the end, no need to skip down there now):

1) Moving the 10-12th grade Schenley students to Reizenstein.

2) Keeping current Frick 8th graders at Frick for 9th grade.*

3) Creating University Prep** at Milliones, starting with a single grade of 9th graders* (how many?) next year.

4) Spending $ to make changes to Frick to accomodate the 9th graders (estimated at 150 students***).

5) Spending to renovate Milliones for the University Prep program (6-12).

6) Spending to renovate Reizenstein**** for a 6-12 IB program.

So, we're still asking for pretty much the same thing we've been asking for since the beginning. Right now, we'd at the least like the word TEMPORARY put into any plan to move students and any further spending on renovation cut out.

Or in other words, move all Schenley students together, temporarily, and save the big costs of renovation or changes at 3 buildings (Reizenstein, Milliones, Frick). Clearly renovation spending at 3 buildings greatly reduces the chances for Schenley's future. It also guarantees the creation of a far more segregated school in University Prep at Milliones.

Except for CAPA, there are no solid plans for any of the other high school reform plans proposed. Where is the new Science and Technology going to be located? How can we plan responsibly without knowing that? There will be 4 high schools clustered in the East End with at least two of them far under capacity. What are the plans to deal with that? Call your board member if you're comfortable with that and also encourage parents not directly concerned with Schenley but interested in the future of the district to email the school board asking them to get more information and get it out to the public!

Write to the board yourself, too, (not sure how effective the spoken testimony is, unless it's centered solely on money or building condition issues. We're hearing that they're sick of hearing how great Schenley/Schenley spirit is. ;-D) and encourage them to either:

-- vote for a temporary move and no spending on renovation until a complete plan is developed

-- vote not to move the students at all (ceiling plaster could be removed this summer, preventing any danger from falling plaster)

-- vote to table these items until all information about changes are available to the district and to the public.

Just a little more in support of these options:

Other districts are committing to their historical structures. Delaying or postponing a vote would give the district time to actually completely develop the plans for high school reform and determine where the best practices should be implemented and to further gain community support for these programs.

We've not yet been given the go-ahead on fundraising for Schenley. Without district support for that effort, we can't ask for money -- grants, personal, corporate.

Interestingly, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education website seems to agree with our position, here are some quotes from School Construction Reimbursement Criteria:

" School districts must develop a complete building facility study of all
district educational facilities "

"School districts are encouraged to consider the impact of acoustics,
daylighting and other factors on academic effectiveness and building
efficiency in the design process. "

"In addition, school construction projects should be planned in the context
of sustainable community development."

"School districts should take all reasonable efforts to preserve and
protect school buildings that are on or eligible for local or National
historic registers. "


* How does the district intend to staff three separate schools? Are they going to ask teachers to drive around, losing instructional time to travel time? How do you even begin to attempt to insure the possibility of equal access to the best teachers and classes? As a parent of an 8th grader, I admit to having a vested interest in that one year of schooling -- if this 8th grade class hadn't seen so many changes in teachers already, I might be less concerned, but they've been subject to a revolving, uh, classroom of teachers over the last few years.

** The University Prep is predicted by the district to have an 80% African-American, 20% "other" split. The only way that is possible is counting the "other" students from Arsenal Middle School. Will they join the University Prep program at 9th grade and with a disadvantage to the other students or is Arsenal the next school on the chopping block, if all of its Schenley feeder students are moving to Milliones over the next few years?

*** I'm not sure where this number of students continuing on in IB/IS comes from. I have not been asked if I still intend to keep my child in the IB program and I know there are others who are choosing other school options in light of these changes.

**** I have yet to hear an architect (or contractor) in Pittsburgh say that spending money on Reizenstein is a good idea. Those that have been in the building are the most opposed to using it as a school! I have heard plenty about the green aspects of Schenley, about the importance of natural lighting, and about the fact that money spent on a solidly designed and solidly built building is better than money spent on a building that won't last for nearly as long. Many of the open school, 70's era buildings like Reizenstein have already been ditched or are being closed now, across the country.

I should definitely give out prizes for reading! Thank you if you've made it this far --

Jen Lakin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Schenley High School information:


I would like to emphasize the March 19th meeting for the 10th grade parents interested in scheduling their children for the IB classes. Mr. Huber and Mr. Casilli will present the course selection process
and how the schedule will work next year.

As I mentioned, Duquesne University has been contracted to do a parent evaluation of (district) High School Reform. They will be available at the April 17th meeting.

We are also going to try to schedule another meeting with the 10th grade parents just to have a better understanding of the pre-requisites to the IB classes. I’ll let you know the date (later).

Thank you,
Mrs. Facaros

II. Schenley High School Assemblies occurring this week from Activities Director & teacher Joe Ehman:

Hello all I just want to announce that we will be having THREE ASSEMBLIES NEXT WEEK! Here is the schedule and info on what
is happening and who is invited to attend.


ALL JUNIORS AND SENIORS @1:10 This assembly will be about the Pittsburgh Promise/ Prom/ and other upper class activities / as well as information on the Thursday assembly.

ALL CLASSES are invited to the Winter Sports Pep Rally. We will celebrate our Boys and Girls Basketball teams as they prep for city glory. As well as our Swim teams who will be snorkeling away on Saturday. This (assembly) will be LAST PERIOD.


JUNIORS AND SENIORS ONLY @ 9:00: Chef Jeff Henderson and the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality will be presenting a two part program to all Juniors and Seniors at 9:40 everyone will return to classes and have follow up breakout sessions.

Read about Chef Henderson here: