Sunday, May 11, 2008

Schenley School stuff, again, of course

Hi all --

Since my last email it looks like my ominous feelings were suitably dark. The numbers I've heard for Schenley renovations this week are higher than any I've heard yet and there's talk of "more taxes" and "cutting teachers." All in all, that sounds grim -- if they save the building, they'll pin every monetary problem the district has on us. Now, it still leaves a lot up in the air. I'm still unable to wrap my brain around a school that has good scores and a tremendous sense of community and history being the guinea pig for reform when there are failing schools getting...what, exactly?

I was #17 to speak when I called the board Friday afternoon at about 4 pm. You can sign up to speak by calling 412-622-3600 before noon on Monday. The meeting is at 7 pm at the Board of Education building in Oakland. (Procedures for testifying in front of the board)

I think there will be some sort of rally beforehand, latest I've heard is starting at around 4 pm (kids have lots of energy!) Consider dropping by and showing your support even if you can't make the hearing. You can also email the board with written testimony at

The number of talking points is immense. If you know someone else who would testify, consider making sure that you're covering different areas! I think the main point in many of these points is the lack of information flowing from the top down, including to the board members. The administration does a very good job of giving out the pieces of information they want out there and holding back on other facts, including comparisons and context.

Here are some various talking points, culled from various conversations I've had with people (if you have more you want to share, send them along):

Reizenstein's renovation numbers are big too -- and it's a valuable property. So, will the IB kids be moving yet again -- not back to a renovated Schenley but to another building yet to be determined, perhaps Peabody? Do they really have any set plans for this school?

What would convince parents to stick with yet another move to a school that isn't Schenley? If it were Peabody where will the displaced Peabody (or Westinghouse) students go? If the plan is for 6-12, where would the Robotics program being put into Peabody right now go? There wouldn't be room for all these students and Robotics isn't 6-12.

Where do the students for these new schools come from and what happens to the schools they leave as they lose population? Will they gradually lose staffing and programs and die a slow death? Either current high schools or the new schools are going to have to give, unless we suddenly double the number of high school students in the district.

How did additions and renovations for Colfax and Sterrett (and now Carmalt Elementary is to be voted on for additions and renovations) not get blamed for wasting money, cutting jobs, etc.? Why is a district with falling enrollment adding additions anyway? Or opening two buildings where one worked well, in Schenley's case?

Why haven't alternative plans for Schenley's renovation considered? A two or three part plan could address immediate safety issues now in a first part, and then renovate the rest over a period of years (as has happened with most other schools in the district who have received regular ongoing maintenance).

Why aren't all the costs for changes to CAPA, Reizenstein, Milliones, Frick, and Peabody mentioned with staffing cuts and raised taxes, too?

How long can smaller schools (if they are 6-12, there will be fewer students in each grade) maintain sports teams, activities, and clubs? Who will they compete against as each school has fewer teams and activities? How many comprehensive high schools can the district support in conjunction with these smaller schools?

Are these schools planned as "high scoring student" (CAPA and IB) and "low scoring student" (University Prep, Science & Technology) schools? Who does this help? Are we to be segregated in every way possible? Where will kids that don't like a program be allowed to go? How strictly will policies regarding scores and grades be followed or will standards be diluted to insure students maintain a certain score?

What will the new lottery/all school choice plan work?

Why is it May and we still don't know about schedules, teachers, and plans for these schools? How is it that the rest of the district still has no real idea of the scope of the changes coming?

Why are we, as parents, treated as though our questions and concerns are unfounded when we are the ones that actually have kids in this?

I'm sure you can think of more. ;-D

Jen Lakin


Anonymous said...

Thanks to you again Jen for the info and insight. I have no kids at Schenley, Frick, CAPA or any of the schools normally mentioned in your posts. I am interested because what happens with these schools and these plans WILL IMPACT ALL STUDENTS AND PARENTS IN PPS.

Anonymous said...

I have already forwarded the pertinent information for tomorrow's board hearing and the planned rally scheduled to precede the rally from Jen and Becky; now I am going to briefly give you my thoughts.

I think that I make a good attempt to keep up-to-date with the high school reform situation. At the current time, I can't tell you where Schenley kids, teachers, and programs are going to be for sure in the next few months and years. Either the information isn't being clearly disseminated or the admin/board hasn't made final determinations. They are experimenting with our kids. I truly believe that they have good intentions and want the plans to work but they are running out of time for September!!!!! I personally do not trust that they will have the details worked out by the end of August. My son is going to be a junior; that is a critical year in terms of college admissions.

Rumors are flying about Reisenstein being too costly to repair, other moves for our program, Roosevelt interviewing for new jobs and abandoning the chaos he has created . . . How many students have to leave the PPS system for suburban, private, or charter schools before they realize that these plans are not being received well?

There is still time to sign up to speak at tomorrow's hearing. Let the board know that its rush to change is ill-advised. Work out the details with the interested parties before rushing to destroy a unique school.

amy moore