Monday, June 30, 2008

PoliticsOnline - News, Tools & Strategies

PoliticsOnline - News, Tools & Strategies Call For Nominations

The 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics

Promise, spend, don't deliver. Make excuse. Pledge more spending. (nuts)

kBruce Kraus offers up another great spending quote:
Computerized city road paving plan going slowly 'I'm not certain that we're putting enough money into doing this,' said Councilman Bruce Kraus. He said some comparable cities have invested $300,000 in systems designed to ensure that paving decisions are made objectively. 'I want everything to be above board, and determined by need, rather than anything else.'
This should be open source software. That's what I'd do.

The city should not be spending any money on closed software solutions. None.

Furthermore, they toss around the 'transparent' word frequently. Prove to the citizens that the spending on the system is not up to snuff. Where is the system? What 200 miles of roads are in there? Where's there in the first place.

Welcome to 2008.

By the way, if Bruce wants to spend some money -- how about if he just hires himself to be a traffic cop on the city side of the Birmingham Bridge, the broken, one-lane bridge. Then he can insure that the traffic on East Carson Street flows.

Sunday, June 29, 2008 Blogs - Pyrite Age turns to Toe Jam Era

There is a KDKA TV News blog. Wow. Blogs Toe Jammed - Posted by jonesy

Seriously, how long does it take?

7-months ago I crushed my toe.
Too bad the graphic isn't show in a larger frame.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Off-duty officer wounds bystander, faces charges after fight

Off-duty officer wounds bystander, faces charges after fight'The gentleman who was in the physical altercation (with the officer) is an innocent victim as far as we can tell. He was just walking,' Chief Harper said.

I knew it would be a 5-4 vote -- but there were switches

I just watched the Pgh Public Schools board meeting from this week. The Schenley High School topic was part of the agenda.


I had hoped to see Heather Arnet vote to KEEP Schenley High School. She didn't. She sided with Mark Roosevelt and the administration.

On the other side, I figured that Tom Sumpter would vote to allow for the closing of Schenley. He didn't. He was with the other black members on the board -- all voting to keep Schenley.

This could have been 5-4 the other way -- since Tom Sumpter voted to retain the school.

NBC offers wide online access for Beijing - - Olympics

NBC offers wide online access for Beijing - - Olympics NBC is making more than 2,200 hours of live competition from Beijing available online, giving Olympic junkies more action than they could ever devour in a day.

After barely tipping its toe in the digital world during past Olympics, the network will dive into the deep end: live blogging, 3,000 hours of highlights on demand, daily recaps and analysis and even fantasy league gaming. That's in addition to the 1,400 hours of coverage planned on six television networks, more than the combined total of every previous Summer Olympics.

City Worried About Losing Money If Casino Work Stops - Pittsburgh News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh

It is not too late to turn over the Pittsburgh Convention Center to Don Barden. He could open the slots parlor there. Then finish the building of the other location in due time.

Pittsburgh could have killed two birds with the same stone by doing this sooner. We'd be with the new income since the end of the All Star Game fan fest.
City Worried About Losing Money If Casino Work Stops - Pittsburgh News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh: "A $780 million Majestic Star Casino is projected to be a sparkling new economic generator for the Pittsburgh region, but there are new questions about funding.

Owner Don Barden has until Monday to come up with $10 million for the contractors who are building his casino on the North Shore. If the payment is missed, work could stop or slow down, and the city would suffer financially."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why we fight for Schenley

Why we fight for Schenley Last fall, the superintendent's office stepped on a hornet's nest when it proposed the end of historic Schenley High School. While I won't address the achievement gap or renovation costs -- wonks on both sides have debated these to death -- I'd like to explain, or try to, the zealotry with which we're dealing.
Schenley is a blended school community. Schenley should not be flushed down the toilet, and lost for the future of this city, because some fibers are buried in some of the walls.

The killer: Roosevelt's reform says deform what isn't broken.

Read the editorial.

City-county merger meeting to be held

City-county merger meeting to be held Council received a citizens' petition yesterday calling for the hearing, and deemed the signatures valid. The drive's organizer was John Singleton of Sheraden, and most of those signing the petition were from the city's western neighborhoods.
I signed this petition. Great work John.

John went to the public hearing and also ranted about the closing of Schenley High School.

Cathedral of Learning falcon dies after collision

Cathedral of Learning falcon dies after collision A young peregrine falcon, banded last month atop the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland, died yesterday when it slammed into a Rand Building window and broke its neck.
At least it wasn't killed at 11:30 pm from crossfire from patrons from the "O."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Merger of CAPA and Rodgers is so typical and not what we should do

Roids -- make you go bald -- #12 used em too

Bradshaw Admits To Using Steroids, so says
Former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw told a reporter he used steroids and
that a doctor administered the injections. VIDEO: Former Steeler LC Greenwood Comments On Steroids

P-G coverag of last nights meetings -- part 2 -- Parents were told to leave the building!

Schenley No. 1 topic at meeting
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A leader of the Save Schenley movement last night made a last-ditch appeal to save the Pittsburgh Schenley High School building, but Pittsburgh Public Schools officials again insisted the structure isn't safe.
Okay -- for the sake of discussion -- let's say Schenley isn't safe today. Then what? I was pleased to hear the questions that came from Mrs. Hazuda about fixing Schenley. The fact that Schenley isn't safe is one thing. But, none within the administration are trying to fix it. She wanted to know how it could be done to make Schenley safe into the future. Good questions. But they were not interested. They said -- well, you know, you've got to get building permits to do that. Like building permits are a deal breaker.

Board member Theresa Colaizzi, angry that Mr. Lardas was given time to speak, stalked from the room and returned after he had finished.
Childish, to say the least.

Mr. Lardas said the reports, commissioned by the district, show that the building remains safe for students and that there's no widespread collapse of asbestos-containing plaster. But district officials said the architects and engineers repeatedly have told them that the district no longer can risk exposing students and staff to asbestos.

Mr. Roosevelt and Paul Gill, the district's chief operations officer, said the qualifications of their industrial hygienists and other experts trumped those of Mr. Lardas, a civil engineer and contractor.

"He's not an expert in this field," Mr. Roosevelt said.
Aim arrow. Shoot messenger. Great for you Mr. Roosevelt.

The asbestos in the walls isn't going anywhere. It does not make a danger.
Board members Mark Brentley Sr. and Randall Taylor assailed Education Committee Chairman Thomas Sumpter, who presided at the workshop, for using the first 90 minutes to list and rank members' concerns about improving the district's high schools.

The pair wanted to spend the time asking administrators about Schenley and other high-school issues up for a vote tomorrow.

"What kind of game are we playing here?" Mr. Brentley said.

Mr. Taylor said the listing and ranking of concerns on large sheets of paper was a "filibuster" designed to prevent discussion of controversial issues. When Mr. Sumpter asked him to rank the concerns written on the sheets, Mr. Taylor said, "Hand me a couple of darts, and I'll throw them over there."

Mr. Sumpter said the board was divided into "two camps" on Schenley. He said some of his colleagues didn't understand that the workshop was intended to be an exercise in policy analysis, not a "rabble-rousing" session or forum for discussing Schenley exclusively.

Before the workshop, about six parents and other supporters held a news conference outside district offices to protest the proposed merger of the middle-grade and high-school arts schools. Among other complaints, the group said there wouldn't be enough space in the Downtown building to accommodate both schools.

Because of rain, the group tried to meet inside board offices but were told to leave.
Joe Smydo can be reached at or 412-263-1548.

Nothing is more telling than that. Parents were told to leave!

Schenley asbestos findings challenged by residents - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

I went to this meeting last night. It started at 6 pm and ended past 10 pm. I've got a lot to say.

We witnessed the worse of the worse. I would have rather have been in a dentist chair than see the behavior of the school board and the top school administrators. It was painful. They got to think out loud and some of them should never do that in public.

Last night Tom Sumptner, elected school board memeber, was the captain. He took charge of the microphone, standing, writing on the big post-it notes, and proved next to nothing except how folly should unfold.

The school board and superintendent spent hours in fruitless discussion so as to rearange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

The highlight of the meeting was a mini presentation from fellow parent, Nick Lardis. He went 100-miles an hour to knock the school districts spin silly only to have board president Bill Isler ask if Lardis was a certified engineer. They all shot the messenger -- missing the message.

I should be clear to qualify both Isler and Sumpter as "outgoing elected school board members" because their present terms are so soiled that they'll never win re-election again.

Schenley asbestos findings challenged by residents - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Schenley asbestos findings challenged by district residents
By Bill Zlatos, TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Supporters of Schenley High School disagreed Monday night with officials of Pittsburgh Public Schools over the danger of asbestos in the building.

"Now, from everything I've seen in the reports and from what I know about plaster and asbestos, the building is as safe as any other Pittsburgh public school for students to be in," said Nick Lardas, 53, of Oakland.

Lardas, who runs a contracting company that specializes in historical renovation, made the comment during the school board's workshop on high school reform.

His qualifications were immediately challenged by district officials.

"Were I to hire you to tell us about asbestos at Schenley, I should be fired," said chief operations officer Paul Gill.

Gill said the district has received four reports from architectural firms stressing the risk of asbestos-containing plaster at the landmark high school in Oakland.

He said the majority of plaster samples in Schenley show levels of about 3 percent asbestos, with some as high as 7 percent. The safety threshold is 1 percent asbestos.

The school board is scheduled to vote Wednesday night on a recommendation by Superintendent Mark Roosevelt to close the school because of that risk and the estimated $76.2 million cost to overhaul the school.

"Mr. Lardas is a reputable contractor," Roosevelt said. "He is not an expert in the (asbestos) field."

Citing advice from the architects and Solicitor Ira Weiss, Roosevelt added, "It is inconceivable to me that we would be discussing to have students in the building."

Before yesterday's meeting, the Task Force for Excellence in Education at CAPA -- a parents' group -- held a news conference to discuss its opposition to the proposed merger of Rogers Middle School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Garfield with the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Downtown.

"It's just not a matter of packing it up and bringing it over," said Linda Doernberg, 58, of Point Breeze. She has four daughters who went to the Pittsburgh High School CAPA, three of whom went to Rogers.

Parents raised concerns about possibly cramming students into rooms, greater wear on facilities and equipment, safety and the teacher-student ratio.

Doernberg complained that a feasibility committee met just once on the merger. The school board is scheduled to vote next month.

Bill Zlatos can be reached at or 412-320-7828.
The superintendent, the attorney, Ira Weiss, Mr. Gill of the facilities side are reading from The Old Testament. Over and over and over again we've heard about the things in the past. Roosevelt calls names and dwells on things that happened last summer, last fall, last reports, last decade, last superintendent. He is Mr. Rear-View Mirror.

The board of the school district listed dozens of serious issues about how the district is failing to meet its established goals, and Mr. Roosevelt is only about to whine about how this is the cost of doing business in this city.

The engagement sucks. Mr. Lartis got the microphone and another outgoing elected school board member, Theresa Colazzi, stormed out of the room, fearing that her mind might be opened, beyond her control.

Mr. Roosevelt wants his "high school reform" to "meet the kids where they are." Somehow, he thinks boutique schools are going to accomplish that mission for the district. Pittsburgh is just bursting at the seams with 5th graders who are itching to get into a Science and Technology focused career path. Or, I.B. Or, with 2 hours of violin a day for the next seven years when you can't change majors, or University Prep.

If there is anyone in the world with fewer credentials of meeting kids in Pittsburgh "where they are," beyond Mr. Roosevelt, they must live in Antarctica.

Just for the record for those who were there. I want our kids to graduate. Yes, it is important to graduate, school board -- as that was debated a bit. And the PPS experience should aim to make lifelong learners from its students. The classroom lessons should put a value on critical thinking. The kids need to know how to better oneself, and that should be done in association with our schools -- with engagement.

Presently, the school board and the district is nothing but a waste of time and money, as proven last night in spade.

Kids drop out. Families leave. They say the district in in declining enrollment. But they don't see themselves as the cause of that poor performance nor the outward migration of the city's residents.

It is ironic how they worry about the 'big picture' and about being 'open minded' but then storm out of meetings when a different perspective comes. They can't even add numbers nor keep time.

It took 2-hours into the meeting to the point where it should have started. No wonder the principal at Oliver can't execute a school year for seniors. They don't value time nor know how to manage it.

Reform for them sounds like "de-form" for the city.

To reform, one needs to see what is before us at present. Then chart a course for the future based upon where we are now. Mr. Roosevelt said staging the reform agenda is the hardest part of the process for him. Of course it is because he is lost on the course as to where we are today. He can't meet the kids where they are. He can't meet the citizens where they are. He can't stage a series of changes that make sense as he is clueless on what has been unfolding in this district the past years. And, he's been her for three years as well. He has no excuse.

These "Schenley supporters" who don't listen are really just city taxpayers, parents, and experts that can't be purchased. My opinion, as a parent and connected person of the community, can't be bought. I'm not for sale. My report is not able to be hired.

Only a fool like Roosevelt would stand behind experts and think that the opposition won't understand that experts can craft the reports that the one's paying the bills want them to generate.

The out of town experts are meaningless when contrasted with the un-paid, in-town, insulted yet still in your face, parents and students who pay for these schools and still show up in them day after day.

When we go away, there will be nobody to attend his boutique schools. And, many are tugging at us to just go away and allow for the collapse of the city and the school district.

When does the lesson on 'fight or flight' get taught in the science and tech lesson plans?

The fight rages on. We will win because they proved, last night, again, that they are clueless and without logic.

The building at Schenley has troubles. We understand that. Fix it. Fix it when the kids are not there.

Now we are hearing that the building was a danger and yadda, yadda, yadda -- go talk to the solictor and read from the Old Testament again. That's a rear-view mirror approach. Fix it.

Moving to the four other schools costs more. It is more expensive to not just fix it.

The asbestos that is in Schenley is just like that of the other buildings in the district. It needs to be managed. Manage it. Do the job that needs to be done. And, be honest about it.

We don't want our kids to be in a dangerous building. And, we don't want to be paying for a palace either. But most of all, we don't want to put our kids in failed buildings that cost plenty for the short term and have no upside with those investements.

We don't want to toss good money, rare money, down the drain in Reizenstein. Sell Reizenstein. That wasn't mentioned once last night. There is no plan for the long-term home for the I.B. students and the middle school ISA (Internation Studies Students).

A committee without names, without budgets and without a track record of getting anything done in the spirit of engagement in PPS, does not make for a plan.

Finally, around 10 pm last night, Randall Taylor, elected school board member, talked about some of his plans. His plans save millions of dollars. Perhaps up to $15 million in a two year period and millions each year for the future as well.

Furthermore, the Taylor plan saves good schools and helps to boost lagging schools.

Furthermore, not another board member said a peep about what he delivered.

Furthermore, there was not even a peep from the Administration about Tayor's plan. The only grunts from our paid administration was clarification that the solutions would fit and would save millions.

But, that came at the very end.

Randall Taylor's plan is to move Robotics from Schenley into Peabody. That is already happening with the Roosevelt High School Reform efforts. Plus, Taylor wants to move all the rest of Schenley's students, I.B., Spartans, ESL, etc., as well as all the faculty, staff and support people too -- into Peabody High School. Everyone in the school would go together into Peabody and join with those at Peabody now.

Peabody is a big, rehabed, building that is way under capacity. And, Peabody has the space.

Moving into Peabody means Reizenstein, presently closed, could be sold. No short term money is needed there for a temporary solution.

Moving into Peabody means that Frick does not need to change. That saves $14-million.

Moving into Peabody means that Milliones does not need to be set up as is under the present plan.

Furthermore, Taylor wants to see the extra two floors that have been purchased at CAPA be devoted to high school students. Expand the high school component there. Don't move the middle school to CAPA.

The Peabody + Schenley School gets I.B. as well as a mix of other disciplines, as a blended high school experience in an accessible space.

Plus, the science and technology programs gets into Westinghouse High School.

The closed Knoxville School -- opens with a petition?

Some attendees said they would like to see Knoxville Middle School reopened in the summer as a recreational site. The school, which closed in 2007, has a gymnasium, auditorium, swimming pool, playground, and basketball courts that would keep children off the street, said the attendees.

Mr. Kraus told them to get a signed petition and take it to the school board, and he would back them.
There's a plan.

CAPA Parents Voice Concern Of Possible School Merger - News Story - WPXI Pittsburgh

CAPA Parents Voice Concern Of Possible School Merger - News Story - WPXI Pittsburgh: "CAPA Parents Voice Concern Of Possible School Merger"

CAPA Parents Voice Concern Of Possible School Merger
Parents Feel Decision Overshadowed By Schenley Controversy

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- CAPA High parents spoke out against a plan that would merge the schools their children attend on Monday night.

The proposal calls for the merging CAPA and Rogers CAPA.

Parents said the plan has not received a lot of attention because of the decision to close Schenley High School.

Linda Doernberg is a chairwoman of the Task Force for Excellence and has children that graduated from both schools.

Doernberg voiced her concern about the priority of the possible merger and said, "Shockingly there has been one meeting of the feasibility committee for this merger and it was held on June meeting."

Opponents said the merge does not make sense financially.

They said if both schools merge, the academic credibility of its staff will decline.
CAPA is not a 'clown car.' I love that sign. I had the photo on this blog weeks ago.

I've been talking about CAPA and Rodgers for many months.

CAPA is a good high school. It is the best in the district with academics. The best should be expanded, if not replicated. The district should expand and allow more students into CAPA, given the extra two floors. Keep CAPA as a school that ranges from 9-12th grade.

Don't put kids in grades 6, 7 and 8 into CAPA. Don't short-change the middle-school experience by cutting out their access to stage space. Don't put yellow school buses on downtown streets. Rodgers is a good school. It should be replicated, not jammed into downtown spaces.

SAVE MONEY. Keep it where it is for now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

First meeting of the Campaign for Liberty: 7 pm on June 26, 2008

I'd like to invite you all to the first meeting of the Campaign for Liberty. The mission statement can be found here:

Details regarding the meeting can be found here:

I'd like to see this group as a network of activist networks, building on the meetings begun last year at Tom K's house, with the Libertarian party, Constitution party, Republican Assembly, Second Amendment groups, etc. all communicating and cooperating on the liberty activist front.

Ideally, we will go over the agenda items for CfL, then each group represented should be able to go over their current slate of activities (ie: LP-Barr's and CP-Baldwin's presidential campaigns, anti REAL-ID, voting system audits, etc). Afterwards, I'd like to break up into discussion/planning groups, and people looking to get active can choose which projects to work on.

We should have computers, wireless access and printers available.

Whether you are just looking for information on the liberty agenda or interested getting active, this should be one of the best opportunities to advance the liberty agenda since the start of the Ron Paul primary campaign, and I would encourage all to come, whether or not you can be active right away.

I hope to see you all there!
-Dave Powell, Chairman, LP-PGH, Co-Org, PAFA

Libertarians 'may send a message' to the GOP - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Front page coverage, again, on Ron Paul, in today's Trib.
Libertarians 'may send a message' to the GOP - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Libertarians 'may send a message' to the GOP
Wonder when the coverage is going to flip to Bob Barr? Will he get two front page stories from the Trib in the weeks after the election too?

4th of July invite

The 4th of July is coming again (it does that every year!) and we are having our annual party. Here are the details…

6 pm:Badminton in the park by our house (Armstrong Park, 12th and Sarah).

If you don’t want to play or watch badminton, plan to show up at the house (108 S. 12th Street) any time after 7 pm.

We’ll have the usual arts and crafts and some “water” games.

Remember, we supply napkins, plates, utensils, cups and lemonade and chips. If you want something more exciting (and we hope you do), please bring some to share (food or beverage).

You’ll be viewing the downtown fire works from our deck just after dark.

For those of you who came last year amidst our renovations in progress, all the renovations are finished and we’d love for you to see the final product!

Everyone is welcome – please feel free to bring friends, relatives, etc.

If you need to reach us, call 412-298-3526 or email at

Hope to see you.

Mark, Catherine, Erik, and Grant
(Sarah (two year old cat) and two kittens, Sam and Lyla.

Homework is still due: Re-asking questions to the Pgh Public School board and administration

This is from citizen, parent, advocate: Kathy Fine. It is a reposted here, with pleasure, with slight edits. My reactions to follow, later.

June 23, 2008

Dear PPS board members,

As we all seek the information necessary to make an informed decision regarding the fate of Schenley High School, it is important to remember that we are all on the same side. We all want a public school system that serves ALL children. We all want to be fiscally responsible in that quest. We all want our voices to be heard and to be given real consideration when it comes to the education of our children.

Below are 3 questions to which we need clear and detailed answers to before anyone can consider closing the Schenley building:

  1. What are the 5 and 10 year vision if the district? How will high school reform affect the other 9 PPS high schools?

  1. Given that Schenley High School is the only high school between the rivers (besides Alderdice and CAPA) that is not perceived by the public as in an “unsafe” location, where will the IB students be housed if Schenley is closed?

  1. What is the cost for a renovation that would make the building safe and available on a no frills basis?

I know that this process has been difficult for everyone involved. There are no easy answers. We know that the administration is trying to do what is right to make our students safe as well as address the wide array of academic needs of all of our students. But there is usually more than one option when solving a problem, and we would like all of those options to be thoroughly evaluated.

We would like to thank each of you for your dedication to our public schools. We realize that it is often a thankless job, but one that is so important to the success of our public schools and the vitality of our city.

Best Regards,
Kathy Fine

Questions that School Board Directors need answered before voting to close Schenley High School

  1. Schenley Remediation

    1. Why did the plaster start falling in the Schenley building?

      1. Administration response:

        1. The district yesterday said the installation of new windows in 2005 has reduced ventilation, contributed to humidity and weakened the plaster. (PG 11/20/07)

        2. On June 18, 2008 Mr. Vidya Patil, Director of Facilities, PPS, reiterated the often repeated statement that the cause of the falling plaster from the ceilings in Schenley High School is due to delamination (failure to adhere) caused by age.

      1. Reality: Failing plaster is due to repeated water exposure from roof leaks, possible ventilation problems, inadequate plaster repairs by PPS facilities, and delayed repair (WJE Conclusions, Materials experts hired by PPS, 10/07, tab 8, pg 7)

    1. When did the falling plaster begin and how large the problem?

      1. Administration Response:

        1. Mr. Fellers said in a report that "ceiling and wall plaster (particularly on the upper floors) is falling away from surfaces on a recurring basis" (PG 11/20/07)

        2. After a ceiling collapse in a stairwell last summer, the district spent $750,000 to repair 10,000 worn areas of plaster building-wide. (PG 11/20/07)

      1. Reality: WJE reports that Robert Kennedy, PPS Facilities, stated that there were 5,000-10,000 patches were repaired last summer (tab 8, pg 2). Mr. Roosevelt repeatedly states only the 10,000 number. This is often reported as failure on a grand scale. However, the Schenley building has approximately 600,000 to 1 million square feet of plaster (ceiling and wall). If there were 5,000 one square foot patches done, this would be only .5% of the total ceiling space in Schenley needing repair.

The piece of plaster that Mr. Fellers refers as a “ceiling collapse” was a 4’X4’ piece of patch that had been repaired improperly (PPS facilities did not use mesh or latex modifiers/plasticizers which is why some patches failed. (documentation here)

    1. What is the recommendation for solving the falling plaster problem?

      1. Administration response

        1. Astorino: Vacate and gut the building. “It would be difficult to determine the magnitude of overall danger of possible plaster failures in the future. It is important to understand that danger does exist and requires constant monitoring” (Astorino, tab 1, pg 2)

        1. Kimball and Assoc.: Vacate the Schenley building until it can be adequately renovated. “Asbestos plaster of this era typically adheres to substrate very well (that was the purpose for putting asbestos in plaster) (tab 1, pg 3). This is not true, asbestos is put in plaster for fireproofing and increased tensile strength. “The plaster in this building has maintained its integrity for approximately 90 years and started to fail almost universally across the entire building.” (tab 1, pg 3) Also untrue, plaster failure was due to ongoing, unaddressed moisture exposure according to WJE.

        1. Note: MacLachlan, Cornelius and Filoni made no statement regarding the immediate removal of the students and staff or to potential danger posed asbestos or falling plaster, only that the major renovations should be done while the building is vacant. It should also be noted that the Filoni report initially contained a section evaluating the costs of renovating Reizenstein for converting into a high school and evaluating the worth of Reizenstein building, but this section was redacted before it was released to the public.

      1. Reality: According to WJE, the materials expert hired to assess falling plaster, PPS should: fix leaks to stop moisture, repoint mortar joints, hire engineer to assess ventilation system, inspect plaster near any roof repairs, use proper techniques to repair plaster (use mesh or latex modifiers to do it correctly, PPS facilities did not do this, that is why some patches failed), periodically inspect for future plaster distress.

Summary of damaged plaster assessment: WJE, the materials experts hired by the PPS, evaluated the remediation of the patches done on the PPS facilities and states most areas of plaster failure had been identified and that correct repair methods and periodic monitoring along with proper ventilation will be sufficient for safety. However, the administration, Astorino, Kimball looked at the evaluation done by WJE and came to completely different, more dire conclusions. If roof leaks and ventilation are repaired, there is no reason to keep students out of the building in the fall. Humidity, poor ventilation, water infiltration and windows not opening can be remedied in a cost effective manner.

    1. What is the cost of only asbestos removal?

      1. Administration response: Robert Kennedy states that asbestos removal will cost about $40 million.

      1. Reality: Al Filoni reports that estimates for asbestos management range from $3.5 million to $30 million, but he estimates that the costs would be closer to $10.5 million.

    1. What is cost of asbestos removal and new ventilation only?

      1. Administration response: Mr. Roosevelt said he fears that a partial renovation merely would mean doing more work down the road. Two Kimball executives said they doubted a partial project would be feasible now anyway because the falling plaster would prevent the asbestos from being encapsulated (PG, 11/20/07)

      2. Reality: The standard management of non-friable asbestos (the type that is present in the plaster at Schenley and is not a risk to health) according to the EPA is to leave it in place. Even the plaster that has fallen has not released asbestos into the air (AGX report) The ventilation system can be replaced/repaired during the summer when no students are in the building and abatement of asbestos around ducts can be done at that time.

Two Kimball officials -- Thomas Blank, vice president and operations manager for the civil and environmental division, and Ryan Pierce, vice president of K-12 architecture -- today said the $37.8 million estimate was made before plaster began falling away. The low estimate included encapsulating the asbestos, which is cheaper than removal. However, encapsulation is not possible when the plaster is falling down.

    1. Can the work be done to make Schenley safe for students/staff and the rest of the renovation (electrical, plumbing, air conditioning) be done in stages as funds become available? Will this add substantially to the costs?

    1. What is the scope of work that will be done at Schenley for the $76 million costs?

      1. Administration response- Mr. Roosevelt yesterday released six renovation cost estimates, the highest an $86.9 million proposal from L. Robert Kimball & Associates in 2005. That proposal included $500,000 for refurbishing an organ. Ryan M. Pierce, the Downtown firm's vice president and market sector leader, said the proposal was not only a renovation but a "restoration" of the building. (PG 11/20/07)

      1. Reality: It is unnecessary and extravagant to perform a “restoration” on the Schenley building at this time.

    1. What are the costs to remove all asbestos and make the building available on a no frills basis?

    1. What is the level of asbestos in Schenley compared to the level of asbestos present in the other six PPS high schools?

      1. Administration response: “It's in every wall, in every ceiling, on every floor," and more prevalent in Schenley than other district schools, the district's chief operations officer, said Richard Fellers, (PG 11/20/07).

        1. Paul Gill states that what differentiates Schenley from other high schools is that extensive work was done at Peabody and Westinghouse. What does that mean? Was asbestos abated completely at these other two high schools? Is there asbestos in the plaster at these schools?

      1. Reality: Awaiting documentation from administration.

    1. What is the total cost for housing the Schenley students in 3 separate facilities?

      1. Administration response: In October 2007, the cost estimates from the administration for renovations at Reizenstein, Milliones and Peabody were $28.2 million. Add the costs for CAPA expansion and Sci-Tech renovation and the administration was proposing to spend $49.3 million.

      1. Reality: Architect Al Filoni placed the renovation costs for Reizenstein at $50 million, bringing the total cost for housing Schenley students to $64 million. This cost does not reflect the soaring construction costs or the fact that the Milliones and Sci-Tech price tags are most likely grossly underestimated as the cost for Reizenstein was.

  1. General Questions

    1. What are the 5 and 10 year plans for the district?

    1. What are the plans for the other nine high schools?

    1. Shouldn’t we have a permanent location for the IB program before any decision is made regarding Schenley?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wilkinson dives into effort to replace training facility

This sucks. Business decision, or not.
Wilkinson dives into effort to replace training facility UT isn't the only university to find divers at the Woodlands. 'Well over 140 divers have received Division I scholarships; that's every single diver for the last 19 or 20 years who graduated,' Armstrong said. 'That's our No. 1 goal, to get their education paid for. The Olympics is just the icing on the cake.'"

UT isn't the only university to find divers at the Woodlands. "Well over 140 divers have received Division I scholarships; that's every single diver for the last 19 or 20 years who graduated," Armstrong said. "That's our No. 1 goal, to get their education paid for. The Olympics is just the icing on the cake."

New plan for pool

The Woodlands, which opened in 1974, boasts that it is the first master-planned community in Texas, and it is certainly one of the largest, most successful and well known. In 2000, the bedroom community 25 miles north of Houston had a population that exceeded 55,000; it's now approaching 90,000. The community was the vision of oil and gas magnate George Mitchell and was designed to be an alternate to the sprawling suburbs, incorporating nature and outdoor activities into everyday life. The private athletic club, with its swimming and diving facilities, was one of the development's original amenities.

Of the Woodlands' diving well, Scoggin said, "It's my favorite outdoor facility in the world. It's surrounded by all these pine trees. It's picturesque and pristine, and it's neat the way the way they can pack the crowd around the pool. It's like tennis at Wimbledon."

The Woodlands will open a new $5 million aquatic center this year. Instead of platforms and springboards, however, the kid-friendly facility will have a lazy river for floating and a two-story slide.

Susan Vreeland-Wendt, marketing director for the Woodlands Development Corp., which controls land use in the community, confirmed that the club is scheduled to close at the end of the year.

"The cost of renovation would be pretty big," she said. "I really can't say anything specifically, but we're looking at a lot of options."

Possible uses for the club site include townhomes, condominiums or an expansion of the Woodlands' resort and conference center.

Armstrong said there were plans to close the club before the 2008 Olympics, but the development corporation has kept it open so that the divers would have somewhere to train.

"I thank them for letting us stay," Armstrong said. "I'm sad to see it go. I have some strong feelings for this, but I understand it's totally a business decision."
Let's do some math.

There have been 140 college scholarships x $80,000 (average) = $11-million in college aid.

The boost to the local economic situation in terms of hosting events, property values, and so on ... priceless.

Schenley High School - put into perspective

Most taxpayers and citizens don't realize the size of the Pgh Public School budget. But, everyone has an opinion. Vote in these questions on the blog poll.

Can we spend 1% of the school district's budget for 20 years so that Schenley High School can house almost 20% of the district's high school students for the next 100 years?

I think that will be a blog poll question shortly.

Should the Pittsburgh Board of Education place a moratorium on all capital spending in connection with High School reform until the district has presented for public review and comment a plan for High School reform (including the configuration, projected capital costs, location and projected enrollment for each school)?

Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics
School of Architecture
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213-3890
Phone : (412) 268-2350
Fax : (412) 268-6129

To the School Board Members, Foundation Leaders and City Council:

This is not a 74 million dollar question of whether to Save Schenley or not.

The question is “Should we spend over 60 million to move 1200 kids out of Schenley into ‘boutique’ schools in less safe neighborhoods and lesser buildings on the assumption that smaller 6-12 schools will improve academic performance?”
The question is “Should we give up one of our highest academically performing schools in the best location in town (for collaborative magnets on science, technology, health, and more) and move kids to lower performing schools, on an unproven assumption of yet another ‘silver bullet’ for improving academic performance?”

The question is “should we repair and upgrade a grand, crafted school building that has 50-100 years left, or should we repair and upgrade buildings with 20 years of life left, sinking our tax dollars into oblivion?”

Even if you have no children left in the Pittsburgh Schools, the answer to these questions will affect your economic future. Our future tax base is dependent on continuing to attract young families to live in the city, and every resident will tell you this is school dependent. Only three high schools give prospective residents confidence: Allderdice, CAPA and Schenley, and real estate values reflect this directly. The value of your own real estate, and the viability of our city, is dependent on the quality and proven success of our schools. Of course, there is significant room for academic improvement, but you want to start with the highest base you can find, a school that effectively merges diverse populations with shared success.

Then, there is the question about the true condition and costs of renovating Schenley. Though worn, Schenley is a perfectly adequate learning environment as is, in fact far superior to any of Schools under discussion since it is a truly ‘green’ school with daylight, natural ventilation, thermal mass, and highly crafted construction. While the cracking plaster that contains modest amounts of asbestos should be abated (taken out) or encapsulated (covered), monthly measurements have shown it is not a danger to students. Estimates vary from a few million to 10 million to remove and resurface all 300,000 square feet of Schenley. 5-10 million is all that must be spent to save Schenley, unless we want to restore the building to its full glory with the most up-to-date laboratories and amenities. This was done in rival Cleveland with State and Federal support, where John Jay High School was renovated into a breathtaking destination for three smaller magnet schools – a success story we should all see first hand.

To act in a professional manner, the school board and the superintendent must:

* Secure three binding bids from leading US firms to undertake asbestos abatement now, considering all choices. This task that must be undertaken even if the building is to be sold.

* Secure 1-3 binding bids for upgrading the schools that would be absorbing the 1200 Schenley students, if a move was really in the best interest of our kids, so full comparisons can be made.

* Complete a 5 and 10 year plan for School closings and re-assignments that reflect comprehensive assessments of the academic, space and location benefits of each school, and the range of student populations that can be anticipated (especially if school confidence is assured and fuel prices remain high).

* Demonstrate to the residents (and future residents) that merging middle and high school populations into one school building definitively improve educational outcomes and that the scheduling, space and advising challenges of housing 11 and 18 year olds together has been fully resolved.

These tasks must be accomplished before decisions are made by the School Board.

Given that there has been inadequate research on the value of boutique 6-12 schools to academic outcomes; Given that there has been inadequate planning to establish the ‘ultimate’ school portfolio for the next 10 years; Given that there has been inadequate planning to work through the chaos of merging middle and upper school schedules and spaces; Given that there has been inadequate cost estimating on any of the ‘domino’ schools in play; Given the extensive press on “we don’t have 74 million dollars to spend” - there is no way the Schenley question can be put on a public referendum and receive unbiased or informed votes.

Yours Sincerely,

Vivian Loftness, FAIA (Fellow of the American Institute of Architects)
Professor and 1994-2004 Head of the School of Architecture
Carnegie Mellon University
Board of Directors, US Green Building Council

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"The children that feed into Schenley are not going to disappear."

Elected Pgh Public School schoolboard member, Tom Sumpter, said, "The children that feed into Schenley are not going to disappear."


If and as Schenley High School closes -- people will depart. They are not going to be here. And most of all -- the city is still bleeding its people.

The city's population is in a tailspin of decline.

Sadly, I'm not sure that the members of the board understand that the families are packing and that many others have already departed.

Thankfully, the Pgh Public Schools is holding a workshop meeting on Monday.

Oliver's seniors fell short on days

Oliver's seniors fell short on days: "Oliver's seniors fell short on days
District blames principal, seeks waiver from state
They administration just proved our point! They are so worried about Schenley, that they are able to ignore the schools that need the attention, need to oversight, need the coaching, need the support.

What is the plan with Oliver?

Clue to the public -- there is none. They don't have a plan for Oliver at present. It is impossible to have a five year plan for them when this year's plan is so deficient.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Colbert Bump for Firefox 3

Poynter Online - E-Media Tidbits

Poynter Online - E-Media Tidbits: "AP v. Bloggers: Hurting Journalism?"

KQV/Pittsburgh News Loses Steve Lohle

To say I was shocked to see that KQV Newsman Steve Lohle died suddenly today of an apparent heart attack was an unterstatement.

The last time I spoke with Steve was last year when I called to tell him that my short-stint as a Metro traffic reporter was over. As usual, when a friend was getting screwed, Steve would utter a cloud of obscenities that would make you laugh. When I was on the air last year there were a couple of "lines" we'd share with one another and I could hear the smile in his voice.

Guys with booming voices and penchant for humorous fits of cussing got to stick together, you know.

Steve was the kind of guy who "saw it all" in radio news. He had been at KQV since 1974. Once he knew he could trust me, we hit it off. He was my best friend in the KQV newsroom, and with folks like Maloney, Goldman, Hagman, Cloonan, Effort, Riley and Ballarotto, there wasn't a loser in the bunch.

Dan Wineberg solemnly talked about Steve at the top of the 5 p.m. hour then played a canned interview between Maloney and Lohle. Steve, as usual, was shy "being interviewed" then came alive when he laughed.

KQV General Manager Robert W. Dickey called Steve "The Voice" of the Station. Dickey also mentioned that Steve "confided in him" that he wanted to "go" like Tim Russert almost a week to the hour prior. Dickey and I agree: God was listening.

I vividly remember taking the call from Steve when he informed the newsroom that his wife Barbara had given birth to his son Colin, who is now 10. We often talked about fatherhood as he was a "late in life" Dad. Over the years after I left KQV, I'd call to check in on Steve. He'd always answer the phone in a gruff manner. When I'd say hello, he'd say "Tommmmy." Then we'd share stories.

Wineberg's voice justed cracked just a smidge when he read "The Late Steve Lohle" at the conclusion of the taped interview just before 5:15 p.m. It's hard to comprehend.

Steve Lohle was my best friend at KQV. Please say a prayer for this wonderful man and his family.

Patrick's letter to fellow members of council

Dear Colleagues,

I would be grateful if you would take a few moments to review the attached letter. I look forward to spirited and positive discussions over the next few days.

All the best,

Schenley-letter-Dowd to page with a link to the PDF now posted at

Reactions welcomed here or on the wiki.

We knew that Patrick Dowd was going to be quick to defend the actions of Mark Roosevelt. Patrick's statements at the end of the public hearing were "interesting." He blamed city council for not doing enough. But then he wags a finger to city council for getting involved.

At the end of his rant, I shouted out, "Bring it on." Patrick wants to reform schools. So do we. Patrick wants hard decisions to be made. So do we. But, we need to have the right decisions made. Closing Schenley isn't it.

Patrick also was clear that he didn't know if closing Schenley was the right decision. He couldn't defend the decision to close the school. He expressed a good deal of doubt that I didn't expect to see from him.

Board to tackle Schenley referendum

Poison pill alert.
Board to tackle Schenley referendum The city school board may vote as soon as Wednesday on member Theresa Colaizzi's proposal for a referendum on whether to renovate the Pittsburgh Schenley High School building.

A day after going public with the idea, Ms. Colaizzi yesterday reiterated her desire to resolve the controversy with a ballot question and said Pittsburgh Public Schools Solicitor Ira Weiss is working on a resolution that she hopes to introduce at Wednesday's legislative meeting.

Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge

Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge: "Welcome to the Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another option - Let voters decide Schenley's fate

Another option? Let voters decide Schenley's fate: "Another option? Let voters decide Schenley's fate
Thursday, June 19, 2008
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh school board member Theresa Colaizzi last night threw another wrinkle into the debate over Pittsburgh Schenley High School by proposing that voters decide whether to renovate the Oakland building.

Ms. Colaizzi said a referendum could be placed on the ballot to ask voters whether the Pittsburgh Public Schools should borrow nearly $80 million to renovate a building that's historic and beloved, but plagued by asbestos and other maintenance problems.
I dare say that Theresa Colaizzi is feeling a little heat on the pending vote to advance into the darkness known as Mark Roosevelt's High School Reform by closing Schenley High School.

Make no mistake, voters will decide upon Schenley's fate. Mark Roosevelt won't.

This school board and this superintendent might vote and move to close Schenley. However, they'll be tossed from office. Then the next board will re-open Schenley. Voters will decide. Now the question remains -- how much will it cost? We can pay to fix this situation once now. And, that price tag is far below $40-million. Or, we can pay to undo what they're about to do.

Voters will decide. Voters are telling the board and the administration what to do. But, it is a matter of who is listening and who wants to ruin his or her career.

The question for the ballot is not what Colaizzi frames. Do taxpayers and voters in Pittsburgh want to save Schenley and save $40-million? Or, should it be closed and spend $40-million extra.

The $80-million is NOT an option. We don't need to re-build Schenley High School from scratch. We don't need air-conditioning. We don't need to fix the pipe organ in Schenley. It doesn't cost $80 million.

We don't even need to remove the asbestos -- because it is already gone! There are no dangers to Schenley for our students.

She said council has no business commenting on school renovations and finances when the Legislature about four years ago diverted millions of dollars in school taxes for a city bailout package.
I do think that board member Colaizzi does have a point i the mention above. I wrangled with Gene Ricciardi about these concepts. He got mad at me for my statement that he was not a friend of public education due to the fact that the TIFs (Tax breaks) were pushed to include the schools and the mess with the crossing guards. The city of Pittsburgh should never have pushed a burden of paying for crossing guards onto the backs and budget of the Pgh Public Schools. Never. I raised my voice on this matter dozens of times.

However, the expense of crossing guards is much like a twisted ankle when the overall wellness of the patient is in the Intensive Care Unit. City council didn't help -- it hurt -- a few years ago.

Now, the tables have turned. That's old news. Get over it.

Council has a right and duty to limp to the school board and stick its nose into the business of our city, our neighborhoods, our kids and our taxes.

Schenley supporters are not a vocal minority. Tonight I was at a meeting in City Council District 2. One of the speakers, before me, stood up and railed against Dan Deasey, the local councilperson, for not voting to support the resolution about the out of control high school reform agenda and Schenley.

Many were without interest -- in October. Now they are aware. We won't forget.

Go Heather Go!

I'm sure Mr. Roosevelt is frustrated. He hasn't done his homework. He is banking on apathy. He has worn out his welcome. He is bankrupt with logic.

You can't close 22 schools and then turn around and say you'll open new schools.

You can't make a flock of schools that stretch from grades K to 8 and then turn around and say that the high schools should now be grades 6 to 12.

You can't say it costs $76.3 million to remove asbestos when there isn't asbestos in the building. And, when the costs are much less to fix up some of the plaster.

You can't say that the school is a danger to kids but keep the kids in the school for another school year -- last year -- like he did. There isn't any danger. The sky is not falling --- there.

You can't say you want to do high school reform and never mention a word about what to do with Langley, Oliver, Peabody nor Westinghouse. Those are the drop out factories. No plan. No real reform.

You don't fix what is not broken and ignore what is broken. You should replicate what is working elsewhere -- not tinker and deform it.

You can't talk about efforts to improve the disparity of student performances between the whites and blacks by making the split wider by using re-segregation solutions.

Finally, it is very interesting to see that the P-G reporter, battle-cat, Rich Lord has put his name to a story that included the topic of Schenley High School. Rich's lifelong pledge was to avoid Schenley as a topic, so he told me.

Internal Pittsburgh School Audit Criticizes Student Tutoring Arrangement - Target 11 News Story - WPXI Pittsburgh

Internal Pittsburgh School Audit Criticizes Student Tutoring Arrangement - Target 11 News Story - WPXI Pittsburgh Target 11’s Rick Earle has discovered a Pittsburgh school board member's son was paid to tutor other students during the school day.

Earle obtained an internal school document that was critical of the arrangement. The school board member's son wasn't alone.

In all, 20 Pittsburgh School District high school students were paid to tutor last year. Some of them were paid to tutor during the school day.
True story. My son, now finished with 4th grade, walks past a classroom of K students in the hallway counting off after a bathroom break. They count, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc. My son, being the wise guy, injects some other numbers into the mix, under his breath, 12, 5, 9, 13. He walks past.

The teacher gets steamed. So, my son, is put into hot water and has 'tutor duties' assigned to him for lunch period every Wednesday.

The principal takes him aside and has a little talk with him. He explains, that as a 4th grader, the things he is working on is much unlike what the Kindergarden kids are facing. Those kids don't have such mastery of the numbers in a group setting.

My son wasn't teasing the kids because they were 'dumb.' But that is another story on motivation for another day.

Anyway, the principal puts forth a question to my son, to prove a point. He asked, "For instance, what's Newton's third law?"

He answered: "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Never mind.

My son had a wonderful time as a tutor. He got so good, they had him in sessions to instruct other kids in the 4th and 5th grade on 'how to tutor' too. The teacher gave him a wonderful photo book of the national parks and he also got a certificate of appreciation at the end of school assembly.

My son did put in a two-week notice so that in the final two weeks of school, he'd be able to have more social time with his classmates at recess. Request was granted.

He didn't get a check. If anyone here leaks this story that other students were getting paid to tutor -- I don't know what he'll do.

Wow, it's been a week! -- so reports Jen Larkin

At Monday nights meeting, there were 87 speakers signed up -- more than half were Schenley. There was also a contingent of CAPA parents and students, as well as several teachers. In general, the CAPA point was that they had raised many concerns about the merger that remained unaddressed, most urgently the issue of crowding, but including many others.

Listening to their complaints that the administration doesn't listen, refuses input, and ignores issues felt very familiar! I urge you to go back and look at the plans put out this fall (on the district website). Other than moving three grades of Schenley together to die a slower death (a change which was likely undertaken to make the Milliones move more successful, they certainly didn't want kids who had known Schenley ruining their new program!), the plans haven't changed at all. All those months of A+ meetings, hearings, and other meetings were just to allow us to feel heard, rather than be heard.

Anyway -- the speakers Monday were again great, there was someone talking about Oakland land use and the need to keep Schenley a school. Barbara Ernsberger, chairperson of the City of Pittsburgh Democratic Committee reported the results of a meeting showing overwhelming support among ward chairs for saving Schenley the building as a school. Vivian Loftness reiterated the value of the building that was spelled out so beautifully in Sunday's paper. Parents asked for a comprehensive plan and for a comparison of the costs of moving schools here and there, over and over again.

On Tuesday at City Council, it began with a mystery. The printed list of speakers listed three "Invited Guests" including Derrick Lopez (Chief of HS reform), Paul Gill (Director of Operations), and Linda Lane (Deputy Superintendent, only member of the administration I saw at the Schenley musical, turns out she went to every HS's musical, I like her!). Doug Shields said that this happened without going through his office, as it should have and without his knowledge. A quick decision was made that they'd only have 3 minutes, like everyone else. However, none of them were there. Here's the PG's write-up:

The discussion after our testimony was interesting to watch, if only because we never get to hear from the School Board at hearings. As you may have heard though, they already wrote and voted on a resolution, without Peduto there to vote (or call in) and with a seemingly confused Rev. Burgess voting against a delay because he doesn't know what's happening with Peabody and Westinghouse, it didn't get the 5 votes it needed, only got 4.

Today's paper has this story:

Patrick Dowd went on about a bond issue on Tuesday night too. We've never gotten an answer as to who it was in the administration that was tasked with looking at alternatives (and if there really was someone, any indication of the extent of their efforts.) -- instead some have jumped directly to the ballot. Liked Randall Taylor's suggestion that all the other reform spending should be bundled up and put to a vote too, if that were to happen. Part of the point of Peduto's plan and the lease buy back idea of 2005 was that it avoided debt altogether.

More later -- just wanted to get something out. I'm off to write a letter to the editor and spend some time with a 5 year old who's sick of listening to me type!

Please keep getting the word out to non-Schenley affiliated parents that there are so many parts of this plan that affect all city residents, all students and that they need to be active now. After plans are announced, as we well know, it's very hard to get any movement at all.

Jen Lakin

Concept Map of A for Athlete project

Click image for a larger view:

Carlynton and Sports Letter to Editor from Running Mate in PG West

Letters to the editor/WestLetters to the editor/West
Letters to the editor/West
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Carlynton needs nonresidents on teams

Despite opposition from residents representing youth programs, some elected Carlynton school directors want to limit facility use to organizations with 100 percent district youths.

They believe nonresidents take opportunities from Carlynton kids because nonresidents outperform our kids; thus, Carlynton kids need contrived opportunities for success because they are unable to succeed on their own. Not only are these beliefs untrue, they are insulting.

Without basis, these directors also claim that clubs "train the competition" and that's the reason high school teams don't win. What they don't realize is that barring nonresidents won't hurt those kids, it will only hurt ours.

Nonresidents will train elsewhere, while our kids will lose out because without nonresidents, many Carlynton programs will fold. Carlynton is too small to field teams by itself. In the end, our kids will get less training, and high school teams will suffer.

When asked, no director could explain what Carlynton gains by limiting programs. In contrast, youth leaders stated that further restrictions would hurt our programs and our kids. Nonetheless, some directors still advocate excluding nonresidents.

These "nonresidents" aren't aliens from Mars. They're our neighbors in Ingram, Thornburg and Scott. They live down the street from us. They work, play, shop and worship with us, and their districts warmly welcome Carlynton kids into their programs.

Let's hope those districts don't adopt the "us only" view of some Carlynton directors. Our kids will suffer greatly. Instead, let's hope Carlynton's directors listen to the people who elected them and adopt policies to keep our kids off the streets and engaged in positive, directed pursuits.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Report says gifted children are being left behind

Report says gifted children are being left behind A report released today asserts that gifted children are being left behind in the era of school accountability.
I was just yapping about this topic on another blog thread.

Debt disservice - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Great letter in today's Tribune Review:
Debt disservice - Pittsburgh Tribune-ReviewDebt disservice
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

At a time when Pittsburgh Public Schools is facing a monumental debt of nearly $476 million, the answer to this economic crisis should not be more debt ("Hard numbers haunt district: City schools' debt $476 million," June 10 and

Yet, that is exactly what Superintendent Mark Roosevelt offers as part of his sweeping consolidation program for the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Before we take another step down this path, we should ask: Would the planned program be doomed to fail because there is not money available to carry it out when it is time to execute?

I urge Pittsburgh Board of Education members to delay any decision regarding any of the planned mergers until a full accounting for all costs is presented to the board.

Our children's and our region's future depends on their decision. This is their last chance to make the right decision. They should not make it in haste.

Brian K. Del Vecchio, Squirrel Hill

PolicyBlog: Limiting political speech won’t create good government

PolicyBlog: Limiting political speech won’t create good government Monday, June 16, 2008
Limiting political speech won’t create good government
My reply there

Hold the phone:

I worked to de-rail the campaign finance reform bill in Pgh about three years ago. Then, after begging, got onto the group to help draft this version. Then it was changed a bit with amendments.

I don't speak for Tim -- but for myself.

Of course none have pledged to make politics free from influence of special interests. That is an absurd wish. But, campaign finance reform can put an upper price tag on that influence.

Do you think that corporations feel left out and rights have been denied because there can be no corporate donations to candidates?

Just as goofy.

Of course it would be great to have the conventions paid for by the parties and not the taxpayers. But that is a different matter.

Campaign finance reform does not limit political speech. Your speech is always a right you have to yourself. A donation is not a speech. Rights are not able to be purchased. Speech is still free.

I do think that campaign finance reform will better serve the public.

I feel that elections will be more competitive with finance limits. Different. More people will run too. That is more important. It is hard to be more less competitive than the case now when too many run without any opposition.

Every corrupt politician and big city political machine does not favor campaign finance reform -- because Luke Ravenstahl just vetoed the bill.

The Pgh campaign finance reform was not with any part of government giving taxpayer handouts to favored businesses.

We agree that a way to "get money out of politics" is to limit the size and role of government. So, it makes sense then to limit the size and role of donations to candidates.

SI reporting that the Tiger has just left the building

Report: Tiger to Miss Rest of Season

Days after what he called his "greatest tournament," Tiger Woods will miss the rest of the season because of a left knee that will require more surgery, a person with knowledge of the decision told the Associated Press earlier today. That means Woods will miss a major championship for the first time in his career. "This excitement of this past major championship created a transcendent drama and it may be the one we remember the best of all his majors," said SI senior writer John Garrity. "Not to be able to continue this soap opera the rest of the year is tough. I think we thought it would kind of be an on-again, off-again story and even that would have kept the excitement going for fans. Now the curtain has been pulled back. Sorry, that’s the show for this year. It was fabulous, but it’s over."
Perhaps we'll see Tiger in Beijing in August, soaking up the Olympics, and doing golf's political work to insure that his sport gets inserted into the line-up in future Olympiads.

Council resolution to delay Schenley vote fails

Council resolution to delay Schenley vote fails: "Ms. Harris and Ms. Payne wanted council to ask the board to put off its vote until the public could study the conflicting accounts on the cost of fixing Schenley and all interested parties could come together. They won the support of colleague Bruce Kraus and Council President Doug Shields, who argued that there are 'no easy choices here' but that the district should make its decisions on Schenley only as part of a complete plan for its buildings.
My email was just sent:

Hi Tonya, Ricky and Darlene,

Thanks for your listening last night....

I did not watch the discussion unfold in person or on TV today. But, I've got a few thoughts for you after reading about it on the PG site.

Was it possible that you had to rush a tad too much. Peduto could have called in -- or --
otherwise waited. ?? So sad to have the resolution about Schenley and HS Reform NOT pass.

We got to get to five votes. Counting to five is sorta important.

To get to Rev. Burgess -- let's jump to the selfish points for a moment. I'm not sure if it is clear -- but Schenley is an all-city magnet. District 9 kids are able to go to Schenley. That helped get Chelsa into the game. This is everyone's school.

I know for a fact that there is one family that is moving out of his district and downsizing to a house to stay in the city but be put into the feeder pattern for Dice. The family is very close to leaving the city, loves the present home -- but does not want to be part of an 'experiment.'

Mr. Roosevelt has said that only 20% of the students in the Peabody feeder pattern choose to attend Peabody. I'd love to see Peabody turn into an all city magnet for either boys or girls. Put the other gender into Oliver.

Peabody needs serious attention in an urgent way. The new principal is great. But there is much to be done.

And, I'd love to see the Science and Technology magnet / HS go into Westinghouse. There is no reason to put the Sci/Tech school into Frick. For the wired -- being in Westinghouse is even better than being in Oakland. Teleconf needs, etc.

Is middle-school, CAPA / Rodgers in city council district 9 too (Lincoln Lemington) ?? It is a shame to have 6-9 Rodgers depart that area. The move to CAPA downtown is going to make an empty building in a frail neighborhood. And, the tightness of quarters is going to downsize a
great opportunity -- allowing few of his kids to get into the best performing school.

Lots of kids from the south of the Mon go to Rodgers and love it there. They are getting a good education.

The other huge factor for Rev. Burgess to know is the property next to Bakers' Square -- where Reizenstein sits -- can be sold and re-developed if the school at Schenley stays at Schenley. That property can be a great upside for that area of the city. Councilman Burgess is on the redevelopment committee. That is a key location with tons of upside for the city and district 9. Putting a school next to an upscale hotel is not going to make for a great fit.

We really need to get Darlene Harris to work upon both Skip Mc. (firefighter) and Mrs. Fink (ex-board bud) to have one or both of them flip their vote.

Can we get some info to the Firefighters to put some 'old-fashioned heat' upon Skip? The firefighters send their kids to the schools. Some are sure to be grads of the district too. When the city shrinks -- the firefighters are sure to suffer as well.

Tonya needs to get to Tom Sumpter.

There is some homework for you three.

Let's get another resolution to another vote -- and have the five votes in hand before the meeting begins. But, the real push needs to be with PPS Board: McCray, Fink and Sumpter.

Engineers say Schenley is safe, claim there is no asbestos problem in building

Great read.
Engineers say Schenley is safe, claim there is no asbestos problem in building Two engineers claim that if Pittsburgh Public School officials had read their own reports, they would realize that there is no asbestos problem at the Schenley High School building.

Not only should it not be permanently closed, they said, it should reopen in the fall.
This is what we need. MSM coverage of the real story.
“Schenley can open in the fall for zero dollars,” said Lafean. “It is just as safe today as it was when it was built.”

Lafean, an industrial engineer formerly with Westinghouse who also did extensive work for the U.S. Navy, said Superintendent Mark Roosevelt’s $72 million repair estimate—which he said the district cannot afford—is a complete fabrication.

Even if the expenditure was needed, Lafean said, Roosevelt is prepared to spend at least that much to renovate the closed Reizenstein and Milliones middle schools and Frick 6-8 to house the displaced Schenley students. So, he asked, if it’s not about money or about safety, what is it about?

“In all those reports, there is not a single quote from any asbestos abatement firm, ventilation or air conditioning contractor—no one has submitted any bids,” said Lafean. “He just took all the square footage and asked what would a total rehab cost.”

Nick Lardas, owner of Niko Contracting, who earned his civil engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University and has remodeled several historic buildings including Smithsonian Institute buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C., said Schenley need not be renovated all at once, nor completely gutted to address its issues.
"Bring it on."

Where is the fabrication now?

Fewer TV cameras last night

fans urge council to support their cause
Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Pittsburgh,PA,USA
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette About three dozen residents last night implored City Council to jump into the controversy over Pittsburgh Schenley ...

Students, Parents Fight To Save Schenley High - Pittsburgh,PA,USA
PITTSBURGH -- Parents and students who are upset about the closing of Pittsburgh's Schenley High School took their protest to the halls of the City- County ...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Statement to City Council from citizen about Schenley.

Kathy Fine reported to have made this statement to city council tonight at the public hearing:
Good evening City Council Members. Thank you for providing us an opportunity to voice our concerns regarding the upcoming vote on the Schenley High School closure. It has been a long eight months since Mark Roosevelt first announced his plan to closure this flagship of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Although we realize that this entity is has no real jurisdiction regarding school district affairs, we felt that we needed to use this venue to shine a spotlight on the fact that the administration has had an advantage when it comes to framing this debate and that our viewpoints have not been clearly heard.

One point that is essential to make is that everyone in the “Save Schenley” movement is in favor of meaningful reform. We are not obstructionists. In fact, I have been dedicated to achieving progressive school board governance by working tirelessly to get first Patrick Dowd, your esteemed colleague, and then Heather Arnet elected to the school board. Ultimately, my work on these elections contributed to bringing Mr. Roosevelt to Pittsburgh. No one is here to tear the superintendent down. We want, no, need him to succeed for the sake of our children and for the sake of our city.

But just because we need a forward thinking, dedicated superintendent does not mean that parents, community members, school board directors or city leaders should be a rubber stamp for all of his efforts. Parent and community input is crucial to the success of reform on the scale that Mr. Roosevelt is proposing. That is all we are asking for, that Mr. Roosevelt allow us to be a part of creating a better public school system for our children.
Three, including Kathy, were also on PCNC TV's NightTalk, tonight. I didn't get home in time to watch.

Francesmary Modugno letter to editor about school sports

Francesmary Modugno is a real 'running mate.'

Editor: In light of the upcoming Carlynton School Board meeting in which the directors will vote on a facilities usage policy, I submit the following letter for publication. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.


Despite opposition from residents representing youth programs, some elected Carlynton school directors want to limit facility use to organizations with 100% district youths. Why? They believe non-residents take opportunities from Carlynton kids because non-residents outperform our kids; thus, Carlynton kids need contrived opportunities for success because they are unable to succeed on their own. Not only are these beliefs untrue, they are insulting. Without basis, these directors also claim that clubs "train the competition" and that's the reason HS teams don't win. What they don't realize is that barring non-residents won't hurt those kids, it will only hurt ours. Non-residents will train elsewhere, while our kids will lose out because without non-residents, many Carlynton programs will fold. Carlynton is too small to field teams by itself. In the end, our kids will get less training and HS teams will suf! fer.

When asked, no director could explain what Carlynton gains by limiting programs. In contrast, youth leaders stated that further restrictions would hurt our programs and our kids. Nonetheless, some directors still advocate excluding non-residents. These "non-residents" aren't aliens from Mars. They're our neighbors in Ingram, Thornburgh and Scott. They live down the street from us. They work, play, shop and worship with us, and their districts warmly welcome Carlynton kids into their programs. Let's hope those districts don't adopt the "us only" view of some Carlynton directors - our kids will suffer greatly. Instead, let's hope Carlynton's directors listen to the people who elected them and adopt policies to keep our kids off the streets and engaged in positive, directed pursuits.

Francesmary Modugno
I think that this will run in the P-G West tomorrow.

called a bombshell: There is enough asbestos to fit in my pocket -- says ex-principal at Schenley

Tim Stevens wrote, in part:
The first Black Principal of Schenley High School informed me today that asbestos was removed from Schenley in the summers of 1970 and 1971. This is a BOMBSHELL!! He states that if there is asbestos there, it
would only be enough to fit in this pocket!!

He is willing to come tonight, and at my request has just signed up to speak...

Mark Roosevelt has the "Midas Touch" in reverse. Stop the fuss. Don't break other worthy programs!

KDKA TV coverage (first link) has great video statements from parents. The reporter slants to the side of Superintendent Mark Roosevelt who says the district can't afford the estimated $75 million in renovations the high school needs to stay open. We agree, in part. We don't want to see the district spend $76-million on Schenley. But, Schenley can stay open. Schenley is safe. Much, much less should be spent on Schenley -- because those other schools, the failing ones, are being ignored.

Supporters Urge Board To Save School
KDKA - Pittsburgh,PA,USA
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) ― Supporters of Schenley High School are making a last-ditch effort to save it. The Pittsburgh Public School Board is set to vote next ...

Group Fights To Save Schenley High School - Pittsburgh,PA,USA
PITTSBURGH -- Supporters of Schenley High School make a last ditch effort to save the school. They attended a public hearing in front of the school board, ...

Pittsburgh Channel, WTAE TV:
Great quotes: "gentle investment" ... "Colossal mistake."

Schenley supporters push to save school: "Speakers say a new plan must come before decisions to close"

The P-G photo looks as if it came from the TV show, Batman, with the twisted photo. We are evil and crooked, so says the P-G editors. Kathy Fine looks fine. The press event was great. Sadly, the P-G hasn't been 'square' with the coverage nor its watchdog functions.

Pittsburgh Schenley High School supporters last tried to shift the momentum in the debate over the building's future, with leaders of the city Democratic Committee, the Pittsburgh NAACP and the Black Political Empowerment Project calling for additional efforts to save it.

Supporters didn't try. We were successful. We pounded home the message and have taken all the momentum out of Mark Roosevelt's train wrecked policies. This is way beyond Scheley too.

Every member of the city's Dem Committee voted -- VOTED -- to save Schenley. And, I spoke, as a Libertarian, just after the city chair. Wish the Republicans would have answered the call. Everyone is against the moves. And, there is that 'done deal mentality' that we're fighting too.

Mr. Stevens was among the speakers who said it would be unwise to close Schenley until Mr. Roosevelt unveiled a plan for improving all 10 district high schools. Absent such a plan, he said, how can the board make an intelligent decision?

School supporters, many of whom also plan to attend City Council's hearing on Schenley at 6 p.m. today, said Mr. Roosevelt has been able to frame the Schenley debate with exaggerated estimates for renovating the 92-year-old Oakland landmark.

They said they're trying to re-frame the discussion by focusing on how much the school district stands to lose -- in reputation, academic quality and students who withdraw from the school district -- if officials walk away from it.

The city does stand to lose. We'll lose a bunch of school board members when they get voted out. And, we'll lose a politician/superintendent and a few weenie school administrators too. Then, after the next board comes into place, we'll still re-open Schenley and un-do much of the harm these present folks are causing.

Supporters said last night's turnout comprised a cross-section of racial, neighborhood and civic groups, hinting at the breadth of pressure they intend to bring to bear on board members.

Leslie Horne, a member of the NAACP Education Committee, said the reasons to save Schenley include community support for the school, successful academic programs and a diverse student population, including students learning English as a second language.


"What is the hurry?" she said of Mr. Roosevelt's proposal to close the building this month. "Vote to table the permanent closing of Schenley until all options are considered."

There is no rush, except to make a crisis for Mark Roosevelt. He needs a rush to keep ahead of the mob that is still waiting on the report of the things that were messed up so badly in past years. He needs to keep up a new fuss as the prior changes not only didn't bear fruit -- but have crumbled to nothingness. Roosevelt has a "Midas Touch" in reverse.

Democratic Committee Chairwoman Barbara Ernsberger said a group of about 80 voted overwhelmingly at a May 21 meeting to support efforts to save Schenley.

Mr. Roosevelt repeatedly has proposed closing the school, saying the district cannot afford $76.2 million in renovations, including asbestos remediation.

But speakers last night repeated their assertion that a Schenley renovation could be done for less. They questioned his plans to reassign students to new schools and his motivation for wanting to close Schenley, again suggesting that the cash-strapped district will try to sell the building.

Shadyside resident Annette Werner said MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni Inc., the architectural firm that provided the $76.2 million estimate, suggested the district save $15 million by renovating only three of the school's four floors.

The $76.2 million estimate represents an unnecessary gutting of the building -- "great if you can afford it," Oakland resident Nick Lardas said, noting one architectural firm estimated that a scaled-down project would cost less than $40 million.