Sunday, December 18, 2005

Jake Wheatley, Jr. + Mark Roosevelt + meetings

I got to mingle with a few at Knoxville yesterday at a meeting hosted by Jake Wheatley, Jr. Dem, State Rep, and Mark Roosevelt, Pgh Public Schools Superintendent. Others were there including two school board memebers (Mark B, Jean F) and a few friendly community activist.

Knoxville is slated to close -- as per the plan. The kids there are to go to Arlington. In this case Knoxville is ranked as a "2" -- and so is Arlington. And, the Knoxville School and community is putting up a fuss. The school is in great shape. There is a strong sense of family in the building. There are plenty of positive elements to the overall situation there.

It will be a very, very sad day if Knoxville closes.

I didn't hear the word, "phase" once, sadly. I did hear a bit of hype in the promises. Some Elementary kids, now in 5th grade, have already been to four schools. Unreal.

The trend has been, as I've described before, to jerk the citizens around. They jerk us out of the swim pools in the summer. They jerk students out of the schools, such as South Vo Tech. The property values get jerked around. The budget process is full of tugs and pulls -- often at last minute, frantic, paces.

How about if we phase out a few of these schools!

When they closed South Vo Tech -- I objected that the news came in May. There would be no school to re-open in September. Furthermore, some of the kids who were JUNIORS at South Vo Tech had already been to two other schools. If you are a high school student, going into your senior year, you don't want to be going to your thrid or fourth school for your senior year. That was wrong.

I asked for the follow-up numbers too. I want to know how many Juniors and Sophomores at South Vo Tech dropped out of school and didn't graduate from Pgh Public Schools.

It would have been a little more expensive, but a lot more human, to close South Vo Tech in a phase out so as to not jerk around the students and families.

If the board and superintendent promised to do a much better job of closing schools in a phase out process -- in terms of years -- then they'd get all the support in the world.

Put a big red "X" on the front doors of the school to signal the school's future closure. This school is to close in three years. No new students may enroll. End all bussing for the school for the last year. Drop the staff by 50% each year, at least.

That promise of a gradual school shut down would give a huge boost to families in the city. In the burbs, they don't shut down schools like this. Heck, many suburban districts only have two elementary schools. How could they close one? Most have one middle school and one high school.

They people in the burbs don't deal with this same crisis that city redisents face -- year in and year out.

Finally, for now, don't stand before the citizens and say that this is the last time we're going to 'right size' the school system. That's a joke. This year's 'right sizing' does NOT apply to high schools, so says the 'right size plan.' The kids in middle schools are going to be jerked around again with the eventual, probable shut down and re-organization of the public high schools in Pittsburgh. Don't say we are going to do it once and for all.

Superintendents who succeed generally don't make it past 3 years. Our kids are going to be with the district for 13 years.

In Pittsburgh, do NOT sing the blues until you've paid your dues.

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