Friday, January 27, 2006

Candidate forum in Allentown - part 2

At the candidate forum, a question came to all the candidates about the closing of the Knoxville school.

Knoxville Middle School is slated to close under the "right-sizing plan" of Mark Roosevelt, new superintendent of Pgh Public Schools. Knoxville should NOT close. But, to say otherwise is to just dream on.

I went to the Pgh Public School board meetings in the past months and have showed a lot of interest in this serious issue. The others in the race have been absent. Education has many elements that are important to our city's future. Many of our citizens move out of the city because of the schools. The school budget is larger than that of city government. The school taxes are larger than city taxes.

The school board is not off the hook for the tax breaks to corporations either. Just the day before, the school board approved the tax break for PNC Plaza, a downtown building. That project gets a $18-million TIF (tax break). That is wrong as it takes money from the school programs and gives it to PNC, the biggest bank in the state. And, PNC already got a $30-million grant from PA. (More of our money too.)

And, at the same time, the Pgh School Board approved the TIF for Second Avenue. The miss-managed city leaders want to put up new parking garages on Second Ave business park -- and ignore the established neighborhoods.

These two TIFs were not reported in the newspaper. People have to know what's going on. The big projects drain a lot of money and then there isn't enough left over to pay for crossing guards, rehab a school or pay for buses for high school students. We need to Lay The Shovel Down. But it is frustrating when they don't even see the hole that is being stepped into. Splat.

First, Knoxville is a nice school building. It is in a community that is on the edge. The building has a swim pool, great auditorium, a new playground. The performance of the students at Knoxville is about equal to the performance at the school they are headed to under the right-size plan. So, the kids get yanked from one school to another and there isn't really any upside to those kids. They are not going to go to an academy or get a 'better' opportunity.

But, the district needs to make some drastic changes, so the leaders feel. And, this is one such change.

Jake Wheatley, D, state rep, hosted a meeting at Knoxville with Mr. Roosevelt. I don't think Jake Wheatley really cares about the issues. I've called him six or more times. He is too busy to care about the kids and the students and the buildings to get back to me.

B-Pep is going some good things with a counter approach to the school. I've been to their meetings and have had behind the scenes conversations with them. I'd put more faith in B-Pep than anyone else, if I'm from the Knoxville area and wanted to raise my voice.

A-Plus Schools is a joke. Sorry to say, they are hopeless and not worth much in this struggle.

Rather, than asking for Knoxville to stay open, I'd suggest that the school become the new CAPA Middle School Magnet for the Performing Arts. Rodgers is moving from its present location in the far east end. Rodgers should move into the Knoxville Middle School.

If we are going to turn around our city, we need to do it with plenty of attention to education. The schools matter greatly. How we treat our kids matters greatly. But we can't be just keeping all the schools open just for the heck of it either.

I talked about some other problems and challenges to the right sized plan from the podium. I ranted about some of them on this blog the other day.

The Pgh Public School Board Building in Oakland should be sold. The administration office should then move to Langley High School. The administration offices in Connelley should be moved to Langley High School as well. Meanwhile, Langley High School students and teachers should be relocated to Greenway Middle School.

Greenway has ball fields. Greenway has a much better swim pool. Greenway is closer to those on the South Side too. Greenway is easy to get to from buses, both upper and lower. Greenway is okay to walk to if you are a high school student, but not so good for the younger ones.

A K-8 school should re-open in Chartiers. The building has been through an extensive re-do. That would be a great place.

Schenley High School should stay, with a one-year move to allow for a modest re-do. The students at Schenley could move to South Vo Tech, right near me, and Connelley if necessary.

If Schenley can't fit in South Vo Tech for one year, then the school should not have any freshmen in the year that it moves to the other alternative location. That class won't exist.

The rehab of Schenley, modest rehab, can be done in one year without the students there. Carrick had a major re-do, and the students where there throughout. The costs can be lower to have the work done without the students present.

We need to take South Vo Tech off of the for-sale list ASAP.

After Schenley re-opens, South Vo Tech should get its facelift. Then Phillips School can turn into a Pre-school and K. And South can turn into a K-8 school.

If there is a possibility of thousands of new residents at Station Square with the new developments -- a new urban development no less -- then we need a school for these folks to walk to with their kids. And, the new urban teachers and parents might like to send their kids to Knoxville too -- as a performing arts school as well. That is just up the hill from the new development (proposed).

Somebody needs a big view. I might as well start yapping about it as I don't see the tinkering from the Pgh Public School administators as I had hoped and written about months ago.

1 comment:

Mark Rauterkus said...

I just spoke with another principal who is in one of the western schools. He didn't like the idea of spending $50-million to rehab Schenley. But, he didn't realize that our kids would / could attend there either. And, the next slated rehab of the school (perscribed) is Langley. That rehab won't need to occur because Langley should move to Greenway and he was fine with that.

Most of what was said was okay with him -- except this perception that you can't put the kids, even if it is single gender, from Westinghouse and Peabody together in the same school. Those were his perceptions and he has also worked in that part of the city too.

That's hard for me to get my head around.