Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Public Comment to the Pgh Public School Board and Administration about the folly they're causing with out schools and children

The city schools have both an enrollment problem and an employment problem.

These are the statements from my son. They were delivered last night to the school board along with 100 other statements from citizens.

Erik Rauterkus


Statement to the Pgh Public Schools Board of Education

Hello, I am Erik Rauterkus. I live in the South Side. I am a 7th grader a Frick ISA, 6-8, a middle school in the heart of Oakland.

At Frick I am a Spanish major.

Last year Frick started the school year with two full-time teachers for Spanish. My teacher was Ms. Layal. Every thing was going fine until the other Spanish teacher left in the middle of the school year. One fix was a combined class, making our class huge. Later in the year Ms. Layal left too. We were left with about 2 weeks of substitute Spanish teachers that could hardly speak the language let alone control the class.

Then a teacher named Ms. Carter came along and she was with us for about 7 or 8 weeks. After that we had Ms. Llayl again for about 5 more weeks. After that we had Ms. Brunet. We had a handful of Spanish teachers.

This year again we have had many other Spanish teacher problems. The students have no clue what teacher could show up in the door the next day. We have had many very unreliable Spanish lessons throughout the past 2 years at a school. Frick has a specialized language program.

Teacher turn-over has been a real concern. Now the French kids have teacher issues.

Teachers have no clue if they will have a job next year. If great teachers are offered a job in a suburban school, they know they will have that job, that building, that program year in and year out.

The students, families and TEACHERS get yanked around throughout the district time and time again.

Who is going to teach at Frick next year?
Who is going to want to teach at I.B. World?
Who is wanting to teach at the Science and Technology school.
Will Rodgers teachers be merged into downtown spaces at CAPA?

Teachers do not know where they will be. Many will decide to go to suburban settings – and so will the students who want a stable school environment.

Please vote NO as to moving Schenley and Frick.

Thank you for your time.
If others wish to share their statements, please email them to me: Mark -@- Rauterkus -dot- com. I'll do my best to make them appear on this blog.

By the way, KDKA Radio is clearly against the citizens on this matter. Its coverage is crooked. The one blurb on the radio news today was a humorless joke. News pointers:
Group Wants Schenley High School To Stay Open
Read more in our Privacy Policy Dozens of supporters of Schenley High School turned out as a last ditch effort to save the school. ...

Supporters plead Schenley High's case
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - An overflow but mannerly crowd of more than 200 people asked the city school board Tuesday night to save Schenley High School in ...

Last night's meeting has a couple of sideline fireworks. There were people held at the door upon my mid-meeting departure who where not able to witness the meeting. There were 45 open seats in the main room. Yet, the citizens were being held at the front door by security. Go figure. In another instance, my voice recorder caused a meeting stir.


Jason said...

"against the citizens"

Mark again you have lost sight of the fact that the subset of citizenry that is trying to slow school reform and 'save' Frick and Schenely do not represent the entire set of citizens or even a fraction of the citizens represented by the PPS Board.

Your arguments lose something when you do not take into consideration the positions of others.

Mark Rauterkus said...

That fact is unfounded. The fact of the matter is that I'm in the giant majority.

We have NOT been trying to slow school reform.

Rather, I want to halt the EXODUS from the city and school DE-FORMs.

I ask, "Where is the reform of the Vo Tech Education? That needs to be put on the 'fast track.'

I ask, "Where is the city-wide single gender high school magnet?" That needs to be done ASAP.

The position of others can be posted here. I listen. They don't.

What position do you want to take? Do you want to sustain the lie of the Pittsburgh Promise?

Anonymous said...

Schenley's supporters rally to save school
By Adam Brandolph
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

School spirit and camaraderie, along with the school's dance team, flowed out into Bellefield Avenue in Oakland last night as more than 50 students, parents and teachers protested the proposed closing of Schenley High School.

The school's marching band played the Schenley fight song an hour before the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education public hearing.

Huong Vo, 15, a Schenley sophomore, sat in the cold outside and made signs for her classmates.

"I don't feel that closing the school is necessary," Vo said. "Losing the school would be like tearing a family apart."

The school board is scheduled to vote Feb. 27 to accept or reject Superintendent Mark Roosevelt's recommendation to close the school because he said asbestos problems and the aging infrastructure would cost $64.4 million to repair.

More than 75 people were allotted three minutes each during the public hearing to express their viewpoint to board members.

Some students and parents championed the school's diversity, location and safety compared to other city schools while others spoke of the consequences of closing the school.

The speakers asked the board not to make a hasty decision and to make the public part of any final decision on the school.

"Schenley is not a building," said Tim Dugan, an alumnus of the school and a member of the Black Political Empowerment Project. "Schenley represents a mission, a goal."

Dugan said Schenley is the lone Pittsburgh school to be able to cross all socioeconomic lines.

"Schenley is something important," he said. "It's more than money. It's symbolism. It's history."

Adam Brandolph can be reached at or 412-320-7936.

Anonymous said...

About 85 of the 107 registered speakers spoke at the board hearing last evening. I wasn't able to see most of the demonstration because I drove around for about 20 minutes before I finally parked illegally (for 10 minutes in a spot that was legal after 6). By the time that I got to the building, they were already letting speakers in. I did get to see a few minutes of the marching band.

The first 3 speakers spoke in favor of closing Schenley due to the high cost of the repairs (One was from the engineering firm that did the report for the board and another was the dean of Pitt school of ed) but after those three it was "save Schenley" all the way. There was a nice mix of speakers: white, black, parent, student (Schenley and Frick), alumnus. The speakers were very impressive, touching on all areas of the issue: lack of information provided, 6-12 mix, transportation, need to involve the community in the funding process, history, tradition, problems with keeping the 9th grade at Frick, lack of trust of the repair estimates, Schenley family as voters. There was even a very moving under-three-minute musical performance by a group from the Schenley theater dept.

Because of the huge number of speakers on the list, only those who were registered to speak were admitted to the building at first and only the first half of the speaker's list was allowed in the board room, the rest were sent to the cafeteria where tv's were set up to watch the proceedings. If anyone reading this can share who was admitted to the cafeteria and who was turned away, if any, I would appreciate it. Justin Lewis the attorney who tried to file the injunction to stop the vote on the 17th was speaker #96. He did not think that last night's hearing met the criteria for an open hearing since not everyone was admitted to the room. He has called for a complete disclosure of the board's plans and another OPEN hearing 30 days later; he has offered the services of his law firm to our group if the board does not comply. Tim Stevens of the Black Political Empowerment Project gave a moving speech asking the board to meet with representatives of the various groups involved to brainstorm for solutions. Another speaker (and my brain is fuzzy on this one so if someone who attended last night and stayed to the end can clarify, I would appreciate it) mentioned filing with civil rights commission if the nearly all black Milliones school is created.

Overall, it was a very inspirational meeting for those who were able to attend. Even if our efforts are in vain, it was a great demonstration of the Spartan Spirit.

... (housekeeping snip) ...

amy moore

Mark Rauterkus said...

You should try to get onto Amy's list if you care to follow her insights.

She spoke last night too.

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Oh Oh they are running a KQV phone poll to get people to call in to see if they want to save this high school. So far 61% say tear it down and 39% say save it.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Just heard the KQV poll. It is a bogus question. The Schenley price tag is inflated. The cost does not need to be $62-M. The cost of the other building re-habs are not included. The rest of high school reform is not mentioned either.

Bogus question and bogus coverage from a number of outlets.

Anonymous said...


The meeting last night was well-attended; you could hear the drums of the marching band down on the sidewalk as the meeting got underway. Initially, they only let in registered speakers (1-75) and after that, well, after that I was inside -- if someone (students? those not registered to speak?) could let me know how it was handled after that point, I'd be grateful. I believe the overflow was routed to the room with the remote TV coverage. If you were denied access, please send me an email.

The first three speakers (how amazing that they signed up first, must be very punctual) supported the closing of Schenley. Speaker one emphasizing cost, speaker two (dean of the School of Education at Pitt) emphasizing that all money in the district should go directly to students, not parents or buildings. If only the board weren't already spending millions on moving schools around with plans to spend $50M on this first phase with Schenley closing. Speaker three read a letter from the CEO of Astorino. I hope you're not too surprised to learn that Astorino agrees with itself and its assessment of the building's needs.

Then the mood changed.

Amy Moore reports: "There was a nice mix of speakers: white, black, parent, student (Schenley and Frick), alumnus. The speakers were very impressive, touching on all areas of the issue: lack of information provided, 6-12 mix, transportation, need to involve the community in the funding process, history, tradition, problems with keeping the 9th grade at Frick, lack of trust of the repair estimates, Schenley family as voters. There was even a very moving under-three-minute musical performance by a group from the Schenley theater dept."

I'll just add a few more highlights (probably more to follow, as I remember them and people send me hints):

Tim Stevens (founder and chairman of Black Political Empowerment Project, former president Pittsburgh NAACP) spoke very stirringly, without notes.

Steven Hirtle provided the board with a map showing where Schenley students live in the district (answer: everywhere). He notes: "The direct link to the Schenley page is [click on small map on the right hand side of the page]. This is public data that was linked to the PPS website at one time and was used, in part, for the initial rounds of closing of the elementary and middle schools. It was put together by my colleagues at Pitt."

Here's the main link too, while the information is from 2005, it's likely still accurate at least for Schenley, (though obviously not for schools that have closed): Data Atlas at

Other themes of the evening:
Phasing out Schenley over three years is a poor last resort.
Separating the students is a bad idea, as is resegregation.
Creating a corridor of three high schools in a mile and a half is short-sighted/dangerous.
Slow down, tell us more, take our input, the community has ideas and solutions and ignoring them is a bad idea and doesn't bode well for successful reform.

My favorite slogan of the evening came near the very, very end and it was "Schenley at Schenley" which neatly sums up our goals. (Thanks to Ellie Tecza for that one, she's a senior).


Now, if you read the newspaper coverage (I haven't looked at the Trib yet) or watched the TV news reports though, it's amazing how few of our points get covered. Here's contact information for news outlets if you want to ask some of the questions below and/or add in your two cents:

KDKA -- contact KDKA investigators

WTAE -- contact WTAE contact link middle column below the fold

WPXI -- contact WPXI anchors and reporters (links on right to each bio and email)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
-- contact Education (got a tip link is in the second to right hand column, scroll down)
--send letters to the Editor or contact the Editorial board

-- Education (I don't see a contact link)
--letters to the Editor

Pittsburgh Courier
Online contact page

Questions we've had:

-- Where's the reporting and investigation into the cost of fixing the basics at Schenley (say, heating, ventilation, asbestos remediation, plaster?) vs. the costs of making it "like new." Nick Lardas pointed out last night that of the $37-42M figure, only 5-15% is for asbestos remediation.

--Where's the reporting on the research that we keep hearing is available on 6-12 schools?

--Where's the investigation of costs incurred over the last 5 (or however many years they want to pick) of opening, closing, re-opening, reclosing, fixing and closing, etc. of schools? (or of additions to Colfax (~14M?) and Sterrett (~10M?) in a district with so many closed/unused buildings)

--Where are the requests for transparency, openness, community involvement and community buy-in? Can they follow-up on the information we've asked for, but don't get?

--Where's the reporting of the first year performances of the ALAs -- have they gained or lost population, how do scores compare to the scores at the students' old schools? How's that Kaplan curriculum (and this year's re-do by teachers of the curriculum) going?

--Where's the reporting on coming changes like a new lottery system, district-wide choice, etc. Why are parents and students not being consulted during the planning stages?

Obviously, I could go on for days. In fact, I'll stop there and go on, well you know, for days after this.

Let's get our questions out there!

Let's not be quiet: Next public hearing is December 10th (7 pm), with sign-up starting December 3rd and ending at noon on December 10th. There are only 2 or possibly 3 more of these hearings before their vote on closing the building in February. Let's have representation at every one.

Interesting story in the PG, found while hunting for links: Student success tied to teacher mentoring.

Congratulations if you made it the whole way -- I feel like I should offer a prize to anyone who got this far!

Jen Lakin

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Coverage is bogus? I think not. They had what 20 high school kids at the last protest. This issue is played out to the point that anyone can understand it. Close the school. Move into the 21st Cent. KQV poll not going well at all for the save the school people. No not at all. Which is probably why it is bogus.

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Final KQV vote 52% say close the school.

Anonymous said...

I have received several emails this week that lead me to believe that I have not been clear on what I think we should be fighting for. Although I personally think the Schenley building, diversity, and location are worth fighting for, as IS/IB parents there is a greater concern.

It is possible that the move to Reizenstein and the formation of a 6-12 school will be better for the IS/IB program. My personal feeling is that it has not been clearly thought out. This administration has an unfortunate history of making moves and then scrambling to fix those moves. Although there are probably more examples, a few come to my mind immediately: (1) Kaplan curriculum which was paid for, implemented, and is now being revised by Pitt. (2) Shuffling of kids in the East End schools and the chaos that has resulted from having middle school kids put back with elementary (3) formation of K-8 which was to be the answer to the middle years and before we have had a chance to work out the problems, a shift to 6-12.

Three years ago, before Mr. Roosevelt was hired, we held several work meetings at Frick as the International Studies Cluster. At those meetings we developed lists of ideas for strategies to improve our program. Many of them would cost the school district little or no additional money but would greatly improve the quality and academic rigor of our program. When the preliminary report of the High School Reform Task Force was presented, several of our ideas appeared (they traveled to Boston and Denver when they could have just listened to us). Most of our ideas have been ignored in the reorganization of the schools.

If you look at the High School Reform Task Force, I do not think that any of the members are part of our IS/IB community. Doesn't it make sense to have the people with some experience in that area be part of the decision-making process? One thing that I have learned from the Save Schenley hearings is that we have many talented, educated, knowledgable people who are IS/IB parents.

A few of us have been very vocal in our desire to Save Schenley at Schenley. I think that it is important to look at the other side of the story also. Maybe I am missing something. At the very least, if the move is inevitable, I hope that they will further discuss the location of next year's freshman class. How many 9th graders will remain in IB if they have to stay at Frick for another year (not that I had any problems with Frick but there are too many problems with having the freshman class at a separate location)?

If you would like to present an opposing view to my observations, I will be happy to share with the group. I sure don't know the answers and am open to more discussion. The most important thing to me is that we are aware of what is happening before it is too late to make changes.

amy moore

Mark Rauterkus said...

Of course 52% said close the school. But it was a failed question. We should not spend the $50-60-70-million on just Schenley. If the question was Schenley or NOTHING -- then close Schenley.

But, the cost of moving Schenley is great. Save $60-m by closing Schenley and PAY $40-M to relocate those that had been going to Schenley.

And, reform (or deform) all Pgh Public High Schools and cost another $200-M or more.

The bottom line isn't found within the question of the poll from KQV.

Jennifer said...

Actually the 52% of respondents voted to yes SAVE Schenley. And again John Q, Marty G. John MacIntyre and all the other folks with cotton in your ears and your blinders on, the issue is about the entire High School Reform package that we DO NOT automatically accept is a good thing. It is going to cost MORE to implement the HS Reform package than to save Schenley --and that is even if you accept the over estimation of $64mil to fix the building. And there is no evidence that the reform package will do anything to actually help pittsburgh public school students. If they can show me how this is a smart, fiscally responsible plan that will in fact offer greater opportunities to all the districts students, then I'm all for it. But I have serious reservations about the plan, and those who have presented it. They have yet to offer any evidence that these massive reforms are sensible.

The 200 students and parents that showed up at the recent hearings represented mostly Schenley but also Frick, Alderdice, CAPA, and Elementary Schools like Linden and Liberty. Some of the exuberant teenagers made great theater for the cameras with their Schenley chants and the Schenley marching bands amazing performance, but most of the people there understand Schenley is the tip of the iceberg, the edge of the wedge, and that ALL THE FREAKING HIGH SCHOOLS WILL BE AFFECTED, Perry, Alderdice, Westinghouse, all of them. While we WANT improvement and reform, simply shuffling students generally has not been effective anywhere and the disruption it causes to students, families and communities should not be taken on lightly.