Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pittsburgh school board delays vote on Schenley closing - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh school board delays vote on Schenley closing - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review The Pittsburgh Public Schools board will not be asked to vote next month on Superintendent Mark Roosevelt's proposal to close Schenley High School.
Roosevelt recommended the closing of the 91-year-old building in Oakland because of asbestos problems and an aging infrastructure that would cost $64.4 million to fix.

The board, which had planned to vote on the proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, decided Tuesday night to postpone the vote to give members time to explore various renovation possibilities.
Asbestos is not a problem at Schenley. Old water damage has caused some plaster damage that has since been patched. The problem has been poor stewardship of a classic structure. The building got new windows recently. The building has a gym and swim pool addition that isn't that old. And, the buildings components are NOT to be found elsewhere.

Moving a high school into a building that has a cafatorium (part cafeteria part audiotorium) is nuts. Moving a high school into a building that has a three lane pool that can't host swim meets is nuts. Moving a high school that serves the entire district into a location at the edge of the city is nuts.

Breaking apart one of the few star programs in the district for the sake of the superintendent's ego is nuts.

The I.B. program at Schenley works. The International Studies at Frick Middle School works. Those programs should be replicated -- duplicated -- copied. They want to make massive changes, disrupt, hijack and basterdize programs for no good reason.

Making kids in grade six go to high schools with those in grades 11 and 12 is nuts. Building schools that span from grade 6 to 12, by design, and calling it an economic justification is dollar dumb and penny foolish. Lots of that fussing about is just to mask the failures from recent years with the move to other schools that span from grade K to grade 8. Still other report cards are out on the ALAs -- the much hyped Accelerated Learning Academies.

And most of all, the cost to fix the falling plaster, already fixed in an uncosmetic way. is inflated to include things like whole building air-conditioning. But, that is just half the story. The costs to fix up the other schools is NOT being reported upon. Reisenstein High School does NOT have any windows. They'll put windows in a school that does not have them -- and that will be expensive. The middle school that was Milliones and Frick need to be made into high schools. That is expensive. The downtown school that is CAPA needs to be expanded to have kids from another working school, Rodgers, when there isn't enough room.

The entire effort of the high school reform committee from two years of toil was tossed out the window after one meeting this fall. They operated at crisis mode for the sake of a crisis -- at everyone's expense.

Talk of a Vo Tech School has not happened. That is what should be reported upon first. That should be a top priority -- as it was taken away from the school landscape years ago with promises that it would be re-born in a better way.

What about the 'drop out factories' and efforts to give good to great -- if not excellent educations -- to those at Oliver, Peabody, Carrick, Langley and Westinghouse. Those schools need intervention. Put the high school / university partnership in Peabody, for example. Put the hoped for new science and technology program into the recently renovated Westinghouse. Make them city-wide magnets. Put together an all-girls public school -- such as at Oliver. And then put an all-boys public school at Langley (for instance).

The delay is welcomed. The delay is needed. But, what we crave is real common sense in the reform. We have questions that need to be answered. We are the ones who pay for the schools, send our children to the schools, and are going to be here long after this administration departs.

Amy reacts:

According to this morning's Post-Gazette, the vote on the decision to close Schenley has been delayed (see B-4 of PG). While this certainly isn't negative news, I am not sure that it is positive either. Mr. Roosevelt is still saying that the students cannot be in the building next year and we have known throughout this process that he can move the IS/IB program to another location. Hopefully, we will have more time to strengthen our position: no changes should be made without thoroughly thinking through the options and repercussions of the change. Long range plans need to be carefully thought out before any money is committed. Parental and teacher input is crucial.

Thanks to the various committees who continue to work to ensure our kids the best education possible. This has not been an easy task but saving Schenley and strengthening the IB program will be worth all of the effort.

amy moore

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