Thursday, January 17, 2008

Schenley and Schools update from Amy M

Two emails, from the past two days, edited ever so slightly.
Great news, we hope, that a tentative agreement has been reached between the board and the teachers' union. Let us hope that both sides will ratify the agreement. It was a very positive sign that they continued to meet until they came to an agreement. The school district could not afford to have a strike on top of all the other problems that it is facing -- declining enrollments, low test scores, controversy over new programs and closed school, etc., etc. etc.

Schenley PSCC meeting this evening (1-16) in the library at 6 pm. Focus is Math/PSE.

I never sent the promised follow-up on our meeting at Panera on Sunday. Nine of us gathered to exchange ideas and report on separate committees that have been meeting. At this time, we are aware of 3 separate committees that are working on various aspects of the Schenley/Frick/IB World situation.

Building/fundraising--There is an active committee that is focusing solely on retaining the Schenley building as a school. It has two offshoots: fundraising/grant writing and engineering. Although they are not ready to give a report to us yet, the group is actively working to save the building. Additional information will be released at a later date.

Alternative Options-- This group has formulated questions about high school reform plans and their implementation and met twice with Mr. Lopez. They continue to push for answers to some questions that haven't been fully answered yet, to gather as much information as possible about what changes are being planned, and to push for more parent and community input at the beginning of these processes rather than tacked on the end. Jen Lakin is in this group, if you would like to send her suggestions for questions to be included.

IB World Steering Committee -- Andie Karsh is representing the parents on this committee that is meeting with Cate Reed (and others) from the High School Reform Task Force. It also includes teachers from the IB program among its members. They have discussed among other topics how the 9th graders will be housed at Frick. The next meeting which is being held in the morning when Andie cannot attend is to focus on recruitment for the IB program.

8th grade parents-- Although not yet an official committee, parents of 8th graders who are considering the IB program are trying to organize their own set of questions and concerns in regard to the immediate future of the IB program. The future freshman class will have a huge effect on the future of the IB program. There are many problems that need to be worked out if our 9th graders are going to be housed in a separate building. Parents and students need to be HEARD.

After hearing the "reports" from the different committees, we tried to get some talking points for the Jan 14 board hearing. Barbara Brewton has given me permission to reprint parts of her speech to the board (see below) because those of us who were there Monday night thought that she did an excellent job of disseminating our thoughts.

Monday board hearing; 31 scheduled speakers, but 4 or 5 did not speak. About 11 spoke about the CAPA/Rogers merger detailing the lack of space, etc. Their comments reinforced the Schenley message "Don't change a program that is a huge success" without clearing thinking of the consequences of your actions. Several others spoke about changes to the Miller program or about reform in general. Thanks to the 5 speakers from Schenley who again tried to get the board to slow down. Mr. Roosevelt and 3 board members were not at the hearing because of contract negotiations that were going on at the same time. Although they missed some very good speeches, the results of their meeting certainly was worth the missing of the hearing.

Barbara Brewton's speech:

I speak tonight as a parent of a Schenley High School student and a concerned resident of Pittsburgh. I would like to first and foremost than you, the Board, for requesting the recent informational meetings on plans for high school reform to help you make the best decisions on this very important issue. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to process all this information, to gather input from your constituents and to make such weighty decisions. I respect your position and would like to offer comments that I hope will be useful concerning the decision-making process.

Please involve parents. Find the common themes that emerge in response to plans for high school reform and address them before moving forward. Ask the administration for a detailed, comprehensive plan that outlines what the District's high schools will look like in 5 and 10 years. What is the nature of the commitments, such as that with Pitt's School of Education that is necessary to make these plans successful? Are the plans equitable across neighborhoods and socioeconomic lines? Do they respect what is good about Pittsburgh--innovation undergirded by tradition and people who are passionate about doing what is best for their children and their communities?

Finally, I respectfully urge you, the Board, to postpone any major decision or expenditures of resources until these questions are explicitly and carefully answered. There is too much at stake. Once sold, Schenley High School would be gorever gone. School communities, once dismantled, would unlikely ever come back. I fear that this is precisely the goal of current plans for high school reform. But I believe that this school district can acheve even greater progress toward sweeping and equitable academic improvement by harnessing the energy and resources of all the stakeholders.

For me, there has been a silver lining surrounding the possible closure of Schenley. My quiet, 16-year old daughter, Anna, has found her voice. She has spoken here, rallied outside the building and attended meetings where she is the only student. Anna, like many other students who are engaged on this issue, is "Being the Change" that we want our children to be in their world. While she is bitterly disappointed about moving to Reizenstein her senior year, she wanted me to convey that it would be a move she could more readily accept if she knew that Schenley would re-open after the necessary renovations take place. As her parent, I have very serious concerns about the transition plans for next year, ranging from student and teacher morale to extracurricular activities to fractured student spirit by placing 9th graders in a different building. But, like my daughter, I believe that it is a sacrifice worth making if Schenley is preserved.

I know that this has been a long email but I wanted to catch everyone up on what has been happening behind the scenes. If you have anything to share with the group, I will pass it on. IF you wish to be removed from this list, please let me know.

amy moore

Today's note:

The topics for last evenings PSCC were special education and math. Ms. deChicchis gave a brief overview of the PSE at Schenley. Approximately 130 students come under the special ed department ranging from students with learning disabilities that need accommodations to a small group of students receiving life skills in a self-contained classroom. Students are prepared for advanced education or for entering the work force.

Math--Mr. Fitzioris gave an impromptu discussion of the math program which at the high school level is probably the most difficult subject to discuss because of the different options. For mainstream or PSP who did not have algebra in 8th grade, the sequence is Alg I, Geometry, Alg II and Elem Functions. Beginning next year, any student who has not scored at least proficient on the PSSA will take an additional math class. CAS students and those who had algebra in 8th will take Geometry, Alg II, Elementary Functions, and Calculus. Advance math students who had geo in 8th grade have the option of taking AP statistics or registering for a college math class as a senior. To further confuse the picture, Unified Math had previously been taught but is being phased out. For students graduating in 2009 and after, 4 credits in math are required. Students (and parents) should contact the student's counselor if there are any questions regarding the sequence of classes or possible substitutions.

Upcoming Dates--Financial Aid including the Pittsburgh Promise is scheduled for next Wednesday, January 23 from 6-8 pm in the Schenley Library. If you have a senior planning to attend any post-secondary school, you should plan to attend this session to hear what needs to be done to apply for the Pittsburgh Promise money. Parents of juniors should also attend to start planning for next year; this new money that is available from the city could alter your plans.

Feb. 11--program on NEED scholarship. Additional information will be sent as I receive it.

Feb. 20--the next PSCC meeting will be on High School Reform

April-- a meeting will be held with the parents of current 10th graders to discuss the IB program.

update 3:

Financial Aid Nights at Schenley High School are slated for January 23, 2008, from 6-8 pm in the Library. Another is February 11, 2008, from 6-8 pm in the library. Mr. Ed Jones will also be in attendance to talk about the Pittsburgh Promise.

Parents of eighth graders were trying to get together to share information about the upcoming changes. If you want to become involved or would like additional information, contact Jen Lakin. Get her email from the blog owner (Mark @ Rauterkus . com) or peek into the comments of this posting.

1 comment:

Mark Rauterkus said...

Have an 8th grade student at Frick Middle School (who won't be able to go to Schenley HIGH SCHOOL next year, then get in touch with Jen Larkin. Her email is jendo89 -AT- aol -dot- com.