Monday, February 18, 2008

Public comment delivered to Pgh Public School Board and Administration: Schenley High School can stay open

From moments ago, a fellow parent delivered these comments to the Board of Ed and the Administration in public comment. Nick's son and my son are school mates and team mates at Frick Middle School.
Good evening everyone. My name is Nick Lardas. I am a resident of Oakland and am here to speak again as a concerned parent, taxpayer and voter.

I request that the board vote no on moving students out of Schenley HS, and no on further expenditures on HS reform. These issues are interrelated and until complete information and complete plans are available spending any money down any one path is a waste of our precious resources.

Ten days ago because of my engineering & construction expertise I was invited along with a group of construction professionals to tour Schenley HS with some PPS Facilities personnel. Base on that visit and the information in this Facilities Portfolio on Schenley I have concluded that the building is safe for students now and next year. There is no emergency. There is time to plan wisely before spending money.

There is not now, nor have there ever been according to your records any asbestos fibers in the air at Schenley.

According to WJE, your expert, the plaster that fell last summer was the result of prior water and vibration damage that was never fixed. Now that all the plaster has been addressed there is no imminent threat. Furthermore there’s no such thing as sudden catastrophic adhesion failure in 90-year-old gypsum plaster. Go search the web or the public library.

High moisture readings in water damaged plaster are to be expected regardless of humidity levels.

Contrary to what has been reported the ventilation system is partially working. The exhaust fans on the roof penthouses are actively pulling air out of the building. While the intake fans are off, the ducts and dampers are open so makeup air is being drawn into the building through them.

The new windows do not seal well. In fact your facilities personnel are screwing them shut because of this. I don’t understand why you do not have the manufacturer who warranted these windows fixing them.

If you would like to act in an abundance of caution, remove the plaster ceilings in Schenley this summer. This is work that will have to be done as part of the renovation of Schenley, so you will not be throwing money away on any temporary move.

The cost to renovate Schenley according to your portfolio is $37.8 Million, not the higher figures reported.

There is not enough time in the 3 minutes allotted here for me to explain everything I know related to these issues. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with each of you individually or together to more completely explain your own documents, as well as tour Schenley with you and facilities personnel to point out these items. If you are interested my contact information is included below.

Thirty years ago this school district rushed to embrace the latest in educational trends and wasted tens of Millions on open class rooms & windowless schools. Concepts which have proven to be a failure. There is no emergency. The sky is not falling. Don’t be fooled by fancy names and feel good salesmanship. Ask for all the data. Ask for the cost benefit analysis of all the options studied. Take the time to get all the information and make an informed decision.

Respectfully Submitted by:

Nicholas D. Lardas
Nick's contact info has been nuked by the blog owner. If you want it, leave a note in the comments.


Anonymous said...

The regularly scheduled PSCC meeting is this Wednesday, Feb 20th at 6 pm in the Schenley library. The topic has been changed to scheduling for next year. Dr. Dillard and Ms. Martin from the counseling department will attend to talk about the course selection sheets and preparing for next year. Assuming that the school will be moved for next Sept., some electives are not being offered.

The March 19th meeting will feature information on world languages, international studies and IB. Parents of current 10th graders should mark their calendars for this meeting next month when Mr. Huber and Mr. Casilli will present information on IB.

Sports News: If anyone checked the PPS web site, the times for the championships for basketball were incorrect. The all-city swim meet has not yet made the PPS site and is incorrect on the Schenley site. Here are the correct times:

Boys' Basketball Final: 5 pm Palumbo Center, Thursday, Feb. 21, Schenley vs. Brashear
Girls' Basketball Final: 7 pm Palumbo Center, Thursday, Feb. 21, Schenley vs. Westinghouse
(tickets for students are $4, adults, $7)

All-city Swim Championship: 12 noon, Trees Hall, University of Pittsburgh, Saturday, Feb. 23
(there is an admission fee but I am sorry that I don't remember)

amy moore

Anonymous said...

Although there were only 22 speakers last night, 8 specifically speaking about Schenley, they were excellent speeches, empaphasizing that we are not against change but that we want the change to be well thought out and for the improvement of our school, not just for the sake of change. As Nick points our in his speech detailed below, there is no reason to rush to decisions; Schenley is not unsafe. Several different groups continue to meet to discuss options for our students, options that can improve an already great school. Our biggest concern, as I see it, is that the board will vote on expenditures that will lock them into change that might not be in the best interests of our students, school, or city.

Nick sent me a copy of his speech so that I could share it with the group (see below). It is worth taking a few minutes to read about the physical condition of the building. I am hoping that several of the other speakers will also share their speeches, either through me or Jen Lakin.

I want to emphasize again that my major focus is preserving the IB program. I have SERIOUS concerns that the changes that have been proposed will cause great damage to the program. There are still too many unanswered questions.

If anyone has an opposing view, I am very willing to share those opinions with the rest of the group. If you do not wish to continue to receive emails from me, please let me know. Also, if you know of anyone who would like to be added to the list, please send me the address.

amy moore

Anonymous said...

At last night's hearing, nine speakers spoke in whole or in part about Schenley. Nick Lardas spoke about the actual conditions at Schenley and the misinterpretation of some of the data, you can find it at this link (if you're on the IB/IS mailing list, you've already seen this):

Obviously, there's more to it than can be expressed in three minutes, too! If you have questions about this information/the building, send them along and I'll get them to Nick.


Michele Feingold was the first Schenley related speaker which worked perfectly because her testimony did a great job of neatly summarizing main points/issues:

I appreciate these hundred and eighty seconds. I just want to ask for the following.

One: that Schenley students be moved out of the building if - and only if - it is truly the only viable option, rather than the expedient option to advance other agendas.

Two: that if moving Schenley students to Reizenstein is in fact the only viable option, that this be a temporary move while Schenley is renovated in accordance with the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Renovate or Replace document that encourages the restoration of older school buildings, particularly historic ones. As you know, state financial assistance is available for such restoration.

Three: that no plan be accepted that might or will encourage racial, class or cultural segregation in our school system, such as the proposed University Prep school at Milliones. Establish the University Prep program in Schenley instead.

Four: that before you make radical and irreversible decisions that will reverberate for decades, you have all of the facts and do not act in haste. That you earnestly consider all input from knowledgeable stakeholders about alternatives to the proposals involving closing Schenley and spending money to make changes to Milliones, Peabody, Reizenstein and Frick that would definitely promote segregation and almost certainly further disenchantment with our school district. These stakeholders are your allies, not your adversaries.

Word is that you are getting sick of hearing how wonderful Schenley is. I ask your indulgence of my desire to tell you that preserving and strengthening Schenley is our best hope for serving all of its current and future students' academic and social needs, which ultimately amounts to meeting our own collective need as a community.

I close with these words from Renovate or Replace:

“The location and design of public schools are among the most far-reaching decisions any Pennsylvania community makes. School buildings affect the quality of education, and they play a critical role in a community's development and quality of life… In many cases, our best schools may be the ones we already have.”

Thank you.