Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Close Schenley, Roosevelt urges - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

I got some ink in today's Tribune Review concerning Schenley:
Close Schenley, Roosevelt urges - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Mark Rauterkus, 49, of the South Side had hoped that his two sons, Erik and Grant, would someday attend Schenley.

'You don't break the best schools,' he said. 'You replicate them, and you fix the other schools.'
I was also shown in two TV interviews on the 11 pm news: TV 11 and KDKA TV 2.

kdka.com - Superintendent Mark Roosevelt Recommends Closing Schenley High School Roosevelt Recommends Closing Schenley High School
The point of the interview was to say that Pittsburgh Schenley is home to the I.B. program AND other programs as well with neighborhood students and robotics. The blending of the urban fabric happens at Schenley, in a safe and successful school. Schenley is sending students, again, to Stanford. It works! It should not be taken apart. Rather, it should be replicated. Fix the schools that are failing. There are too many 'drop out factories' in the district. Those schools with unrealized potential and excess capacity need to be address. What about Vo Tech Education? What about the other places?


A summary from another parent, Jen Lakin, came in email.
Well, you read or saw the big news already. Basically, the exact same thing we heard in the fall, only with bigger numbers. Lots of reassurance that they've really worked hard to not have to do this, but not a single thing fell into place despite their 6 months of looking.

However there were several interesting tidbits that came out during the meeting:

It's a 4 year commitment to Reizenstein -- they'll put in under $5M to the building and make sure that next year's 9th graders graduate from that building. Then they'll probably move again. Or not.

Several members pushed for some sort of comprehensive/district-wide/long-range plan. This was answered in various ways, none of which was yes. Randall Taylor pushed on the idea that there would be another 1050 student building in the district available in 4 years that wouldn't also require $$ to make suitable. When he asked a second time (it wasn't answered) and pointed out that the only buildings fitting that description meant that other students would be displaced or merged. There were other questions about what reform has been or will be for the failing, underenrolled schools. Both of these threads were finally answered in that as kids are sucked toward the new schools, it'll be a slow death for the bad schools. Rather than getting direct reform, those kids and their parents just better jump ship to a new school. Anyone left, well...they'll be moved when one of the new schools needs the building. Obviously, that's a paraphrase, but that's the gist of the plan.

There were several highlights (learning that mature people living in the real world support these plans, for instance) but I did like as well when Mark Roosevelt assured the board that they'd spent time when he got here talking to a lot of parents, especially those who had left the district, and they were answering their stated needs for "more high school choices." Of course, it's a bit of a leap from that to 6-12 themed schools, but hey! And we also know where those of us who've stuck through good and bad stand in their eyes.

If you get a chance watch the meeting -- I think they're on cable at some point (I don't have cable so I'm clueless there) and available on the PPS website, maybe?

I'll send out more later, but basically, it's time to support the board members in not acting on Schenley or ANY other building spending until they have an idea of what we're aiming toward as a district. It's also time to get it out in the media that this isn't about just Schenley, it's the start of a huge structural change in the district. Changes are long overdue, but people need to be informed and a part of the change before it's already happened! Honestly, before all this happened, I understood the meaning of the word 'transparency' but now, I get it, I really get it. There is such a chokehold on information from the administration, such a lack of ability for parents to have their voices heard before plans are made, and a near total disregard for the knowledge and expertise of the really excellent teachers and principals who are still out there.

Here's an email I received earlier in the week, sent out with permission (and some names removed):

I just wanted you to know that as a parent [and retired teacher...] I've been sending you moral support and good vibrations for the past months of this.....fight?

It seems weird to refer to it as that. Why must one fight for one's children with an institution whose very existence is for the welfare of those same children? One of my reasons for choosing to retire when I did was that I became very weary of fighting for what is right for children in all aspects of Pittsburgh public education. I needed to be so much more than a disseminator of information; children need adult role models, parent figures, and, indeed, friends. The system increasingly allows teachers to be NONE of those. Our days became filled with shoveling the information for tests down the throats of students and worrying about our own jobs and family security in the face of poor fiscal management, bad decision making, deaf ears in Harrisburg, a lack of clear moral standards for an orderly environment, and overworked principals and administrators who must become spin masters and middle managers rather than educational leaders. ... Early on, [a current teacher] invited me to become a part of your cause. I declined due to weariness, and yet I find myself increasingly unable to stay quiet in the face of the unbelievably botched (even for our Board and administration) attempt at "improving" our high schools at the cost of its one true gem. (Allderdice seems to get that title; however, if I knew then what I know now [...] All one would have to do is to attend the musicals of both schools and allow him/herself to feel the vibes.)

(parent of a Schenley 2003 grad and Allderdice 2009 student)

More later --

Jen Lakin


Anonymous said...

John K. says: Roosevelt made the right decision. Ron Paul would support that ruling.

Mark Rauterkus said...


Roosevelt's decision is going to cost more than fixing up a grand, smart, sustainable building.

Ron Paul would have thought it through. That is something that Roosevelt did not do. Roosevelt did not do his homework. This is going to be way more expensive as there are lots of other schools that need to fit into the overall solution.

Matt H said...

The school district can't afford to fix it. How can we raise that money without going into deep debt?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Matt, you are not seeing the entire picture.

To move the students out of Schenley costs more.

And, the district wants to open two or more new schools. They are going to be where the expenses reside, not with Schenley.

Opening a new Sci-Tech school is expensive. But, I suggest that should be put into Westinghouse, a school that was already fixed up a few years ago. That saves money and attacks the capacity problem there.

Opening a new University Prep is going to cost money too. I suggest that the U-Prep can be a part of Schenley -- saving money.

The High School Reform task force made some suggestions and Mark Roosevelt tossed them out the window and stopped those meetings. Rodgers was slated to move to Milliones -- not downtown.

Make a temporary home for Schenley in Milliones -- and then fix Schenley (at a budget-level). That saves money.

Matt -- do your homework. Don't drink the coolaid from Mark Roosevelt -- the zealot who only looks at experts he hires -- and a political demon.