Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Jen's email blast about school stuff

Hey -- I'm always sure this is going to be a quick little email...but it's not! (There's some good stuff at the end to make up for all of this in the middle.)

-- "High School Chaos" story on KDKA: http://kdka.com/video Video from May 2 2008 7:23 pm
"Costs to renovate Reizenstein coming in higher than expected," notes Mark Roosevelt.

How high? It can't hurt to ask your school board member if they know this number -- particularly since that's probably the most valuable piece of property the district has to sell, not only would we not spend the money on an inferior building, we could make money from its sale.

We'll know on the 19th when the vote on the Schenley building is, I assume, since it had been scheduled for this month and now it's moved to June. That seems a bit ominous, though hard to say. It's an interesting position to be in limbo longer -- if you want to email me or call me (412-xxx-xxxx) I'll be happy to share my opinions, but other than saying that you should make your concerns known to your school board member (and any other board members you know), I'll stop here!

There's also a meeting tonight for anyone who wants to show up at Panera (Blvd of the Allies in Oakland) 8 pm about this/reform/Frick, etc.

Please do let people know about the whole situation -- some of the emails on this list are kicking back at me now and some have never worked, so I know that there are people who aren't getting them.

-- Was anyone at the University Prep meeting last week? None of the my usual sources made the meeting, so I can't report anything other than that there were said to be only about 5-6 parents there. No mention of the meeting in the P-G that I saw.

While I do love the way that A+ runs a meeting, I think many of us have come to feel that the input/report they pass along from us is quickly filed away, never to be looked at again. Heaven knows parents and students (and teachers and probably principals) don't have any idea how the schools are run now or any realistic and viable ideas for improving them. (Oops, there's some bitterness rearing its head, I'm trying not to let that happen, I promise.)

Speaking of which don't forget to sign up for more meetings! -->> http://www.aplusschools.org/excel.html

-- I've heard from lots of people that they are exploring other school options (charter, private, homeschool, suburban) or no longer telling friends, co-workers, prospective employees that their children can get a good education in the PPS. If you are one of these people considering pulling a kid or one of those that can't endorse it at this point or know someone like that, please consider (or ask if they'll consider) writing a letter to the school board, the newspaper, or testifying at a public hearing (see next bullet point).

I'm not ready to go, but I can't be the booster I once was for this system. At the risk of sounding maudlin, public education is one of the best things ever in my book. I hate to see how good things from this district have been dropped and removed, pushed out by No Child Left Behind demands and an elementary curriculum that seems designed to ignore the developmental needs of younger kids. I really can't imagine (or see) how this is promoting a love of learning and reading and being in school -- the things that might get kids through high school and on into the future. Dang! There I go again with the bitter.

-- Next public hearing -- Monday, May 12th, 7 pm --

To speak at a Public Hearing, call the Superintendent's Office at 412-622-3600 beginning one week before and no later than noon on the day of the Public Hearing.
Conference Room A, Board of Education Administration Building, 341 S. Bellefield Avenue, 15213

-- No bitterness allowed section:

Not great quality, but even so, you can still tell what an experience it is to be there:

Memories of last year?

If you hunt around on youtube (my classes are over now, can you tell?!), there's now video from long gone Schenley years, too. Amazing stuff.

Jen Lakin


Anonymous said...

Kelly Critic review: "All Shook Up," Schenley, April 24-May 3
Monday, May 05, 2008
By Casey McDermott

The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO in which students of high schools entered in this year's Gene Kelly Awards review other school's musicals.

Aside from the usual eager nerves and anticipation that characterize such occasions at other high schools, the opening night of Schenley's "All Shook Up" held significance far beyond the walls of the performance hall. Just weeks ago, the school suffered the loss of former teacher Roger Babusci ("Mr. B"), who devoted himself to 35 seasons of creating the school's trademark theatrical "magic" -- a legacy of high-quality, highly-entertaining performances.

Add to this the looming threat that this season's show might be the last in Schenley's native auditorium, and the weight of the situation could have easily overshadowed the performance itself.

Schenley, however, had other plans. Everyone, from the high-spirited performers onstage to the bustling parents working the box-office, seemed almost to exclaim, taking a cue from the show's libretto, "It's Now Or Never."

As the band revs up, the audience is greeted by a rockin' choir of jailbirds, led by the one and only Chad--a hip-swingin', motorbike-rumblin' roustabout, "with a song in his soul, and a love for the ladies."

Integrating his own repertoire of jazzy choreography, actor Will Gaushe both highlights his prowess as a dancer and brings a fresh, Justin Timberlake-meets-Elvis feel to the character. Behind him, a host of dancers, scattered among a multi-level assortment of cells, slowly builds to include the entire company in a dynamic rendition of the classic prisoners' lament undoubtedly capable of livening up even the most downtrodden institutions.

Focus then shifts to an establishment sorely in need of such excitement, dubbed by its clientele "Heartbreak Hotel." Here, we meet Sylvia, played by Teressa LaGamba, who first catches the audience's attention with her gritty, sarcastic humor and then takes their breath away with her unexpected vocal force. (When she began singing, I had to reassure myself that the voice, elegantly yet soulfully resounding through the auditorium, was not a recording.)

In another part of town, the show's heroine Natalie Haller, a "grease monkey" yearning to escape her small-town upbringing, is also enlivened by her actress ability to both charm and impress. Sarah Jane Kirkland's striking voice is made even more endearing by her tomboy-next-door personality -- especially when (who else?) Chad rolls into town on his motorbike, bringing just the type of escape the instantly-smitten Natalie was looking for.

But, as Broadway would have it, Natalie's pursuit of Chad is anything but simple. The motorist's well-intentioned rebellion not only exasperates the overbearing Mayor Matilda Hyde (Hannah Thyberg), but also manages to ignites the town's long-suppressed appetite for romance, by the end of the show entangling the entire cast in a web of star-crossed chaos that makes the traditional love triangle seem absolutely tame.

Even a jumbled plotline such as this, however, never stole the spotlight from those onstage. From the moment the lights dimmed to the final bows, cheers of eager parents, loyal friends and a sprinkling of faithful neighborhood patrons -- with enthusiasm comparable to the roar of the crowd at most high school football games -- boomed throughout the auditorium.

It was this evident sense of community that allowed Schenley to take what would otherwise be written off as a testing situation and turn it into something truly magical. Whether in the moments of surprisingly-well-executed dramatic and choreographic teamwork (for a group of over 40 performers), or in the unmistakable passion shining through the smiles of each cast member, Schenley managed to prove, as their program so wholeheartedly attests, "They can take the kids out of Schenley, but they can't take the Schenley MAGIC out of the kids!"

Casey McDermott is a student at Chartiers Valley High School. You can contact Casey via PG theater editor Christopher Rawson at crawson@post-gazette.com.

mk said...

Also, Schenley's production of "All Shook Up" was nominated for four Gene Kelly Awards: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Ensemble, and Best Musical.

MK said...

Re: the Gene Kelly Awards:

All three schools nominated for Best Musical in the low budget category are Pittsburgh Public Schools: Schenley, CAPA and Perry. This may be a first, but it's damn impressive.

CAPA withdrew from the Kelly's some years ago and is back this year, and Perry has participated for several years but has received few nominations.