Friday, May 23, 2008

More on Schenley and talk on Schools

The first part is from Jill Weiss. I'm not 100% certain where the second part came from. These were part of an email blast from concerned taxpayers and parents.
From Jill Weiss:

Mark Roosevelt's recommendation that Schenley be closed as a PPS and that the district could not afford to renovate it came as a surprise, because the last conversation I'd had led me to believe that the recommendation would be to not officially close it; as he said, "this would give us time to continue to look at options." Last night, he stated that he is living in the "real world" and that requires hard choices.

Important questions were raised by some of the board members. Heather Arnet asked if there was anyone on staff who had been actively looking for funding on every level, and after hesitation, the answer was "yes," a response that was clearly not the case. She also requested that the board be shown a comprehensive high school reform plan before any vote be taken in June, so the board would know what expenditures they would be voting on in the near future, and Roosevelt denied that this would be able to be available. Sherry Hazuda also asked that the board be informed more completely of a comprehensive high school reform plan, if one exists. Randall Taylor reiterated that there is so much spending going on at other buildings which could be put into Schenley.

What has become clear is that the numbers for Schenley have been examined so much more thoroughly than those for the options that the district wants to take. Numbers have also been manipulated to fit the reform options. The Schenley numbers continue to be inflated by increasing construction costs, but the district project numbers do not. Roosevelt appears willing to accept the high number from MCF Architects, and all of their recommendations about Schenley (increasing costs, occupancy, and construction schedules), but he dismisses their numbers for Reizenstein, going with the lower district numbers.

The plan for the students of the new IB school is to stay at a minimally renovated Reizenstein for 4 years and during that time a permanent home will be found for them. Derek Lopez (head of high school reform) stated by that time the "Schenley students will have faded away." A committee will be formed to look for a permanent home for the IB school. What was not made clear was that this new home will also require money for renovation which could be approaching the cost of Schenley, depending on the state of the building.

I am asking others to write letters to the editor and letters to board members asking these same questions (or at least making a request to table the vote until there is a comprehensive reform plan.) Testifying publicly on June 16 is also effective. Please keep in mind the veracity of the district numbers for other reform projects as compared with the "real" costs of Schenley.

I am willing to keep working for the building, at least until the June vote, if not longer, as much for the process of letting the public know all of the facts, and but also to continue to show why the public has been so engaged with this issue.


More details from A+ IB meeting on Tuesday night:

There is a list for the committee to find a new site for the IB building, by this November (although they are planning on a 4 year commitment to Reizenstein). If you'd like to see the members (or proposed members) give me a holler. Two parents are to be chosen by principals of Frick and "Schenley" to be on this committee.

Mr. Roosevelt confirmed that the University Prep program is aimed at "below proficient" (PSSA terms) students. Also that as the new high schools (IB, but particularly University Prep and Science - Technology) are opened, there will be, over the course of several years be a decrease in comprehensive high schools in the district to "3, maybe 4."

He also made the interesting point that while there is still a trend toward population decreases in the city, there may also be an increase seen as the casino (and associated businesses like hotels) open. These could lead to increases in populations (at least in areas) of the city schools.


Components of a comprehensive High School reform plan would seem to include:

A report on all buildings in the district (including suitability for different ages, location, long-term costs for renovation, re-use, short and long-term maintenance costs) -- parts of this were done by A+ schools, but more with an eye toward selling closed schools.

More information about Science-Technology (is it also aimed at low-performing students?) The planning for this school (opening 2009-2010 school year) is said to be nearly complete. However, it doesn't yet have a building.

Vocational education given a high priority.

Three stranded planning -- what will the district look like if

• enrollment declines continue indefinitely
• enrollment levels off at or near current levels
• enrollment increases either due to programming or new families moving in to the city


Anonymous said...

John K. says: Did you check the KQV phone poll question, both call in and internet. You lose big on this issue. Roosevelt made the right decision, close the school.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Roosevelt won if you only want schools that fail to teach our kids.

Roosevelt won if you fail to hold his past ideas accountable. The K-8 schools and the ALAs are failing.

Roosevelt won if you want higher taxes. Not fixing Schenley saves a penny or two. But, moving the students to the other locations outside of Schenley costs a dollar. That isn't being talked about.

Roosevelt wins if you don't care about vo tech education.

Roosevelt wins if you are a foundation weenie and not a parent with students in these schools.

Roosevelt wins if the goal is to make mega changes to leave a mark on the district -- as a legacy -- be they good or bad changes.

Jen said...

The building is the big show that is obscuring all the other changes happening. I'm not against change (I can tell you which schools *really* need it, if you'd like) -- but I am against change that doesn't include parents, students, teachers or the community at the inception, rather than after the fact.

There are going to be a whole lot of surprised parents (and others) out there when the full scope of what's coming comes into focus for them.

After they've spent the equivalent of a Schenley on several smaller schools and presided over the slow death of many more, come back and talk.

People with children in the schools? We DON'T want them to fail and we don't want to write off several years worth of kids in the name of (rather than the reality of) change.