Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another option - Let voters decide Schenley's fate

Another option? Let voters decide Schenley's fate: "Another option? Let voters decide Schenley's fate
Thursday, June 19, 2008
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh school board member Theresa Colaizzi last night threw another wrinkle into the debate over Pittsburgh Schenley High School by proposing that voters decide whether to renovate the Oakland building.

Ms. Colaizzi said a referendum could be placed on the ballot to ask voters whether the Pittsburgh Public Schools should borrow nearly $80 million to renovate a building that's historic and beloved, but plagued by asbestos and other maintenance problems.
I dare say that Theresa Colaizzi is feeling a little heat on the pending vote to advance into the darkness known as Mark Roosevelt's High School Reform by closing Schenley High School.

Make no mistake, voters will decide upon Schenley's fate. Mark Roosevelt won't.

This school board and this superintendent might vote and move to close Schenley. However, they'll be tossed from office. Then the next board will re-open Schenley. Voters will decide. Now the question remains -- how much will it cost? We can pay to fix this situation once now. And, that price tag is far below $40-million. Or, we can pay to undo what they're about to do.

Voters will decide. Voters are telling the board and the administration what to do. But, it is a matter of who is listening and who wants to ruin his or her career.

The question for the ballot is not what Colaizzi frames. Do taxpayers and voters in Pittsburgh want to save Schenley and save $40-million? Or, should it be closed and spend $40-million extra.

The $80-million is NOT an option. We don't need to re-build Schenley High School from scratch. We don't need air-conditioning. We don't need to fix the pipe organ in Schenley. It doesn't cost $80 million.

We don't even need to remove the asbestos -- because it is already gone! There are no dangers to Schenley for our students.

She said council has no business commenting on school renovations and finances when the Legislature about four years ago diverted millions of dollars in school taxes for a city bailout package.
I do think that board member Colaizzi does have a point i the mention above. I wrangled with Gene Ricciardi about these concepts. He got mad at me for my statement that he was not a friend of public education due to the fact that the TIFs (Tax breaks) were pushed to include the schools and the mess with the crossing guards. The city of Pittsburgh should never have pushed a burden of paying for crossing guards onto the backs and budget of the Pgh Public Schools. Never. I raised my voice on this matter dozens of times.

However, the expense of crossing guards is much like a twisted ankle when the overall wellness of the patient is in the Intensive Care Unit. City council didn't help -- it hurt -- a few years ago.

Now, the tables have turned. That's old news. Get over it.

Council has a right and duty to limp to the school board and stick its nose into the business of our city, our neighborhoods, our kids and our taxes.

Schenley supporters are not a vocal minority. Tonight I was at a meeting in City Council District 2. One of the speakers, before me, stood up and railed against Dan Deasey, the local councilperson, for not voting to support the resolution about the out of control high school reform agenda and Schenley.

Many were without interest -- in October. Now they are aware. We won't forget.

Go Heather Go!

I'm sure Mr. Roosevelt is frustrated. He hasn't done his homework. He is banking on apathy. He has worn out his welcome. He is bankrupt with logic.

You can't close 22 schools and then turn around and say you'll open new schools.

You can't make a flock of schools that stretch from grades K to 8 and then turn around and say that the high schools should now be grades 6 to 12.

You can't say it costs $76.3 million to remove asbestos when there isn't asbestos in the building. And, when the costs are much less to fix up some of the plaster.

You can't say that the school is a danger to kids but keep the kids in the school for another school year -- last year -- like he did. There isn't any danger. The sky is not falling --- there.

You can't say you want to do high school reform and never mention a word about what to do with Langley, Oliver, Peabody nor Westinghouse. Those are the drop out factories. No plan. No real reform.

You don't fix what is not broken and ignore what is broken. You should replicate what is working elsewhere -- not tinker and deform it.

You can't talk about efforts to improve the disparity of student performances between the whites and blacks by making the split wider by using re-segregation solutions.

Finally, it is very interesting to see that the P-G reporter, battle-cat, Rich Lord has put his name to a story that included the topic of Schenley High School. Rich's lifelong pledge was to avoid Schenley as a topic, so he told me.

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