Sunday, June 15, 2008

We ask that you Vote NO or table all aspects of this proposed High School Reform plan

Parents and B-Pep (Black Empowerment Project) have called a press conference for Monday evening at the Board of Education building, in advance of the public testimony. I'll be there.

Mr. Derrik Lopez, is now in Pittsburgh and working to advance the Mark Roosevelt agenda.

He must have been one of the ones to hire the newest principal in Pittsburgh Public Schools. A new employee joined the district on May 1, 2008, to serve as the new principle of a new high school, a university prep. That new high school that begins with only 9th graders, is going to be in The Hill District in a former middle school, Milliones. The new principal has been the assistant principal at Woodland Hills High School. Go figure.

Have you heard that one teacher at Woodland Hills who had to break up more than 60 fist fights in the hallways and classrooms of that school this past school year. He is just one example. The media has been reporting on the total lack of discipline at Woodland Hills in the past seasons. Woodland Hills must be the worse breeding ground for a new hire for a new school in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Lopez and the administration have been trying to pull the strings to get their agenda implemented. Generally they get things done without parent involvement and have been masters at avoiding a vote from the school board. Often, much gets done because Mark Roosevelt has been empowered by certain boosters on the school board -- such as Board President and former board member, now councilman, Patrick Dowd.

This "University Prep" school is another 'boutique school' that is part of the Mark Roosevelt agenda. They spent the last few years closing schools (22 with right sizing plan). Now they want to open new schools.

When Milliones was a middle school, it was 100% black. As it opens again, the school is going to be very close to the same population. They seem willing to want to create an all black school in the Hill District. Ninth grade students will arrive in the fall and be the big men on campus. The school starts with only 9th graders, who are there without a choice. The following year, this high school accepts kids in grades 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

The new schools, so far, seem to be University Prep (at Milliones), Science and Tech, I.B. Perhaps Vo Tech is on a list of schools to open too, somewhere.

A couple of years ago, there was a plan to move CAPA Rodgers middle school to Milliones. A fix up was needed. But, those plans fell apart. The fix up for the middle school plans does not match what the fix up for the high school plans.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has spent a lot of money on changing schools. There was a recent push by Mark Roosevelt to make schools span the grades of K to 8. Now they want to have schools go from grades 6 to 12.

This makes everyone dizzy and is killing the district.

And, they go ahead and do back-channel deals. The Pgh Promise, the selling of Schenley, the take over of Duquesne, the hand-picked commissions (High School Reform Task Force), the junking of gifted, the movement of Rodgers, the re-opening of Milliones, etc.

Here is how some of the district feels about inclusion of city residents and how to out-flank the public process: get to the black ministers in The Hill District. Rev. Monroe is who he is.

Subject: University Prep Vote This Evening
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2008 11:23:14 -0500

Hi All,

The events of the next two days will determine whether the work that has been put into the design and concept for University Prep at Milliones will move forward. We have the vote of the Board of Education this evening, and we have the community meeting tomorrow.

I am confident that we have designed a "school" that can and will become the hallmark for school excellence in the district. It was specifically designed with the students that we are charged to serve in mind. That being said, I also know that we have a lot of work to do, to involve the parents in the Hill District and the greater Pittsburgh community to create a joint vision and real partnership to determine how we can partner with them to best meet the needs of our children. Therefore, tomorrow night's conversation will be crucial to this. I hope that each of you can attend this historic meeting, and that each of you will participate.

While I know that the African American community does not speak with a monolithic voice, I am quite certain that when we converse about the needs of African-American youth, we do coalesce around key principles: ensuring that our students have a safe and secure environment that is conducive to learning; setting high expectations, both academically and behaviorally; establishing solid, personal relationships with our students; and providing the needed support and advocacy for students who have not heretofore been served. We need your help in spreading that mission-driven message as we move through tonight and tomorrow. My fear is that right now that mission is being clouded by the supposition that the opening of University Prep is a return to a model of segregation.

I urge you to assist in spreading the message that this is simply not true. The truth of the matter, which the opposition seems loathe to admit, is that students in the Schenley feeder pattern have been allowed to flounder and fail, under the guise of diversity within a building. University Prep as a model brings those students out of the background and requires us to serve their needs in new and real ways. I fear that their needs, in the face of advocacy for the facility that is Schenley, are being overshadowed and drowned out once again.

If there is a letter of support that you are willing to forward to me or telephone advocacy on behalf of these students that you would be willing to offer prior to the vote this evening that we can share with the Board of Education, that would be exceedingly helpful in our efforts to move this project forward. You can send it to me by return email.

I would be remiss if I did not thank you for your willingness to enter into a partnership with us on this very difficult issue, when PPS has not been a willing partner to you in the past. The creation of the University Prep concept document is the essence of faith, i.e. the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen (if I am allowed to say that in an email.). You put your faith in us to deliver for your students. If this project is allowed to move forward, I believe we can that we can work together on behalf of our students in this project and in the many to come over the next several years.

I look forward to your participation in tonight's meeting and tomorrow's parent forum.

With warmest regards,


-----Original Message-----

From: Johnnie Monroe []

Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 12:15 PM

To:Lopez, Derrick; Reed, Carolyn Woods; Anthony Bell; Daniel LaVelle;;

Cc: Roosevelt, Mark; Lane, Linda; Fischetti, Lisa

Subject: RE: University Prep Vote This Evening

Dear Friend,

Please know that I support the opening of the Milliones School Building as University Prep. I think this ventur wii offer great opportunities for the childre of the Hill District as well as the rntire distric. There are those who feel that this is re-segregation. The truth of the matter is when we look at the schools of the district some of them are segregated. My concern is that we have excellence in education. University prep has the opportunity to offer such. This opportunity becomes very crucial also in light of the fact that the children of the Hill district have been short-changed by this district for so long.

Count me as a strong supporter of University Prep at Milliones.

Please pass this along to School Board members.

Peace and love,

Johnnie Monroe, Pastor, Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church

Co- chair, Hill District Education Council

I agree with Larry. Mark Roosevelt and crew have been masterful heretofore in framing the issues and information in this debate. No longer.

Nobody is shocked that Mark Roosevelt got $100-million from UPMC for the Pittsburgh Promise -- and it was a down payment on the building and property that is known as Schenley High School. Roosevelt has a mention in the WTAE TV 4 news yesterday that he expects Schenley to not be vacant -- but be with UPMC for them to do what they want.

Roosevelt wants the district to choose "instruction over bricks?" Fine. Let's keep the places where the best instruction occurs.

Below is an excerpt of the B-PEP statement that addresses some of what the PPS administrators accuse the concerned citizens of NOT caring about.

We ask that you Vote NO or table all aspects of this proposed High School Reform plan and not move ahead with making any other expenditures until there is a comprehensive approach to programs that address the needs of all students associated with the 9 High Schools that failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress. Can you please share with us where you are with that? Maybe those plans are somewhere in the ever growing and changing documents connected to high school reform...

We agree with you and understand the fierce urgency of now to ensure that ALL of our children receive a high quality education, especially the many that have been denied that opportunity for so long.

One more message:

Callie Thuma posted
Date: June 14, 2008

Subject: Be stubborn, be pushy, be aggressive!
To all those who oppose the closing of Schenley:

As a Schenley alumna (c/o 2006), I have watched from my current home in Saint Paul, MN as Roosevelt has moved forward with his plans to close Schenley High. Like many of you, I am outraged.

As I see it, shutting down Schenley would effectively advance the resegregation of the Pittsburgh Public School system. Over the past decades, our nation has returned to an "apartheid schooling" system with high levels of segregation by class and race not seen since before Brown v. Board. I am both furious and heartbroken to see Schenley broken apart by this trend towards injustice and inequality.

I am writing to you today because I want to encourage you all to be demanding and relentless in your final efforts to counter Roosevelt's plans. Here's what I have been taught from two amazing organizers on the West Side of Saint Paul (Carlos Garcia Velasco & Monica Carbajal):

To be effective, you MUST make your voice heard--LOUDLY!
In order to have your demands met, you must DISRUPT business as usual!

I offer this advice so that you will recognize and claim your power. I know you can stop Roosevelt! But you must do it together and you must NOT play by their rules.

Here is a story from the famous organizer, Shel Trap. He is writing about his pet dog, Big Guy, from who he learned much.

"Big Guy is frightened of thunder. He gets very nervous and jumps on our bed--your have not lived until you have had ninety pounds hit you in the middle of a deep sleep. One night during a storm we put him in the bathroom and closed the door. The next morning we found a cabinet door chewed to pieces and the finish of the bathroom door clawed away. He did not want to be in the place we had assigned to him, so we paid a price. The role of the community organization is similar. An organization does not stay where the power structure wants it, sitting quietly in the corner, or closed off in some room; it makes the power structure pay a price for trying to keep it in a place it doesn't want to be.

We were going after a slumloard with little success when we discovered he was an important member of his church and would preach when the pastor was on vacation. On Sunday when he was preaching, we went to his church with fliers using some of the Ten Commandments. 'Thou shalt not bear false witness: Mr. Jones, who is preaching to you now, lies to his tenants when he says he is going to fix up the building.' 'Thou shalt not steal: Mr. Jones, who is preaching to you now, steals from his tenants by collecting rents and not giving them garbage pick-up, cleaning the hallways, or making repairs.' This in not where Mr. Jones wanted us to be. He paid a priace and also fixed up his building. IF YOU STAY MEEKLY IN THE PLACE WHERE SOMEONE WANTS YOU TO BE, YOU LOSE! WHEN YOU STEP OUT OF THAT PLACE AND MAKE HIM PAY A PRICE, YOU WIN. I like winning better than losing."

pg. 9 "Dynamics of Organizing" by Shel Trap

Please remember this wisdom as you prepare your final fight against the plans to close Schenley. Attack back! Don't let them shut you down!

I stand with you in support!

peace and power,
Callie Thuma

Jen's email:

We know it's summer vacation and many families are away.
We know it's been forever and ever.
We know that it may be hot.
We surely know people work and have lives.
But please show up if you can, if you want to speak, even better!

Monday: Board of Education Public Hearing
6:30 pm press conference
7:00 pm public hearing

Sign up to speak is open until noon tomorrow, call 412-622-3600
Overall message: Until there is a comprehensive high school reform plan and that plan has been made clear to all stakeholders, there should be NO vote on closing Schenley and NO MORE SPENDING on other buildings and moves and renovations.

The school board should demand enough information and time to evaluate a complete and comprehensive plan addressing all high schools, all buildings, all programs and enrollment.


Tuesday: 6:00 P.M. - Public Hearing: City Council
City County Building
414 Grant St.

Sign up to speak through Tuesday at 412-255-2138 (have heard you can sign up until 5 pm, but try to do it before noon to be safe!)

Bill No. 2008-0482 - Petition from the residents of the City of Pittsburgh requesting a public hearing before City Council relative to the stated intent of the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education to close Schenley High School. (CABLECAST)

Overall message: same as above, emphasizing the city/public value of Schenley High School.

Please consider writing (especially if you can't make it to a hearing) to:
the school board (
city council (click on picture for phone number) and/or

Thank you and Happy Father's Day to all the dads!

Jen Lakin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the reason we are going to city council is because we have not been able to get our message out, that Roosevelt has defined the conversation as an issue of expenditures that we can not afford, when in fact his spending proposals for housing the Schenley students in other facilities will total MORE than the costs for renovating schenley. This is the most important all comes down to the money.