Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Presentation to Pgh Public Schools Committee about East End Plan

Last night I spoke at a public hearing about our schools. The focus was called into question, rightly so. But the aim was to hear from citizens about schools in the East End of Pittsburgh.

A committee was hand-picked by PPS Superintendent, Mark Roosevelt. The work of the committee is to review all the available facts, ponder solutions and make suggestions to the administration and the board.

One recent study looked at the facilities, the downward migration trends of the city and its schools, and suggested, among other things, to close Peabody High School.

In this work, the committee is to ponder the East End, but ignore CAPA, Allderdice and a few other schools that are clearly in the east. Go figure.

My statement goes to the fact that when consultants visit, they looked at the physical building. They'd see a nice gym. A nice pool. However, they overlooked the programs that need to fit into these spaces. The boys varsity team, the JV team and the girls varsity team and its JV team needs to share the court with the middle school girls and boys teams at Schenley / Obama. On paper, the gym is fine. But, it is not good when there are 900 people wishing to go to a game and only 240 fit into the gym so 100 end up sitting outside. Your miles may vary. Same too with the swim pool. The middle school has meets so the high school team gets bumped. But worse is the middle-school PE classes that go for an extra 45 minutes every day beyond the close of the classes for the varsity athletes. Program problems trump building conditions and those consultants didn't lift a finger to ponder the programs that need to fit within our schools.

Another point I made goes to the 'feeder patterns.' Perhaps it is time to take all the feeder patterns and kill them. We've got schools of choice where families from anywhere within the city can opt to have their children go to CAPA, or Perry (Tradational), or Allderdice (engineering magnet and Chineese language magnet), or Obama (I.B.) or Sci-Tech, or U-Prep. Others exist too. The point is, if you live on a certain street some are forced to certain schools. That stinks.

The district could move to an 'all-magnet' or 'all-choice' system. Then if a certain school is failing, people could vote with their feet and leave.

And if there were more choices in an all-choice system, one of the options could be a single gender school for boys and a single-gender school for girls. Let's open a public school alternative to Central Catholic, Oakland Catholic and even Ellis (an all girls school).

Westinghouse could be a city-wide all girls school and Oliver could be the all-girls school. Or, the boys and girls campuses could switch or even flip every three to five years.

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