Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fw: cc letter waste/ mismanagement

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2011 16:59:15 -0400 (EDT)
To: <>
Subject: cc letter waste/ mismanagement

October 19, 2011


Mr. Ron Tomalis, Secretary of Education

Pennsylvania Department of Education

333 Market Street

Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333


Dear Mr. Tomalis:


I am writing with a concern about possible waste and mismanagement of Pittsburgh Public School assets.


As you may know, in June 2008 the PPS Board voted 5-4, despite strong opposition, to close Schenley High School.  The reason given was the presence of asbestos plaster, although it was later shown that other functioning Pittsburgh public schools had similar if not identical plaster issues.  The Board mandated that a committee be formed to consider re-use of the building, including possible re-use as a school.  Over the next three years parents, community members and some Board members requested formation of this committee.  Suddenly last summer, without committee input, the district announced that the property was for sale and that the bid deadline was December 31, 2011 (a date that was recently moved up to October 13, 2011).   A bid for $2M, which the district appears likely to accept very soon, was revealed this week.


HOWEVER, the Schenley athletic addition (including gym and pool) does not have asbestos plaster problems.   It was added in 1987 at a cost of $9.4M (about $18M in current dollars).  Similar recent projects in neighboring districts have cost $20M - $25M.  Even looking at just the athletic facilities, PPS will be handing off an extremely valuable asset for a pittance.  Minimal marketing took place, and it is quite likely that other potential purchasers did not know the building was for sale or that the gymnasium and pool do not have plaster problems.


More importantly, our Pittsburgh public school students could benefit greatly from this athletic facility.  Schenley was replaced by three 6-12 schools which in some cases lack facilitiesappropriate for a high school, such as regulation sized pools.   In addition, the high school level students must wait to use facilities until the middle school day is over, and then must work practices and meets around middle school practices and meets.  Because schools are small, joint teams are necessary and students  must travel between locations.  The Schenley athletic facilities are in a central location (Oakland) and would 1) greatly alleviate the overscheduling and inequity created by the 6-12 configuration and 2) provide a single location for the joint teams (which include charter school students) to practice and play.  And, because other Oakland organizations are in need of pool and gym time, there are real revenue opportunities that could well offset the cost of maintaining the building, even if the classroom portion just sat in reserve.  


An additional concern is that the district put the cost of making Schenley available for continued use as a school at $81M, while the bidder for the property indicates that it will manage to convert it to an entirely new use (residential) for only $35M.  I urge the Pennsylvania Department of Education without delay to investigate this discrepancy as well as the issues surrounding the athletic facilities and to ensure that our properties are being handled in a manner that is  fiscally responsible and equitable to all students.


Annette S. Werner (


cc:  Auditor General Jack Wagner

1 comment:

Mark Rauterkus said...

Well, we heard that the PPS is NOT going to sell Schenley for $2-M, about $50-M too low IMNSHO.

Time will tell.