Friday, October 21, 2011

Kathy Fine makes a statement about the selling of PPS school facilities

From Kathy Fine, a Pittsburgh citizen who helps with the education blog, Pure Reform.

Enough is enough.

Four years ago, the PPS administration proposed closing Schenley High School based on deceptions and out and out lies.
  • They lied when they said that that would keep Schenley open after the community outcry.
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  • They lied about the level of danger due to asbestos and the urgency of removing students from the facility.
  • They lied about forming a stakeholder committee to discuss possible reuses for the building.
  • They lied about the cost for renovations.

And now their lies are public knowledge. The district let Schenley sit unused while they spent tens of millions of dollars on renovations on inferior buildings and instituted controversial reform experiments that we new would fail (and sadly, we have been proven right). Now they are proposing selling this historic building on invaluable city property for $2M dollars to a developer that will convert the old school into apartments for a cost of $35M dollars. That’s right, $35M dollars to gut the entire facility, remediate the asbestos, replace electrical and HVAC systems and build separate apartments. 5 years ago, the PPS administration told us that just updating the mechanicals and remediation would cost up to $81M!

The students at University Prep are worse off than they were at Schenley. They are faring no better academically, but now they are housed in an inadequate middle school facility and their sports and other extracurriculars have been decimated.

The closing of Schenley has resulted in the resegregation of our high schools and separate but unequal facilities and programming for the minority students in the East End of our city. While the predominantly white high schools like Brashear, Carrick and Alderdice have remained untouched, with beautiful buildings and sports facilities, the predominantly minority high schools like Obama (the new IB school), University Prep and Sci-Tech are squeezed into middle school facilities or facilities with no windows or natural light and have been forced to give up any real sports programming.

And the proposed Reizenstein sale also raises concerns. The county has assessed this property at over $22M, but the bidder the district is putting forward is offering only $5.4M Moreover, this flat, conveniently located property with some of the best PPS parking in the East End is the go to spot for district wide meetings. It is also the site of a popular pre-school program. DeJong, the facility consultant, recommended keeping the property, reportedly so that it would be available at a future time when the district wishes to build a new modern facility.

PLEASE, come to the public hearing at 6PM on Monday, 10/24 and tell our school board that we cannot see our district dismantled piece by piece. Call 412-622-3600 and sign up to speak by 12N on Monday. Or just come to lend support! Some talking points:

  • End the separate but unequal treatment of the minority students in the East End.
  • The lack of accountability regarding the deception about the true cost of renovation
  • The failures of the reforms that took place at the cost of Schenley High School
  • University Prep is a failed experiment
  • Sci-Tech’s building is too small to accommodate all of the students that want to attend
  • Sharing sports facilities between middle and high school has resulted in tremendous scheduling difficulties, with some students having to wait until evening for practice.

The Schenley building and sports facilities are worth much more than $2M. There has been talk of building a gymnasium for University Prep at a cost of $8M. We could use the Schenley sports facilities for University Prep, Obama and Sci Tech and save $6M, while providing these three schools with a centralized location for their sports programming.

Stop the fire sale of Reizenstein and Schenley.

The TIME IS NOW to stop this charade of “reform” and put a halt to the sale of our precious public school resources for a pittance.

Kathy Fine
Pure Reform

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