Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Statement to Pittsburgh Public Schools Board and Administration from Mark Rauterkus, October 24, 2011

Statement to Pittsburgh Public Schools Board and Administration from Mark Rauterkus, October 24, 2011 *

Hello Board members, Superintendent and staff. My name is Mark Rauterkus. I live in the South Side and have two children that attend Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Later in your agenda you will see a personell matter. I am very happy and excited to say that I've accepted the swim coaching position for the high school boys swimming coach at Pittsburgh Obama. I am really thrilled. It is going to be exciting to work with the kids and such. I won't let the students or you down.

One person emailed me and said the whole burden of PPS Athletic Reform Task Force, something that I was working on prior, is now falling on my shoulders. This is something that I'm willing to accept. If I have enough access and good support, and I think that will come, we will do some amazing things and hopefully we can be that model.

A lot of sports, and I don't want to get all Knute Rockne on you, is about playing well with one another. I think we need to use sports as best we can to keep the kids good goals.

It is alarming that the Schenley building is for sale for $2-million and it is a loss of a swim pool, something I care about most, but also the gym.

My suggestion to you is, if you must, sell the school building but do not sell the athletic facilities. Perhaps you can put a rider on the sale of some sort.

When the schools with grades 6 to 12 were created, you have to remember you have a middle school facility with their own middle school teams. They need to be practicing after school. Then these schools also must serve high school teams as well. They all need to be practicing after school.

Let's hold onto those athletic facilities and use them.

Even right now, with the closed Peabody facility, we have to use that, all the time. That is another access thing. It is sitting idle and we should be using it for our swim season, swim lessons, water polo, fitness.

In September I took a team of high school boys to Columbus, Ohio, for a water polo tournament. We played in the JV brackets as Pittsburgh Combined in Worthington. In the last game, at Worthington, we won in a game over Upper Arlington. I want to thank Dr. Lane for putting that news into the Superintendent's report and our players were very happy to hear her congratulations on their play. Two weeks ago I gathered 17 players from the city and a few from Shaler, and we played two games on a Saturday evening against North Allegheny's Club Teams. The kids did great. Everyone was proud, as they should be. Then they figured, "Boy, if we had practices and a legit schedule, we'd be really, really good."

Speaking of access, I'm expecting we'll work out access to Westinghouse High School so we can do afterschool programs there and build up some aquatics programs there.

Speaking of Westinghouse, it appears to me that the name, Westinghouse, the colors and the mascot is important to them. It would be best to keep the name Westinghouse as well as the colors and the mascott.

Houses in the Schenley Farms neighborhood sell for more than $2-million dollars. This is a giant building and it has a swim pool and gym. If you must, sell the school, but get a fair price. And by all means, do NOT sell the school on the cheap and then have the new owners expect to get a tax break or tax abatement into the future. I'd say "No way to that." I have always been against TIFs and tax-breaks that take money from today's students. Different people, like homeowners, need to carry more of the tax burden. Plus, a tax break for some amounts to a bribe. That is never healthy.

We could use that swim pool and gym that is within Schenley. It is new. It is of great size for a high school programs. A condition of sale could be for the new owners to occupy the school and the district to retain the sports facilities.

We have talked about this before with the creation of the schools that span from grades 6 to 12. These schools need to have VARSITY, JV, FRESHMEN and MIDDLE SCHOOL teams. The Sci-Tech and U-Prep schools were built for middle school teams. Use the sub-standard gyms and pools in those schools for sports play for middle school students and then give access to the high school students of both U-Prep and Sci Tech, an easily walk, to Schenley for their JV and Varsity teams practices and games.

Intramurals present another area where PPS needs great expansion. We need to have the space available in the evenings to do those programs. Some can be done on a city-wide basis at Pittsburgh Schenley.

It is with sports where be learn how to best play well with one another. We have heard plenty from the factions at Oliver High School and Perry High School. We need more common ground. We need sports facilities so we can have better coaching opportunities, better school spirit, better fitness and a district that is going to retain its students and families.

Our kids need high goals. So don't take away these goals, the physical hoops in the gyms, by selling the facility that is necessary for our schools to thrive.

And when the time is right, I would like to work to put in swimming and water polo programs at either Perry or Oliver High School as well.

* These were not my exact words.

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