Monday, March 16, 2009

Facilities Committee Meetings

Facilities committee meetings are open to the public to observe. One meeting has already been held. Here are the dates and times for the remaining meetings:

6:30-8:30 at the BOE building, Conference room A

March 19

April 28

April 30

May 28

June 4


Annette Werner said...

I observed the Facilities Study Steering Committee meeting on March 19.

The Steering Committee is made up of a group of administrators, teachers and others apparently including a few parents and students to advise consultants DeJong and Kimball in devising a 10 year facility plan for the PPS.

There is a website for the project, The way the process is set up is for the consultants to collect data in Februay and March; then in March to conduct a very structured session on the South Side where members of the public respond in small groups to a series of questions about the school system and facilities; then in April the consultants develop facility options; in May the options are presented and there are sessions where the public ranks the options; and finally in June a draft plan is presented to the Board, with a final report and information on implementation in July.

The 14 questions to be asked at the March meeting are general rather than school or building specific: for example, "I believe the following factors are a consideration for selecting a school to attend- choices to bubble in as strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree or don't know are academic quality, proximity to home, perception of the community where the school is located, amenities and diversity." Another example is "I would prefer CHOOSE ONE- to build a new school instead of renovating, even if it costs more; to renovate the existing building, even if it costs more than building a new school; to relocate a program to an existing facility that meets the needs and has te available extra space; the more cost effective option."

My first impression was to wonder why all of this wasn't prior to the 2006 right sizing, or at least prior to all of the facility closings, renovation, etc. that took place over the last year.

Next, the fast time frame struck me. At yesterday's meeting missing schools were being added to the list of schools on one of the questionnaires to be distributed- U Prep and a couple of others were apparently missing- but in less than 2 months we will be presented with the options to choose from for programs as wide ranging as early childhood education and the CTE program that has eluded the district for over 5 years.

My final main thought is that while this overall framework may be useful, it should be supplemented by input from groups focusing on specific issues or schools, such as Peabody, Westinghouse, the Schenley building and CTE. Remember that the IB site selection group studied that issue and met for 6 months before making a recommendation. Other major issues deserve that same type of detailed, focused input by representatives of those most affected by or knowledgeable about these programs, schools and neighborhoods.

Annette Werner said...

A few other thoughts.

It is not clear whether what parameters the consultant is working within. For example, does the IB program for 6-12 have to be in a single building?

Also it is not clear whether and at what point alternatives to the consultant's options may be presented. The plan for the May 13 and 14 meeting seems to be quite structured and involve ranking options chosen by the consultant. If community members prefer an alternate plan when can it be presented and how can it be evaluated by the public?

Finally, the cost for this study should be noted. This is a $498,000 project, with additional charges if additional hours are needed. The cost for just the steering committee meetings alone (along with preparation of materials such as the questionnaire) is $58,000 or almost $10,000. Looked at another way, someone charging $100/hour would have had to spend almost 100 hours preparing for this 2 hour meeting (note that there are already separate fees for project initiation $15k, data collection $40k, enrolment projections $25k, etc.)

Questioner said...

Per the PG article below, "Pittsburgh may soon see its population fortunes reverse"- suggesting that when facilities decisions are made, it should not be assumed that population declines of recent years will continue.