Sunday, December 12, 2010

Roosevelt exit interview

From the PG:

- He's still trying (unsuccessfully) to justify Schenley.

Once again, tell us why Schenley had to shut down immediately with $8M interim costs thrown away at Reizenstein, when McKelvey/Miller in the Hill District with almost identical asbestos plaster conditions remains open and in use...

Why the $30 - $50M proposal by a committee of building professionals was not seriously considered....

Why the district can propose to spend $30M on 458 students at Arlington but Schenley, in a prime location and a true flagship school, is too expensive to renovate for 1300 students.

And in answer to the question of why he would choose to go through this- it is because at the time he was eager to launch smaller schools and new signature projects like sci tech and U Prep.


Anonymous said...

Once he is safely out of town, the Schenley building will be given to UPMC. That's my bet.

Questioner said...

Although it has always seemed like Pitt was more interested. Word is that PPS at one point was calculating how much it would cost to renovate the building for Pitt. Excess capacity in Oakland is 0%.

Re: financial considerations, calculations were presented to Mr. Roosevelt to show how selling the Reizenstein facility and returning it to tax rolls could finance the bulk of any renovation of Schenley. That idea was dismissed as well.

Anonymous said...

You can't spend a year saying that a building needs more than 80M sunk into it and then expect to sell it.

A building like Schenley is not suited for any other use than academic (small amount of parking, building configured to be classrooms and not lofts or small offices or anything else), as well, so you're down to only the Universities wanting it. When you only have one or two possible buyers who aren't that interested...

They can wait until it's given to them, gift-wrapped.

Anonymous said...

Where to begin with this article? Read the right way it sounds like it took him 5 years to finally figure out a few things (stop with all the money to outside contractors, listen to the people, etc).

Now that he's figured them out -- he's gone.

Anonymous said...

If comprehensive high schools with lots of electives, athletics, clubs and activities are so bad, when will North Allegheny and Pine-Richland and Mt. Leb and Upper St. Clair begin moving toward small, specialty schools?

Or are these schools only good for "urban" kids? They don't need "extras"?

CAPA is the school Roosevelt had nothing to do with (other than smushing in the middle school guaranteeing over-crowding). But clearly to him, it performs so well because it's specialized, not because it requires essays, auditions, and interviews and is happy to kick kids out. Surely all that choosiness has nothing to do with scores.

Questioner said...

Not to mention that it has a far, far lower proportion of impoverished students than most Pittsburgh public schools. MR criticized the environmental charter school for not being demographically representative but has done nothing to change that characteristic at CAPA. Measures to address the imbalance could include intensive efforts to help underrepresented students to prepare their portfolios, auditions, applications, etc. in time to meet the October deadline.

Anonymous said...

The Schenley building is perfectly designed for a school and nothing else-

The Next Page: Schenley High School -- a 'Green Building' ahead of its time

Read more:

The costs that it would require to turn it into another use would be astronomical- nothing compared to the exaggerated costs that Roosevelt had clung to in order to save face and make a name for himself.

If anyone thinks that there are plans for the building in this economic climate, they are not looking at the numbers and the facts.

Ironically, there is a letter to the editor in today's PG by a Promise board member from Fox Chapel! Wait! Isn't that a Blue Ribbon award winning COMPREHENSIVE high school?

Questioner said...

Although it will probably be another 3 years before the full effects of the poor decisions made by this administration are felt- in terms of enrollment, diversity and many other measures- we will manage to adjust. The greatest long term damage may come from the political techniques and tactics that have been introduced into our district.

Anonymous said...

I've always assumed the sale of Schenley will come some time after this last class graduates. Less sticky emotional messiness to deal with if no one is presently a student in the building. My bet is a move will be made on the building within a year of June 2011.

Questioner said...

There is a Schenley class this year but not in the Schenley building. At the end of 2008 all Schenley students were moved to the Reizenstein facility to complete their HS education, at the cost of $8M to renovate Reizenstein for temporary use and $3M to move the robotics program, even though monthly air monitoring reports had never revealed any kind of problem with asbestos in the air. The other buildings where air was monitored monthly for asbestos (Manchester, Woolslair, Vann, McKelvey) remained open.

Anonymous said...

at the cost of $8M to renovate Reizenstein for temporary use

Was that just the first set of renovations? It seems like they've done huge projects every year/summer since then too.

Not to mention all the money poured into the Frick building to make Sci-Tech.

Anonymous said...

This site continues to crack me up. You know, I loved Forbes Field. I always wished they'd relocate the Pirates back to Oakland...until they tore the place down.
The Schenley maneuver was a litmus test for everything else that has come to pass in this district and generally speaking, Roosevelt learned that no one cared or at least, only a small faction cared.
It's not coming back, either.
At the end of the day, Pure Reform is all about resurrecting this issue, and seeking verification of the realities of the classroom these days.

Questioner said...

Can you clarify "seeking verification of the realities of classrooms these days"? We have a responsibility to be as accurate as possible and to provide sources so that others can use the information. Also the reference to resurrecting an issue is surprising, because most of PURE's efforts are directed to greater transparency and public input.

Randall Taylor said...

I found the comments about outside contractors and consultants very interesting. MR spent on uneccessary millions on those from the outside."Partnered" with countless agencies, who used those partnerships with PPS to gain grants and contracts. Duplicated tasks especially on high school reform. MR was a voracious consumer of the "educational industry". Now his says he should have looked locally?

Just as with Mayor Tom Murphy the PG editorial page never stopped supporting him until the people where in the streets. It also points to the fact that it remains difficult for some to admit to the facts of Mr. Roosevelt's record. He, at least, admitted in the article that academic achievement "only increased incrementally", just like Brennen, just like Frederick, just like Thompson, yet only they did not spend $100,000,000+,purge the District of countless experienced Principals and teachers, and set back the challenge(see ALAs) of improving academic outcomes for our most under-performing students, primarily low-income african-american children.

It is important that we tell the truth, with facts about what happened here for the last five years. If we do not challenge the myth put forth by the Post-Gazette and others, it will be seen as fact. This will strengthen the hand of those who say Dr. Lane should only be allowed to pick up where Mark Roosevelt left off. I say let us do a comprehensive study of where we are as a District and, unlike MR, build on successes, admit to and dis-card failure, and lets begin anew.

Questioner said...

It is puzzling why the PG would not favor this approach as well! Unless the "investigative" part of its journalism is dwindling to safe targets only, such as other districts.

Kathy Fine said...

anon 4:50, The main issue that made us wary of Roosevelt's reforms was the Schenley debacle, and until it is sold, there is no reason not to advocate for keeping this magnificent building in the district.

The postings on this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions of PURE Reform members. If you see a bias against teachers, you should address individual bloggers (although I am hard pressed to see any such bias).

We are doing our best to advocate for true public school reform through increased transparency and accountability. We attend countless district meetings, testify at almost every public hearing, post relevant news stories to keep the public informed. We have no other agenda than advocating for quality education for all children in our city.

Questioner said...

Anonymous tried to post the following, but the comment is not showing:

"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Roosevelt exit interview":

I don't think the criticisms are of Pure Reform at large or in theory, but I do think that the general public sees teachers as being overpaid, having 3 month vacations, working 7 hour days, etc. When teachers post stories here, it is usually met with a "let's take the middle of the road" stance when I can tell you---and most teachers can tell you--it is open season on teachers, period. RISE is simply a tool in which teachers can be dismissed and certainly, Randall can verify this. Indeed, one of PELA's main tasks involves getting control of teachers. I know of numerous "veteran" administrators who continually come away from meetings with a queasy feeling--as the idea of focusing teachers is constantly revisited.
The point is, many of us feel that "reform" has implied that teachers are the problem. Gates money says as much. In its purest sense, reform must mean the correction in thought processes, a difficult task when millions of dollars are acting to form the opinions of school board members and actually helping to vindicate the vindictive currently in charge.
Pure Reform?
It begins with reforming your school board.
It's a sad day when Randall Taylor and others are on the outside.
It extends to ending the Bellefield Ave bureaucracy and terminating do-nothing administrators who have nothing to do with your child's education and yet, sit in judgment of teachers.
Pure Reform will mean tackling these two cancers currently in our system, and not opining for the reopening of buildings."

Questioner said...

PURE can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Dude said...

Kathy, Schenley should never have been closed. Nor should have South Hills, or Fifth Avenue, or South.
The amazing lack of foresight displayed by board members over the years has been noteworthy, and although the closure of Schenley is particularly egregious, let's not forget the closure of middle schools under MR, some of which had recently undergone renovations that cost taxpayers millions.
I'm not sure what the answer is, but we are in a dark era in this city's education, no matter how much the PG would have you believe otherwise.