Wednesday, June 8, 2011

PPS considers closing more buildings

From the Tribune:


Anonymous said...

I cannot for the life of me figure out why articles like this avoid the obvious number one question. WHY is enrollment still declining? That is never addressed, it sadly is just a fact, forget the Pittsburgh Promise, very few people care. The number one offenders make over 6 figures and work at the central office. Not all of them, most of them were dismissed, I am pretty certain the few that care are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

The trial balloon tossed out in this article eludes to High schools & south side. What if anything does that point to?

Questioner said...

At some point we get into a downward spiral- closings cause people to leave, which leads to lower enrollment and more closings, which cause more people to leave... A goal of offering more activities and electives is always mentioned, but then at the same time the district sets up schools with low enrollment and/or limited electives and activities.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Pittsburgh Promise was going to increase enrollment?

Questioner said...

It may well have increased enrollment, if other factors had remained constant. But in reality the PPromise also had to help counteract the effect of unpopular changes put into place in the years after the Promise was announced.

Anonymous said...

Which brings the question full circle. Why is the continued decline in enrollment a "non-story"? I wish ONE media outlet would do a story on how ridiculous and out of control this has become.

Central administration will have cuts or shuffle cuts. Lane already gave them raises due to increases work load. 142k was too little to ask if them. (that would not apply to teachers). This is being handled back azzwards.

I had hopes of sending my kid back to PPS for high school. That hope is turning into fear due to expenses.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The administration's recommendation could be made as early as August.

Yeah, Right.

Let's put on our tin foil hats.

What is really going on here?

Closing of Oliver?
Closing of Westinghouse?
Not moving of IB to Peabody?
Closing of ...

Well, PPS isn't yet in a discussion for the re-opening of Schenley.

Mark Rauterkus said...

WHY PPS enrollment still declines, would make a great Op-Ed for the newspapers.

If they don't report it, you can.

Questioner said...

As part of a reevaluation of the previous administration's plans, a truly independent expert should be brought in to Schenley to determine 1) how Schenley compares to McKelvey, built in the same year with the same asbestos plaster situation but the ceiling removed and 2) the minimum cost to make the Schenley building safely available for the next 20 years (ie, not reconfiguring classrooms, or removing every trace of asbestos in case someone some day may want to reconfigure, etc., etc.). Maybe, remove the ceiling plaster, run electric and other wiring up near the ceiling and encapsulate any problem areas. If PPS doesn't do it then a charter will eventually.

Questioner said...

From the article:

"The district determined that about 70 percent of its schools' 36, 211 classroom seats are filled.

About 85 percent is ideal because it ensures a building is being put to good use without overcrowding, said Derrick Lopez,..."

- Well. The only HS building that was at 100% capacity was Schenley. According the the facilities consultant, Allderdice is at 70%; what are the chances of additional students being dropped in there? And why isn't any attention being paid to increasing the number of students rather than decreasing the number of seats- for example, by attracting back the many students who have dropped out?

One explanation- the district does not lose any state funding if a student drops out or changes to private school. It only loses money if a student goes to a charter. But with money tight all the way around, that formulat could change.

Mark Rauterkus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It would be easy to blame the current steps of reducing staff and closing schools on the Governor's budget proposal and the overall economic climate the district faces, but perhaps we need to dig back into the original Empowering Effective Teachers plan to recall what the district promised it was going to do to sustain the reform agenda.

The elements quoted below are found on 53 and 54 of the plan, which in turn is posted at this link:

1. The district promised to close more schools. The plan states: "Facilities. A facilities optimization study will be completed this fall. Based on its findings,
we will devise a plan that addresses, among other items, building consolidation and teacher
distribution. Due to projected enrollment decline, we anticipate having to close buildings. While we do not yet know the number, historical district consolidations and current enrollment trends suggest an estimated annual savings of $6-11M, beginning in 2012-13."

2. The district promised to shed staff, quite rapidly, in schools. The plan states: "Teacher distribution. Today, we operate at an approximately 14 to 1 student to teacher ratio, significantly lower than the average U.S. urban school, which operates at a 17 to 1 ratio.33
Through initiatives premised upon placing the best teachers in front of more students—including, for example, larger class sizes at the Academy, where there will be a higher adultstudent ratio (e.g., a CRI plus 2-3 student teachers in each room), we could increase studentteacher
ratios to an average of 15 to 1 or 16 to 1, generating $5-10M in annual savings."

3. The district promised to cut central office and other costs as well. The plan states: "Operating efficiencies. Beginning in 2012-13, we can capture savings of $8-12M per year, or 10-15% of spend from other categories, including but not limited to transportation, supplies,
and property services."

Elimination of the charter school subsidy and the accountability block grant funding may have been 2011 curveballs, but the rest of what is unfolding was foretold with great clarity, in fact required by the plan.

While it seems a long time away, it is exactly the right time to ask exactly how the initiatives funded by the Gates and TIF (federal) grants can possibly continue beyond the life of the grants?

2011-12 is only the beginning of a dramatic climb in the retirement system contribution rate for employees, projected to grow from 8.65% in 11/12 to nearly 30% on top of each payroll dollar in roughly five years.

Questioner said...


Al Eanne said...

I absolutely agree with the downward spiral. Conejo Valley Unified School District, in Thousand Oaks CA is currently making the same mistake. The best part is while closing a highly successful Title One elementary school, they are also making plans to build a state of the art facility to be used for our Continuation High School students. This building cannot be fully funded by cash so they will take out loans and write grants.DURGH! And we wonder why our current economic culture revolves around cyclical debt. It's devestating.