Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How we got where we are Part XIX (June 2008)

On another post Anonymous wrote:

"June 25, 2008: In the face of continued enrollment decline, the Board approved:

- Opening “a new 6-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) focused magnet school at the Frick facility. The STEM school will be phased in beginning with grades 6-9 for the 2009-10 school year." Oh but wait! What happen to the Westinghouse Science and Math program (SAM) that was so successful? After investing millions of dollars in the renovations of Westinghouse, including the state of the art science labs, PPS decided to abandon them. I hear now some of those expensive class room rooms that were set up as science labs are being used to teach English and other non science courses. What a waste.

- Opening “a new 6-12 International Baccalaureate (IB) school focused on language and culture. The IB School will be phased in, beginning with grades 6-10 for the 2009-10 school year and be located at the Reizenstein facility at least through the 2011-12 school year. The IB offers a continuum of high-quality education that encourages international-mindedness and a positive attitude to learning.” This is a great program for the few. But the reality is less than 20% of the students who are actually in the program get the IB Diploma. There are major barriers along the way for completion to include the cost of sitting for the exams.

This IB item was amended to include language that “The Board will work with the Superintendent to create a committee to include Administration, Teachers, Students, Parents, and Community Leaders to determine the best permanent home for the IS/IB Programs.” Or better put, lets create a IB site selection committee and take over the Peabody building. But first we must put the Peabody neighborhood feeder pattern kids out of their own building because they are not good enough to be in the same building with the IB students.

PPS tried blending two schools. This short lived experiment was with the remainder of the Schenley students from the hill, with the new IB students who had come over from Frick. There were a few Schenley student loyalist who didn't leave Schenley once PPS broke up their school. But PPS didn't feel the blending worked and it was doomed for the start. PPS separated the Schenley students from the IB student by floors, staff, principals and Pods. So what can we do with the students from, Larmer, East liberty, Garfield, Bloomfield, lawrenceville, Stanton Heights, Morningside and friendship. We have to make way for the new East liberty development and Highland Park? Someone had a brilliant ideal. Bingo! It was decided to send the remainder of the Peabody students to Homewood, i.e. Westinghouse, or the Hill, i.e. Uprep, which began the process of re-segregating the schools. But no one will notice or care, will they? Did they notice how PPS did Schenley?

- Closing “the Schenley facility for use as a school effective June 30, 2008. Pursuant to 24 P. S. 7-780 of the Public School Code of 1949, as amended, the Board conducted a public hearing on November 27, 2007 in order to take public comment on the proposed closing of the Schenley facility.”

This item was also amended to include language that “The Board will work with the Superintendent to create a committee to include District, community, and other governmental representatives to work together to pursue several long-term options for use, investment and/or renovation of this historic landmark.”

- Relocating “Pittsburgh Schenley grades 10, 11 and 12 and to establish Pittsburgh Schenley as a 10-12 school at the Reizenstein facility beginning with the 2008-09 school year. The Pittsburgh Schenley school will be reduced by one grade per year and remain at the Reizenstein facility until its last class graduates in 2010-11....To allow the students of Pittsburgh Schenley to remain together at the Reizenstein facility until the final class graduates in 2010-11.” This way we can eliminate the Schenley alumni and legacy because they may rise again as they gave us a little scare. For a minute there it looked like they were going to put up a real fight to save their school. It was only one of the most diverse schools in the district, and lords knows we can have that.

Architects are approved for the temporary relocation to Reizenstein and the Frick renovation for Sci-Tech. And big time money is about to be spent so we can't go back now. Plus why not get the Reizenstein building really ready for who we want to sell it too, with tax payers dollars since we are moving the IB program to Peabody. We just want to make the IB site selection committee think they have a real say so in where they will move the IB program to. Even though PPS paid the Dejong group, a facilities study company, $500,000.00 to tell PPS what facilities were the best and they ranked them. Oh did I say that the Dejong advised that the IB program stay at Reizenstein? Sorry its a secret.

Board member Randall Taylor remarks, “I think it's a very, very historic meeting that we have this evening, and some of the decisions that this Board may have I think may have long-term implications for this District, and it may have again long-term impact on the type of services and the type of choices that we like to be able to offer our students. The District, as we know our finances are not in the greatest of condition, and I believe that some of the proposals on the table this evening are going to exacerbate our I think very poor financial position.”

Mr. Taylor makes a motion to move Schenley into the Peabody building. He notes, “So I think a proposal of Peabody is financially a better proposal than the administration's proposal, and I think educationally it's a better proposal because it preserved Schenley High School as the excellent facility all their teachers and all their programs in another building.”

Mr. Roosevelt contends that Peabody is too small and perhaps it is here that we see why former Chief Operations Officer Richard Fellers was exiled and forced to retire.

Mr. Taylor continues, “It's a senior person very much involved over the years with our school closing and the number they gave me was 1,700 or 1,800 students that fit in Peabody High School. Absolutely.” Oh Randall you don't know what your talking about do you? Opps let me be quiet I forgot he went there and knows Peabody can hold the students, because that's what it had when he was there, and the building didn't shrink did it?

Solicitor Weiss' comments that the Board has already approved construction contracts for Milliones and Reizensten; his opinion holds sway over the majority. Therefore the thought is I guess we better spend that money now before the people find out that in 2011 and...... we will be broke and having to lay off over 300 people and close more schools. Naw that cant be true can it?

Taylor's motion is defeated 2-7."


Questioner said...

Unbelievable. When do we wake up from this nightmare?

Anonymous said...

Questioner, as long as you control the media, you control the people...and the outrage.
The PG asks no questions.
The tabloid journalists in local TV don't see this as worthy of an investigation.
When do we wake up?
Only when a complete overhaul of the school board entails individuals who refuse to simply rubber stamp anything the superintendent throws their way.
And that won't be happening any time soon.
This is a 'teachable moment' for our children, if nothing else. It is the answer to the question, "What happens when there is overwhelming apathy among the populace?"
Taylor's proposal not only made sense, it would have enabled Frick to move in, as well, especially if this new 6-12 method was the requirement.
That must have made too much sense.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Meanwhile, this year, the Peabody gym (high school sized) and swim pool sit idle and can't be utilized.

Reizenstein, built as a middle school, now is home to a high school and a middle school. Everything does not fit. Two sets of teams with one facility is like putting 10 pounds of stuff into a 5 pound bag.

Meanwhile, an empty and expansive space is present.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Same type of decision is looming large with Oliver and Perry.

Oliver is a bigger building. They want to close that school program. So, it makes better sense to close the Oliver program, keep it's vo tech, and move the Perry program into the bigger, better school. Then the Perry building gets closed.

Meanwhile, the money sunk into Reizenstein, and the money to move robotics are where? They could have done a fix up on Schenley without the students present for a year or even two. Then the move next year of the IB School could be back to Schenley.

Fixing a school, if it was even broken, with the students present must be a bit of a headache. So that overtime and rush could have been avoided.

Plus, the site selection group made some strong conditions as to what needed to be done at Peabody too. Will those happen this season? Yeah, right.

Questioner said...

When asked about the specifics of scheduling a middle school and high school into one set of facilities, the administration and the Board responded with vague reassurances or references to Brashear, a school that has two sets of facilities. Somehow everything was to be worked out. Again and again we have seen poor planning, despite the presence of highly paid consultants and "strategic initiative" positions.

The way things are worked out is that students put up with whatever haphazard setup they are assigned to. With contstant restructuring, disruption can always be justified as temporary.

Randall Taylor said...

I purposely put the vote on the floor, knowing it would lose, because I wanted that to always be on the record how out of control and Mark Roosevelt dominated the Board was(is)at that time.

Just think, we could have(1) made an effort to save Schenley, (2)saved millions Reizenstein(10 million), Westinghouse(1 million with this newest change), Milliones(8 million), (3)NO ill-fated U-Prep and Westinghouse 6-12. Very Sad.

Schenley 1200 students, Peabody 600 at that time. Mark Roosevelt tells me the school can not hold 1,800 students. I say I went there when it held over 2,000 and the Board believes him! Incredible.

Old Timer said...

Mark is right in assailing the essence of the 6-12 school. Frankly, it doesn't work. The pinheads seem to feel that through osmosis, younger kids will feel some connection--some bond--to a given school. They'll see the school as some community.
What rubbish.
Mark's comment must be true in every 6-12 school. Too many kids, too many teams....nowhere near enough facilities. Just how does this plan make sense?
Add to this the idea that administrators must act to keep the flow of middle and high school students separated for safety reasons and it's even more ridiculous.
Facilities, safety, teachers who must be accommodated to teach split schedules and the entire "high school atmosphere" which is lost on true high school age kids and again, you must wonder what idiots come up with such ideas.
I've never know of any kid who liked the 9 through 12 in one school idea, let alone the 6-12.
At the end of the day, I continue to be amazed---shocked--at how out of touch with the realities of our kids people like Roosevelt, Lane, Lippert, French and Otuwa are.
How could these individuals put so much credence in consultants and research rather than their own teachers, administrators, parents and students?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Randall. But you are gone now and we must depend on our new board rep and I wanted to make a comment with regard to her.

Her name is Sharene Shealey (District 1). And as a former Civic teacher at Westinghouse, a member of this community, and a Westinghouse graduate of 1967, I have not felt her (Sharene Shealey) presence in my community and definitely not in WHS school. In fact, I am concerned about her intent for both our community, and our school.

Randall Taylor took an active part in this community, and in this school, which I have not seen from Sharene Shealey. These are difficult times for our community, our school and our students, and it bothers me to have someone representing me, who at a board meeting could only echo what two other Board Members, Mark Brentley (District 8) and Tom Sumpter (District 3), who spoke up on our behalf. As a freshman in this political arena, one would think that she would be more visual, envolved and vocal where her constituents reside.

I have not seen her at a PSCC meeting, I have not seen her in our school, or at student activity. In fact, I wonder if she realizes that while some in this community do not vote, there our others that do, and I am one of them.

Anonymous said...

Mostly her comments at meetings seem to refer to her own kids.

Anonymous said...

Who is the new Union Representative for Secondary Schools? Can he/she help us?

Anonymous said...

Union rep? Forget our union - they are part of Lane and the gang. The union won't help - they may go through the motions, but that is all.

In The Know said...

To anon 5:13

You asked: "Who is the new Union Representative for Secondary Schools? Can he/she help us?"

The new union Representative for Secondary Schools is Dale Moss, a teacher at Carrick High School.

Mr. Moss is a very energetic and aware person. And, no, he cannot do anything to help.

Here's why. After Mr. Moss won the election, the president of the union, John Tarka, simply refused to to give Mr. Moss a staff position.

Mr. Tarka instead decided to give the staff position to a friend of his (Tarka's), the very person that Mr. Moss defeated!

This is against all standards of decency and fair play. But a loophole in the union by-laws allows it.

Without a staff position, the union Representative for Secondary Schools, Mr. Moss, is isolated and powerless. He can do nothing.

Old Timer said...

Mr.Moss was one of four teachers who won slots with the PFT--against all odds and against the "slate" choices of Tarka's gang.

They won and represent a mandate from teachers....and Tarka's response has been to try and mute them at all turns.

Dirty. This is a dirty union.

If we say that those making choice in government--indeed, within school boards and administrations--are corrupt, then you would have to put PFT leadership even lower than that.

Ethically bankrupt.

Any teacher who does not vote this do-nothing, capitulating, cowardly leadership OUT this year truly IS a fool.

I only hope a new president like Mark Sammartino can clean house and amend "bylaws" that do nothing but insure that they are untouchable.

Each teacher pays $800 in union dues. You might as well call that theft.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:01,

Scary isn't it that our Board President relies on Ms. Shealey's expertise when making curriculum decisions? Her words.