Archive for October, 2012

At the last NA School board meeting, community members were urged to post questions to the NA Community blog to have their answers regarding school closing recommendations, the Phase 2 Feasibility report, capacity studies, cost savings, redistricting, etc answered in a public forum by the administration.

Here is the link.
NA Community Blog

You’ll notice the last comments were from the end of September.  Please let the administration know that you have questions, that you are concerned, and that you want answers!

A HUGE thank you to everyone that attended the school board meeting last evening. We had a great turnout and representation from 6 of the 7 elementary schools. This movement is about being opposed to closing ANY elementary school in the district because of the impact it would have on the remaining six buildings. Dr. Miller confirmed last night that, no matter which school is closed, it will be felt across the district.

It was extremely encouraging to see several board members step forward and ask the administration for more specific information on how this proposal would impact our elementary school children. We also saw, for the first time, financial estimates tied to this recommendation. The cost of maintaining a small elementary school is below $300k/year (utilities and maintenance) and we heard that it would only save the district about 5 staff members (a principal, secretary, nurse, and a couple specials teachers).Given the district’s operating budget is roughly $126 million per year, if the cost savings from closing a small elementary school are $1.26 million or less, this proposal is best described as “one that will have direct impact on teachers and students across all elementary schools while saving the district 1 percent or less in its annual budget.” This is a VERY powerful point moving forward.Despite that we did not receive a decision on the community task force last evening, and that we were told we won’t receive a decision until after the November board meeting, everyone should feel very encouraged about the information and discussions that took place at the board meeting last night and our position moving forward. Thank you again for your support and lets keep the momentum rolling!

The board meets for its next public session on Oct. 24.

By Richard Cook,  NA Patch

The North Allegheny School Board tomorrow is expected to release updated demographic data that could potentially impact recommendations to close one of the district’s elementary schools. The board meets Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 7:00 p.m. at its Central Administrative offices Hillvue Lane.

At a meeting with school board President Maureen Grosheider at Hosack Elementary School on Oct. 2, parents expressed concerns about the increasing class sizes at several of the elementary schools, and a consultant’s recommendation to close Peebles Elementary.  “I’m not sure the board is ready to decide about closing a building,” Grosheider said. “We need more information from the administration on how we would redistribute the students. Where are the pockets of growth and non-growth. The administration has to look at this from a practical point of view, before any decisions are made.”

Diane Collery, a parent with a group Save NA Schools, said more than 1,000 signatures had been collected on a petition requesting a district-wide community task force be established to be involved in any decisions regarding potential school closings and student reapportionment.

Tara Fisher, another parent with the Save NA Schools group, said that in addition to an answer from the board about the formation of a task force, she also hoped the board would reveal the following:

  • Administration work regarding the recommendation to close Peeble Elementary
  • Building capacities
  • Enrollment trends
  • Current educational programs “Modeling” criteria for different scenarios (e.g. closing an elementary school)
  • Communications
  • Next steps

School Board member Linda Bishop acknowledged at the Sept. 19 school board meeting that the district is facing an $8 million deficit, and the prime culprits include state-mandated pension contributions. “Our contribution went up $2.3 million this year and will go up another $3 million next year,” she said. “By 2015, unless the state legislature does something, we will be looking at $20 million in pension contributions each year.” Bishop also said the district is limited in its ability to raise taxes because of a state limit that ties tax increases to the cost of living. “We could propose a larger increase, but that would have to go to a voter referendum,” she said. “70-75-percent of the people who live in the North Allegheny district don’t have children in school. Convincing them of the need to raise their property taxes is a difficult proposition.”

http://northallegheny.patch.com/articles/north-allegheny-school-board-to-reveal-updated-data-which-could-impact-potential-school-closings

There is a North Allegheny school board meeting on Wednesday, October 24th at 7pm at the Central Admin Offices that will cover information relevant to all elementary school parents. At this meeting, the district’s administration will provide an update on the Phase II Demographics and Feasibility Study and document their work

over the past month. More specifically, the administration will review:

1) Building capacities,
2) Enrollment trends, and the
3) Current educational program.

The administration will also share their “modeling” criteria for different scenarios (e.g. closing an elementary school), communication, and next steps.

Elementary school parents are encouraged to attend so that they can hear first-hand the details of all proposals being considered by the administration and the school board.

School Board President Maureen Grosheider told parents at an Hosack Elementary PFA meeting that “very difficult” decisions will have to be made this year.

 

The Budget

North Allegheny school board President Maureen Grosheider told a group of approximately 50 parents Tuesday night at the Hosack Elementary PFA meeting that the district was facing the “perfect storm” in trying to come up with a balanced budget for next year.

“What we have is a situation where we have fewer and fewer dollars to use for classroom instruction,” she said. “And whatever increased money we get from the state is going for mandated pension contributions and transportation. Add to that, we are also paying the full load for cyber and charter schools. This year, that cost to the North Allegheny School district is $1.4 million dollars.”

Board members Linda Bishop and Beth Ludwig also attended the meeting.

Bishop acknowledged at the Sept. 19 school board meeting that the district is facing an $8 million deficit, and one of the prime culprits is the state mandated pension contributions.

“Our contribution went up $2.3 million this year, and will go up another $3 million next year,” she said. “By 2015, unless the state legislature does something, we will be looking at $20 million in pension contributions each year.”

Bishop also said the district is limited in its ability to raise taxes because of a state limit that ties tax increases to the cost of living.

“We could propose a larger increase, but that would have to go to a voter referendum,” she said. “70-75-percent of the people who live in the North Allegheny district don’t have children in school. Convincing them of the need to raise their property taxes is a difficult proposition.”

Closing Peebles Elementary

Parents in the audience Tuesday night expressed concerns about the increasing class sizes at several of the elementary schools, and a consultant’s recommendation to close Peebles Elementary.

“I’m not sure the board is ready to decide about closing a building,” Grosheider said. “We need more information from the administration on how we would redistribute the students. Where are the pockets of growth and non-growth. The administration has to look at this from a practical point of view, before any decisions are made.”

Laurel Schreiber, a parent, said a lot of parents are upset because there is not a lot of equity among the elementary schools when it comes to class sizes.

Ingomar and Hosack have the largest class sizes,” she said.

Grosheider said the district worked hard to keep the K-2 classes smaller, but was more flexible with grades 3-5.

Ludwig said in the past, the board would have simply hired another teacher to reduce the number of students per class.

“We are not in the economic times where we can just add a teacher,” she said. “We are not hiring, we are not replacing teachers who retire, the money is simply not there.”

Parent’s Reaction

After the meeting Schreiber said she was grateful the board appeared to be listening to her, and other parents’, concerns.

“I hope that the school board will continue to evaluate whether the projected capacity they are forecasting is a realistic capacity– and that they will continue to explore the ramifications of closing an elementary building,” she said. “Many of us are far from convinced that closing a building will result in smaller classroom sizes across the district.”

Before the board can vote to close a school, it must hold at least one public hearing, advertised at least 15 days in advance. The board cannot vote for at least three months after the hearing.

Board President Maureen Grosheider said the board will have new demographic data at its next meeting that could potentially impact recommendations about any potential school closings. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 24.

http://northallegheny.patch.com/articles/north-allegheny-school-board-president-says-district-is-facing-the-perfect-storm

Parents demand formation of a community task force to tackle both issues

By Richard Cook, NA Patch
September 26, 2012

For the second time this month, the North Allegheny School board got an earful from elementary school parents who say they are frustrated by increasing class sizes and fearful the board will close at least one elementary school.

At the most recent meeting Sept. 19, more than a half-dozen parents waited nearly two hours to address the board at the end of its regular agenda.

“My daughter goes to Hosack Elementary. Her class has 32 students,” Bill Lungren told the board.

“I had a chance to visit her classroom the other week, and I noticed there was hardly any room to move around,” Lungren said. “The desks were practically stacked on top of each other. Were these rooms designed by the original architect to handle this many students?”

School board member Linda Bishop said the district has increased class sizes to help balance its current budget.

“We’re now at the point where some very difficult decisions are going to have to be made, and one of those already this year was to float some of the class sizes,” Bishop said. “We didn’t furlough any teachers. We simply didn’t replace some teachers who retired.”

Kevin Mahler, who said he was speaking on behalf of a group of concerned parents, said he believes class size will inevitably impact the quality of education for the children of North Allegheny.

“As the cliché says, perception is reality, and there is an overwhelming perception that people like smaller class sizes, especially parents when they are choosing a school district,” he said.

Mahler said he wants the district to clearly define a policy and set limits for class sizes, particularly in the elementary schools.

“North Hills has a clear maximum (class size) of 23 students in K-2 and 25 students in grades 3-5. We often get compared in my neighborhood because you can live across the street from each other and be in either North Allegheny or North Hills (districts). That’s not a selling point anymore.”

Amanda Hartle, communications coordinator for the North Hills School Districtclarified that in grades K-1, that district’s maximum class size is 20 students per class with a single teacher, or 23 students with a teacher and a teaching assistant. In grades 2-3, the maximum is 23 students per class with a single teacher, and 25 students with a teacher and teaching assistant.

In grades 4-6 at North Hills, the maximum is 25 students per class with a single teacher, or 27 with a teacher and a teaching assistant.

Many North Allegheny parents also expressed the desire for the board to form a community task force to discuss solutions to larger classes as well as the recommendation last month from consulting firm Thomas & Williamson that Peebles Elementary be closed to equalize elementary enrollment.

“Let’s work to find lasting solutions and not Band-Aids to our budgetary problems,” said Chris Disque, a North Allegheny parent.

Before the board can vote to close a school, it must hold at least one public hearing, advertised at least 15 days in advance. The board cannot vote for at least three months after the hearing.

Board President Maureen Grosheider said the board will have new demographic data at its next meeting that could potentially impact recommendations about any potential school closings. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 24.

http://northallegheny.patch.com/articles/north-allegheny-parents-express-frustration-over-increased-elementary-school-class-sizes

The recent proposal to close Peebles Elementary school raises concerns due to:
1) The mathematically inaccurate conclusions and questionable projections included in the Phase 2 Demographics & Feasibility Study.
2) The ability of the remaining 6 elementary schools to provide adequate capacity for all elementary school students without an increase in class size.
3) The lack of financial data related to both the cost savings from closing a school and the future costs that would need to be incurred with respect to repairs and renovations at the remaining 6 elementary school buildings.

We do not believe that closing an elementary school is the solution to the district’s budgeting problems.  We believe more time and resources are needed to explore all viable long-term solutions. We have petitioned for a community task force that would involve the entire district in helping brainstorm proposals that will keep North Allegheny the school district of choice based on its excellence in education.

Please help support us in this endeavor by signing the petition for a community task force, attending monthly school board meetings to stay informed, and getting your friends and neighbors to join our Facebook page.