Archive for January, 2013

The public hearing began at 7:00pm and ended at 2:21am.  There were several hundred parents in attendance and 110 pre-registered speakers. Parents from Peebles, Hosack, Ingomar, Franklin, McKnight, and Bradford Woods voiced support for keeping Peebles Elementary open.  Not one resident came forward in favor of closing Peebles Elementary school.
The hearing received coverage from WTAE, KDKA, and WPXI, the Trib, the Post Gazette, and the NA Patch.

Please click on the video link to watch KDKA’s coverage and listen to several speakers from last evening:  Upset Parents Pack Meeting On Future Of Local Elementary School

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

School closing foes voice opinions

Parent Mat Dubinett of Allison Park expresses his concern over the possible closing of
Peebles Elementary School during a public hearing at Carson Middle School
Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. Heidi Murrin | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

By Rick Wills

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Scores of North Allegheny residents let district officials know on Wednesday night that they are unhappy about efforts to close Peebles Elementary School.The public hearing is a precursor to a decision by the school board on whether to close the McCandless school, which could be made as soon as April 30.

Before the start of the hearing at Carson Middle School, 108 residents signed up to speak. By 9 p.m., not one speaker expressed support for closing Peebles.

Susie Holmes of McCandless said her children’s classes are already too crowded.

“My boys are both in classes of 32,” she said. “They are not being challenged. They had been in classrooms of 24. We can do better than what’s being offered.”

Residents angrily questioned the school board’s decision to move toward closing Peebles, the board’s financial oversight and its refusal to set up a task force of residents to study the closing of schools, which many people have advocated.

Some speakers even questioned the district’s elementary school enrollment figures, which have declined since 1999, according to Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri.

“Elementary school enrollment has increased every year for seven years,” said Tara Fisher of McCandless. “We are moving to a model where we will be wed to higher class sizes.”

The meeting attracted some residents without children, such as Naseem Wahlah of McCandless.

“I don’t know why it’s in anyone’s interest to close Peebles. It would clearly result in lower property values,” said Wahlah, who graduated from North Allegheny.

Two consultants have offered different recommendations as to which elementary school to close.

Architectural Innovation of Ross recommended closing Bradford Woods Elementary School, which it said needs $14 million in repairs.

A study by the construction consulting firm Thomas & Williamson of Ross, which is favored by a majority of board members, recommends closing Peebles.

Board members Ralph Pagone and Christopher Jacobs voted last month to cancel Wednesday’s hearing because they feel the district is rushing the process. Pagone said parents and residents should have more say and that the administration might be relying on incorrect enrollment estimates.
Read more:


January 30, 2013 11:41 pm
By Sandy Trozzo

More than 100 people urged the North Allegheny School Board to keep Peebles Elementary School open.

The school board held a public hearing Wednesday on the administration’s proposal to close the McCandless school for the next school year.

“While the overall population may be increasing, student enrollment has not increased since 1997 and is not expected to increase over the next 10 years,” Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri said.

He added that the closure, while it won’t balance next year’s budget, “will be one more effort to increase operational efficiency.”

But parents representing five elementary schools disagreed, saying that closing the school will increase class sizes across the board.

“Closing a school is one of the most drastic measures a school can take,” Hilary Daninhirsch said. “My child is not just a number in your budget forecast. She is a person, and she will be negatively affected if Peebles is closed.”

Parents also said the redistricting that will accompany the closing will affect 600 elementary and 300 middle school students. Those students would only have weeks to adjust to their new buildings if the board votes to close Peebles in May.

By law, the board cannot vote before April 30.

Most speakers urged the board to form a community task force to study ways for the district to save money without closing a school.

“You have a community filled with experts in finance, law and real estate,” Frank Corona said. “You have a community filled with people who want to help.”

North Allegheny Patch

More than 100 People Argue Against Closing Peebles Elementary

By Richard Cook

Arguing that the district’s enrollment predictions are inaccurate, more than 100 parents and taxpayers made their case at a marathon public hearing Wednesday night for keeping Peebles Elementary  school open.

Peebles supporters also contended that closing the school would have a negative impact on elementary students throughout the district. They made their case at a hearing that began at 7 p.m. and ended more than seven hours later at 2:21 a.m.

At that point, approximately 100 people remained in the audience, according to one parent who attended.

Superintendent Dr. Raymond Gualtieri was the first to speak, detailing his reasoning for closing the school.

Gualtieri said the district has been studying the issue for more than two years, and evidence points to declining enrollment and over capacity at the elementary school level. He argued (see video) that closing Peebles would allow the district to operate more efficiently and preserve important programs that might otherwise be threatened by a projected $5.7-million deficit.

Parents then got their turn to present their case, led by organizers of the community group Save NA schools.

Tara Fisher, a key member of the group, presented evidence (see video) that indicated elementary enrollment in the district had actually increased. She said closing Peebles would result in larger class sizes in the district’s other six elementary schools.

Other parents presented a variety of arguments against the closure. Many also criticized the board for its financial oversight and its refusal to set up a community task force to study the issue, despite a petition request bearing more than a thousand signatures.  (see video)

A final decision is months away. State law prohibits the board from taking a vote on the issue until May 1.

Read more:

  1. Please plan to arrive by 6:30pm and sign the attendance sheet.  The line to sign in will be long, but we need everyone to register so the district has an accurate count of those present.
  2. If you haven’t already registered to speak, there will be an opportunity to sign up for a 2-minute time slot immediately upon arrival.  The sign-up sheet for speakers will be available from 6:00-7:15pm.
  3. According to the school board secretary, there are 109 speakers that have reserved a 5-minute time slot.  (Some residents may not take the full 5 minutes.)  Please plan accordingly by bringing drinks, snacks, and other items you may need to make it to the end of the hearing. 

Thank you to all of the residents who are planning to attend this evening and advocate on behalf of the 3,500+ elementary students in the district!

On Aug 17, 2011, School Board President Maureen Grosheider commented on growth in the district and the idea of closing an elementary building.  We believe these comments are important and should be heard by residents across the district before attending the public hearing tomorrow:

Attend the Public Hearing tomorrow, at 7pm in the Carson Middle School Auditorium, 200 Hillvue Lane, Pittsburgh

Advocate for all 3,500+ elementary students in the district by telling the school board to keep Peebles Elementary open!


See related post–  2011: Board members express concern about enrollment projections

Today is the last day to email the school board secretary to register to speak at the public hearing on Wednesday, January 30th.  We are urging all residents to register to speak and advocate for the district’s successful elementary education model by keeping all seven schools open.

The more residents that register,  the more powerful the public record.

Please register today to have your voice be heard.

ALL NON-PEEBLES PARENTS, please make the following statement before you begin your remarks: “I AM NOT A PEEBLES PARENT, I AM AN [INGOMAR] PARENT.”

Each parent that makes this statement will help remind the board that this proposal impacts 3,500+ elementary students– not just the students at Peebles Elementary.

To register to speak at the hearing, you simply need to email Rose Mary Ryan, Board Secretary, at and state, “I would like to register to speak at the public hearing on January 30th.  Please confirm receipt.”  This will meet the requirement of a “formal written request.”  You will have 5 minutes to make your statement and no questions will be asked of you.

You must register before 3pm.

Please note:  If you have addressed the school board in the past, none of your prior comments are included in the public record for the hearing.  To have your comments be part of the public record for closing the school, you must speak at the public hearing.  You do not have to come up with a new topic, a new subject, or even new words– please feel free to use notes or content from your past statements.

Advocate for all 3,500+ elementary students in the district by telling the school board to keep Peebles Elementary open!

SaveNASchools has offered the district several suggestions with respect to closing the budget gap.  One of them is outsourcing transportation.  This option would result in two types of savings (1) a one-time windfall from the sale of the bus fleet and, (2) annual savings from cost efficiencies.  Other districts have seen significant benefits from these arrangements.

“Penn Hills’ director of business affairs Richard Liberto said the move would save the district $3.3 million the first year and from $1.4 million to $1.7 million yearly thereafter for the remainder of the five-year contract. The first-year savings figure includes the sale of the district’s bus fleet to First Student.”

To read more, click here.

We’ve also attached a report that explains how outsourcing works and addresses the most common concerns.  Here is an excerpt from the report:

“Our research has found consistent evidence that outsourcing contracts between public school districts and for-profit service providers can be mutually beneficial, producing cost savings (and sometimes new revenues), profits for the contractor, improved services for the school district, and more resources directed into the learning environment.

Education spending in the US is now nearing $600 billion per year, of which at least 34.5%–that’s more than $200 billion—is for non-instructional services. Through outsourcing, school districts seek to reduce the costs in time, personnel, and dollars for services that are necessary but not core to the educational mission, thereby moving greater resources into the classroom.  At the same time, they seek improved quality in these services, which according to the best studies, they receive.”

To read more, click here.

Next week, the administration will be proposing cuts to elementary school programs in an attempt to “divide and conquer” the movement against closing an elementary school building. The district will outline options that suggest elementary parents must choose between smaller class sizes and programs integral to the elementary curriculum.

SaveNASchools has suggested outsourcing transportation, staggering bus schedules, and advertising on the district’s website to address the current budget gap. These ideas are being considered and adopted by other school districts. Quaker Valley and Penn Hills have chosen to outsource transportation, while North Hills is considering staggering bus schedules and establishing a community task force.

On October 24, 2012, SaveNASchools presented a petition to the school board with 1,000+ signatures requesting that the district form a community task force to help brainstorm a variety of options for closing the budget gap without compromising the district’s reputation for excellence in education. It suggested the task force be comprised of representatives from each of the district’s 12 schools, along with teachers, administrators, and other residents.

SaveNASchools has always advocated that the district not compromise its successful elementary education model. The group has noted that, if a building is closed, “the use of spare classrooms as regular classrooms would displace programs critical to the elementary curriculum, such as music, GOAL and ESAP.”  These programs are integral to the elementary curriculum and should NOT be cut.

The district’s position that parents must choose between closing a school or cutting elementary programs only illustrates that the administration continues to lack a long-term, strategic plan with respect to the budget gap. It’s this lack of foresight that has contributed to the district falling behind in security measures, technology, and establishing an appropriate reserve to pay state mandated pension costs.

SaveNASchools believes that a district-wide community task force, which would explore all options for cutting costs and raising revenues in these challenging economic times, will allow taxpayers to be part of key decisions. A community group can provide the district with more ideas and channel the community support the district needs regarding certain proposals.

SaveNASchools encourages the board and administration to invite residents to the table instead of pitting them against one another and dismantling the very things that have made this district great. This is a time for the community to unite and advocate as one for the future of the North Allegheny School District.

At this week’s school board meeting, Mr. Pagone and Mr. Jacobs continued to challenge colleagues over the proposed plan to close Peebles.  Mr. Pagone made a motion to indefinitely postpone the public hearing and it was seconded by Mr. Jacobs.  The only challenge to the motion was from Ms. Ludwig, which prompted a heated exchange.  You can watch a video of the exchange by linking to the article on the NA Patch website.

The administration has proposed closing Peebles Elementary, but the school board is still undecided on the issue. It is the 9 school board members who have the power to close a building. The administration does NOT have power to do anything other than make the recommendation.

SaveNASchools encourages all North Allegheny residents to get involved in the effort to SAVE ALL SEVEN elementary schools in the district.

Top Ten Ways To Get Involved

  1. Attend the January 30th Public Hearing at 7pm in the Carson Middle School Auditorium
  2. Register to speak by emailing school board secretary, Rose Mary Ryan
  3. Sign up as at to receive information and updates
  4. Forward the emails from SaveNASchools to friends and neighbors
  5. Like our Facebook page
  6. Write a letter to the editor at the Post Gazette or Tribune Review
  7. Contact school board members by mail or by phone
  8. Invite friends and neighbors to attend the Jan. 30th hearing with you
  9. Volunteer to distribute flyers about the Public Hearing in your neighborhood (email us!)
  10. Email with other ideas.

School board members Ralph Pagone and Chris Jacobs voted “no” to scheduling a public hearing for the closure of Peebles. Thus, they already agree that proceeding with closing Peebles, given the current facts, is not in the best interest of the district.

The following three school board members are open-minded, friendly, and still undecided on the issue. If you want to write a letter or make a phone call to a school board member, we recommend focusing your efforts on these three members. As a taxpayer and citizen, it is your democratic right to lobby elected officials.  The contact information for all school board members is made public on the district’s website. It has been provided here for your convenience.

  • Libby Blackburn 1015 Woodland Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237 412-364-0314
  • Joseph Greenberg, Ph.D. 1000 Woodland Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237 412-635-9520
  • Thomas C. Schwartzmier 2538 Cole Road, Wexford, PA 15090 724-935-4964

Additional members of the school board include:

  • Maureen M. Grosheider, President 103 Quail Hollow Lane, Wexford, PA 15090 724-935-2134
  • Daniel E. Hubert, Vice President 200 Wally Nue Court, Wexford, PA 15090 724-935-1355
  • Linda Bishop 1180 Woodland Road, Baden, PA 15005 724-772-2371
  • Beth A. Ludwig 231 Edelweiss Drive, Wexford, PA 15090 724-933-0234
  • *Christopher M. Jacobs 3966 N. Monet Court, Allison Park, PA 15101 412-487-1479
  • *Ralph J. Pagone 8761 Casa Grande Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15237 412-635-7155 (work)