Press Coverage from the Public Hearing

Posted: January 31, 2013 in Press Coverage
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. Kevin Mahler says:

    My thanks to everyone who spoke last night. I was impressed by the variety of perspectives offered. While I did not agree with every point made, it was clear that there are many holes in the Administration’s case – and I hope the Board now realizes how much damage they are doing by countenancing larger class sizes and pushing the agenda to close Peebles. This whole situation has turned into a fiasco for the district. I just hope we can move on and rehabilitate the priorities and reputation of our schools before our property values suffer.

  2. Lynn Tonti says:

    Hopefully, last night’s meeting displayed to our School Board the wealth of knowledge, insight, experience, interest and desire for involvement of our community. Our Board needs to take a step back, take a deep breath and put any vote on the issue of closing Peebles “on hold”. This whole sordid process is fracturing our NA family and should they go forward will likely cause irreparable harm.

  3. majerac says:

    A September 27, 2012 news article from the Pine Creek Journal reads that Shaler Area School District added staff to make classes smaller. That Shaler’s Superintendent Wes Shipley, “urged the school board to approve the hiring of additional teachers because 31 (students in a class) is not acceptable.”

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