Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Peebles backers speak to North Allegheny school board

By Sandy Trozzo

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Members of the Save NA Schools group are confident they got their message — don’t close Peebles Elementary School — across to the North Allegheny school board during a seven-hour public hearing that didn’t adjourn until 2:20 a.m. last Thursday. But superintendent Raymond Gualtieri’s statement following testimony suggested the group still may face an uphill battle.

Board members will vote in May on an administration proposal to close the school, which is in McCandless.

“We feel the hearing could not have gone any better. We had over 100 speakers advocating on behalf of keeping Peebles elementary open, and not one speaker came forward advocating for the closing of the building,” said Tara Fisher, one of the leaders of the citizens’ group, Save NA Schools. “I think we’ve given them a lot to think about. We made a lot of educated, well-thought-out arguments.”

Speakers during the Jan. 30 public hearing were from all seven elementary schools, although most represented Peebles and Hosack.

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TribLive Logo

Study of North Allegheny’s Peebles Elementary scrutinized

Several parents hold up graphs showing an increase in enrollment in the North Allegheny School District during a public hearing about the possibility of closing Peebles Elementary School at Carson Middles School on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Staff Reporter Rick Wills

North Allegheny School District residents opposed to closing Peebles Elementary School are questioning why an engineer conducted a recent study of the school for free.

Alan Lilienthal, a Peebles parent, wondered whether it is appropriate for the district to have accepted a free study.

“I also wonder why anyone would work for free, unless there was something to gain down the road,” said Lilienthal, of McCandless.

But Jon Thomas, of Thomas & Williamson Program Management of Ross, said the district asked him to do a demographic and feasibility study.

“They came to me and said, ‘Can you help out?’ I said, ‘I’d be honored to help out,’ ” said Thomas.

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoodsmore/3401119-74/peebles-closing-district?printerfriendly=true#ixzz2KBQsIYOw

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Comments
  1. Eileen Russell says:

    I find it interesting and actually delusional that the administration somehow interprets absolutely nobody speaking in favor of closing Peebles at last weeks public hearing as everyone who was not there to speak must support closing the school. What a statement! That is an insult to the 98 parents who DID SPEAK. Parents who would not speak in public if it were not to advocate for their children did so in force last Wednesday night. Many stayed until 2:30 in the morning to hear every last word. In turn, NOT ONE PERSON spoke in favor of closing the school. That does not tell me that everyone who was not there was in favor of closing the school. That is a ridiculous assumption!

    • Chris Leonard says:

      I just fired off a letter directly to the superintendent. I am disturbed and disgusted that he believes so few disagree with him and the board apparently because of only 98 speakers. You want to believe that fine but to actually put it in writing in the two city newspapers reeks of arrogance.

    • Robert Coleman says:

      You are 100% correct. In addition to the 98 that spoke there had to be a least another 100 there to supporting the speakers.

    • alan lilienthal says:

      DELUSIONAL INDEED……..Just one more of the many statements being made by the Administration that lack any type of fact based conclusions. All we have here is empty high level commentary that tries to spin the uninformed community, and media for that matter, that closing a school is a viable solution. It’s like the budget……high level summary line items but never the needed detail of how tax dollars are really spent; It’s like power point slides of money saving initiatives put into place to assist in closing the budget gap……..but never any actual dollar level facts that show how much (or how little) has actually been saved at all in true monetary value. The assumption being made here extends well beyond rediculous and I would offer that at the next opportunistic venue in front of the Administration and Board that we collectively refute it….even if we have to line up again until wee hours of the morning and state for the record in unison that the support for our position runs deeper than Dr. G’s distorted conclusion. Perhaps we can also ask him to pick his head up and address us when we speak….PRICELESS!!

  2. Stacey Liulias says:

    In regards to this comment:, “Mr. Gualtieri said the district serves nearly 3,000 elementary families and a total of 28,000 taxpayers.

    “So, we have to keep the balance of perspective that only 98 people came out to ask the board not to close Peebles. The silence of the voices of the rest of our taxpayers who did not attend that meeting has to be interpreted as support for what the administration and the school board are considering,” he said, adding that he has received letters from parents thanking him for making tough decisions to keep the district fiscally sound.”

    Really? I take exception to the word ONLY (98 people came.) So if 100% of the 98 people were opposed to closing the school, how can Mr. Gualtieri extrapolate that to assume that the other 27,002 taxpayers were silently in favor of closing the school? Nonsense!

  3. Margie Craska says:

    “The silence of the voices of the rest of our taxpayers who did not attend that meeting has to be interpreted as support for what the administration and the school board are considering.” This has got to be the most preposterous assumption ever rendered!! It is self-serving, manipulative, insulting and untrue. I certainly hope the School Board members do not subscribe to the same faulty logic.

  4. Lynn Tonti says:

    Do we have absolute proof whether Rep. Turzai asked the Board not to close BWE? It does matter whether he did or not. It is out there that he did…but his spokesman said he did not. Its one way or the other.

    • On September 26, 2012, School Board Members Maureen Grosheider, Linda Bishop, and Beth Ludwig told residents Diane Collery, Tara Fisher, and Laurel Schreiber, that Rep. Turzai met with certain school board members in the fall of 2011 and told them he did not want Bradford Woods Elementary to be closed.

  5. Wendy Lukitsch says:

    Community To-Do List:
    1) Stop the closing of Peebles Elementary (or any elementary school in the District).
    2) Vote out all biased School Board members (or the ones who clearly cannot think reasonably).
    3) Fire Raymond Gualtieri.

  6. Joe Cramblit says:

    I agree with everyone above. I have heard this man speak twice about closing Peebles with utter disdain. Now he diminishes the efforts of families who have so much to lose in this process. Seven hours of testimony apparently isnt enough for him. How many hundreds if not thousands of letters has the administration and board received asking that Peebles not be closed. I would challenge him to produce five letters from the whole district that support his position, in fact I will email him now.I am really really over this guy.

    • Chris Leonard says:

      He responded to my email yesterday (I emailed him about the 98 families comment) and basically got a form letter/talking points memo in return, just re-iterating that he has received letters praising efforts to control costs. Definitely over this guy as well

  7. Brian Bell says:

    Does anyone know how many attended the meeting total. I’m assuming the board keeps track of that through the sign-in sheets.

  8. The superintendent needs to resign after his dismal display at the meeting and his disdainful comments about parents who were rightfully voicing their concerns about an administration who are mis-reporting the facts, getting advice from someone who cost the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lawsuit, and reacting to pressure from a local state representative.

  9. Anita King says:

    “Ludicrous” is the only word I can use to describe superintendent Raymond Gualtieri’s comments. I used to have so much respect for North Allegheny’s Administration. Slowly…it is deteriorating. I find it sad that our community input was totally disregarded by him. I felt it was SHAMEFUL how he never even looked at us as we spoke our concerns. He was very rude in that manner! The public does NOT want to see Peebles Elementary closed! His comments in this article proves to me he was not listening to us, and never cared to be open-minded at all. When I held my children’s photo up as I spoke my concerns at the public hearing, I wanted to remind the school board just who is being affected here! I hope the school board thinks long and hard and ignores the superintendent’s proposal as he did us, the parents, of those 3,530 precious students who will be affected if Peebles Elementary is closed!

  10. Jamie Karlovits says:

    Below is the email that I sent to our superintendent today. I have not heard back from him and don’t expect to either.

    Dr. Gualtieri,
    I would like to address something that you stated in today’s paper. You said the biggest challenge of the evening was hearing…personal attacks on board members and statements denigrating the reputation of the district. I would like to think you would be very concerned that you have a board member that is only staying on the board for SPITE! Mrs. Ludwig actually said those words. It was recorded by the district’s very own recording system. In my opinion, that is absolutely something that the taxpayers of this district need to know. After all she is supposed to be a steward of our tax dollars. Also, your school board President, did tell several parents that Mr. Turzai approached a few of them telling them not to close Bradford Woods. This also is another fact that taxpayers of this district need to know. Your vice president of the board does have a conflict of interest and should be recused from the vote regarding Peebles. This is also something that the tax payers need to know. As adults, we all need to be held accountable for our actions and our words. The school board has been elected by the resident and taxpayers of this district to represent us. As a resident and taxpayer, I want honesty in a board that I elected not deceitfulness.

    As for denigrating the reputation on the district, I think you need to step back and take a look at yourself, your administration and several of your board members. I think you should be more concerned about their integrity. You cannot point the finger at the residents and taxpayers of the district just because they are addressing the issues here. Like I stated, we need to be held accountable for our actions and words. I know I stand by everything I have said to the board.

    My husband and I are North Allegheny graduates and would never do anything to take away the excellent reputation North Allegheny has in the area. But as NA grads, we also will not stand idly by and watch the dishonest actions from the administration and several board members. As, a NA graduate, parent, resident and tax payer, I would appreciate honestly from our administration and board members instead of manipulating the facts to put the spin on it that you want.

  11. Brian Bell says:

    Below is the letter we sent to the Post-Gazette… for what it’s worth.

    I find the statement made by North Allegheny Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette [Peebles backers speak to North Allegheny school board (Feb. 7, 2013)] extremely disappointing. As the superintendent of the NA school district, Mr. Gualtieri should represent the integrity of the district’s community.

    When he says “only 98 people came out to ask the board not to close Peebles” has he forgotten that this number was just those who spoke, that the hearing was held before a packed auditorium of concerned parents for more than seven hours and that not a single person voiced support for the plan? I don’t think his statement can be perceived as anything less than a lie. And for him to say this in the face of the many parents who are genuinely concerned about the education of their children and the community’s children is shameful.

    And I still can’t comprehend how this obviously educated man would proceed to draw a completely illogical conclusion in the face of the ostensible outpouring of opposition to the Peebles closure by saying, “the silence of the voices of the rest of our taxpayers who did not attend that meeting has to be interpreted as support for what the administration and the school board are considering.”

    If Mr. Gualtieri, this is going to be the conclusion you are going to make from this hearing, might I suggest in the name of due diligence that you attempt to document those who favor closing the Peebles Elementary School by holding a separate outreach hearing for that constituency? The caring NA parents would love to draw the conclusion that the silence of voices at this meeting indicates that no one in the North Allegheny School District supports your plan to close Peebles except for Mr. Gualtieri and the crickets that gave him good company on that cold, lonely February evening.

    Sheila Bell
    Marshall Township

  12. Kevin Mahler says:

    I find it troubling that Dr. Gualtieri seems to have so little respect for the people (not just parents, mind you) who have taken so much time and effort to research these issues and voice their opinions. If the district wants to talk about what high achieving students it has, it should acknowledge that a substantial reason for that performance is that so many of those students have parents who are intelligent and prioritize achievement – as are those who have put children through the schools in the past. Given this fact, the residents of this district who cared enough to attend the hearing should be taken seriously – as should the concerns, ideas, and data they presented. Even if there is support in the community for the plan to close Peebles, it must be tepid at best – or else someone would have been there to express that support. Dr. Gualtieri’s statements to the contrary are insulting.

    More importantly: If parents who already live here and love the schools are concerned about the direction the district is going, you can be sure that parents considering a move here (who are likely to have similar perspectives and values) will have similar concerns. If those concerns lead to lower demand for homes in the district, that will have a negative impact on our property values – which won’t help the district’s budget in the long run. We need serious leadership and vision, not the kind of short-term thinking that has led to the recommendation to close Peebles.

  13. Joe Cramblit says:

    Good letter I hope they print it ASAP. As for Ray Gualtieri I emailed him and challenged him to produce 5 letters that support his position. Not that he could or will. He is here to close a school and start the work to have a tax referendum. That is all. I am sure he will not be here18 months from now. We must consider what legal action can be taken. Can a suit be filed when then they close the school? Some sort of stay until someone else can look at the conflicts of interest surrounding this process.

  14. Joe Cramblit says:

    I just read those meeting minutes again. Thanks Lynn. All the board members sounded like us. Amazing what a year can do. Except the good doctor who said. “kids arent required to go to school until 8 years old.” speaking about half day versus whole day kindergarten. Nice.

    • Lynn Tonti says:

      There are also a lot of figures on the final pages….

      This is for our resident sleuth Cecilia! Here are articles about the bad shape of the Somerset Hills, NJ School District right after Gualtieri left. From his resume:
      Superintendent of Schools … 2000-2003
      Somerset Hills Regional School District – Bernardsville, NJ

      http://newjerseyhills.com/search/?q=Somerset+Hills+School+Board&t=&l=10&d=&d1=&d2=&s=&sd=desc&f=html

      I especially like the 2/25/04 one!

      • Lynn Tonti says:

        Somewhat humorous excerpt from Montgomery Media (Wissahickon School District)…when Gualtieri was their Superintendent in March 2000:

        Szeker came to the meeting to express her concerns about the number of students in Advance Placement (AP) classes. She said she is uneasy about the number of students in her son’s AP courses, and does not think the students can get the individual attention they need in a crowded classroom.

        “The class sizes are beyond the guidelines that were accepted by the school board last year,” she said. “It seems that no one is addressing the class size and why we are going in this direction.”

        Two weeks ago, Newsweek Magazine named Wissahickon School District to a list of the top 500 public school districts in the country at giving students a chance to take classes like AP courses.

        “We would never start the year off with 32 people” in the classroom, Superintendent Dr. Raymond Gualtieri said. According to Gualtieri, the schools try to give students the classes they want. “We look for what’s in the best interest of the child.”

        http://www.montgomerynews.com/articles/2000/03/25/the%20ambler%20gazette%20news/151162.txt?viewmode=fullstory

      • Cecilia Staniec says:

        Loving your research, Lynn. Thanks for posting it! The more I look into Dr. G’s former districts, the more dumbfounded I am that we actually hired him……

  15. Cecilia Staniec says:

    I cannot believe that Dr. Gualtieri had the audacity to make a public statement in which he assumed that everyone in the district, except for those 98 speakers at the public hearing, would support the Peebles closure. Ridiculous, ludicrous, and dangerous. To Dr. Gualtieri:
    “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” (Isaac Asimov)

  16. Lynn Tonti says:

    I finally had the chance to read “Letters” (under “categories” on the left)…there are some excellent letters to the Editor…please read J.Harrison’s 1/15/13 and S.Russell’s 1/17/13. Writing to the Editors is a good way to get our message to some of our older residents too. I know my Father-in-law reads the Trib. cover-to-cover.

  17. James Shue says:

    I have been following this entire situation from the sidelines but now feel compelled to speak. How come Dr. Ray Gualtieri is not at the districts “marketing tour” of why Peebles Elementary should be closed? Is he out interviewing for where he can move to next to screw up another GREAT district? Or is he using some of his 6 weeks of paid vacation, or perhaps attending a seminar in California paid for by us. I find his comments an embarrassment to the school district, it’s administration, and it’s school board that hired him. He needs to make a public apology for his arrogance, or tender his resignation immediately. Our kids, their families, and our tax payers deserve better.

  18. Jen Grahor says:

    It looks like Gualtieri was also well liked in Long Island.

    http://www.indyeastend.com/Articles-i-2011-03-02-97162.113117-The-Short-List.html

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