Archive for February, 2013

The community had 15 days following the January 30th public hearing to submit information into the public record (the deadline was midnight on February 14th). In the last two weeks, over 400 letters were sent to the North Allegheny School Board opposing the closure of Peebles Elementary.  All 400+ letters will become part of the final record.

We want to thank each and every member of the community who has taken the time to advocate on behalf of the 3,500+ elementary students in the district as part of this movement.  Our message is being heard by board members.

Please join us for the Save NA Schools Spaghetti Dinner on Monday, February 25th from 6-8pm at the Franklin Park Volunteer Fire Hall.  This event will be an opportunity for the community to come together and enjoy a fun-filled evening of food and games, while discussing the final strategy leading up to the vote.  Catered by Park Cafe and Catering, the meal will include spaghetti with your choice of sauce (meat sauce or marinara), Breadworks bread, tossed salad, and homemade cookies for dessert.  A Chinese auction will be available thanks to the participation of several local businesses. Join the fun, order yard signs, ask questions, and become part of the effort.  Dinner tickets are $5 for kids under 10 and $10 for everyone else.  We request that you purchase dinner tickets in advance.

You can order dinner tickets on-line by clicking here or by clicking on the flyer below. We look forward to seeing you on February 25th!

Spaghetti Dinner Flyer

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The California Department of Education has issued a best practices guide that outlines what steps should be taken prior to closing a school. Based on these standards, the district’s administration failed to perform adequate due diligence prior to making the recommendation to close Peebles Elementary.

1. Establish a District Advisory Committee-“it is a legislative intent, but not a mandate, for a district to have and use a District Advisory Committee (DAC) before decisions are made about school closure. But whether an intent or a mandate, the advice is good.”

  • “The job of the superintendent and board members is to evaluate facts, not gather them. And the process of gathering the facts must be as credible, transparent and non-political as possible.”
  • “At the very least, the DAC should be involved in the fact-finding necessary for an informal recommendation about school closure.”
  • “The DAC should be expanded to include a cross-section of community members who have an interest in and may be affected by school closures.”

The school board has not addressed a petition with 1,000+ taxpayer signatures requesting a district-wide community task force, despite numerous requests by community members and taxpayers over a 4-month period. The petition was submitted into the public record on January 30, 2013.

2. Evaluate the condition of each building- “one in good repair may be the best school facility in the district, in spite of its declining enrollment. It may be better to close an at-capacity but physically mediocre school;”

  • Have short term and long term renovation plans been determined and evaluated for each building?
  • What are the expected maintenance costs for each building?

Prior to recommending the closure of Peebles, the administration did not present the school board with a schedule for the projected maintenance costs for Bradford Woods, despite estimated repairs being anywhere from $8-14 million. Instead, at the Nov 28, 2012 school board meeting, Facilities Director Rob Gaertner said he was “deferring” the costs on the dated roof and HVAC system at Bradford Woods for five years. School Board Director Chris Jacobs asked Mr. Gaertner, “is that realistic?”

3. Determine the operating cost of each building- “operating costs may vary from school to school. Some schools use energy more efficiently, some schools need less maintenance, and some schools have minimal transportation costs.”

  • Has the administration determined the per-student operating cost at each building?

The only operating costs the administration presented to the school board prior to making the recommendation to close Peebles Elementary were the operating costs for Peebles Elementary. This occured at the Oct 24, 2012 school board meeting.

4. Investigate the cost of transportation for each building- “part of the decision to close a school should be based upon what transportation costs will be saved, and what new transportation costs will be incurred, once a school is closed and its students redistributed.”

  • Have detailed transportation costs been determined for each building?

At the November 14, 2012 school board meeting, Transportation Director Roger Botti presented ONE redistricting scenario related to closing Bradford Woods that showed 1,000+ students would be moved. Two scenarios were presented for a Peebles/Hosack closure that showed  500-600 students would be moved.  No detailed calculations were provided, no redistricting maps were shown, and a right-to-know request for further data was denied.

5. Determine the value of each building –“if maximizing revenue from the sale or lease of surplus schools is part of the decision regarding which school to close, then a property appraisal and assessment of the interests in and proposed uses for each property are vital.”

  • Have appraisals been conducted for each building?
  • Has the value of a possible sale/lease of each building been determined for each building?

Appraisals have not been conducted for each building nor has the value of a possible sale/lease for each building been presented by the administration to the school board.

Architectural Innovations, the consulting firm that prepared the Phase 1 report, sent a letter to the district offering to complete a more comprehensive demographic and feasibility study free of charge. The firm presented their initial findings to the district in August 2011.

The letter states:

“We felt then, as we do now, that without evaluating the District as a ‘whole’ the study would not provide the level of information necessary for the Board of School Directors to make appropriate decisions regarding School District facilities.”

This is a huge development for the hundreds of residents that have been urging the administration to do more due diligence.

You can read the entire letter by reading below or clicking here.

The question now is:  What will the district do with this offer?  Come to the school board meeting at 7pm on Wednesday, February 20th and encourage the board to take a step back and gather more evidence before moving forward with a measure as drastic as closing a building.

AI letter-page-001.

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

If Peebles is closed, 4 of the 6 remaining schools would have building totals higher than any other year since the district’s 1999 elementary renovations.

The district’s successful elementary model, which has withstood the test of time, would be abandoned in place of a new model.  The new model would operate 3-round schools as 4-round schools and leave some buildings with only one spare classroom to manage class size.

All supporting documentation can be found by referencing Attachments 2-7 and 20-31 of Community Report #2.

building size

HES spares

MES spares

MCK spares

ies spares

Community Report #2 is the most recent report published by SaveNASchools.

The report includes an Appendix with information provided by the district under the Right-to-Know law.

The charts below illustrate that:

(1) In 2009, elementary enrollment was 3,500 students and the district offered 158 classes.

(2) In 2012, elementary enrollment was 3,530 students and the district only offered 145 classes.

Because the district offered 13 fewer classes in 2012, empty classrooms and class sizes of 30+ exist across the district.

If a building is closed, the district will be wed to a higher class size model.  Based on the administration’s November 28, 2012 presentation, some buildings would only have one spare available to manage class size (instead of 3 spares).

2009-2010 3rd day enrollment

2012-13 3rd day enrollment

We are encouraging residents to do the following 3 things this week:

1) Email Rep. Mike Turzai and ask him to advocate on behalf of Peebles the same way he did for Bradford Woods. In the fall of 2011, when Bradford Woods was proposed for closure, Rep. Turzai met with school board members and told them he did not want Bradford Woods to close. We are requesting that you email Rep. Turzai at mturzai@pahousegop.com and ask him to tell the school board he is opposed to closing ANY elementary building in the district.

2) Send a letter to the school board by emailing school board secretary Rose Mary Ryan at rryan@northallegheny.org. If you spoke at the hearing, simply draft your comments into a letter and address it to the entire board.

3) Mark your calendar for Monday, February 25th. SaveNASchools will be holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser from 6-8pm at the Franklin Park Fire Hall. This event will be an opportunity for the community to get more information, discuss strategy, and order yard signs. Click here for the Spaghetti Dinner Flyer and here to purchase tickets.