Archive for the ‘Letters’ Category

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Letter to the editor/North
April 11, 2013 4:57 am
Closing Peebles ‘misguided’

The North Allegheny School District administration presented a revised proposal regarding the closing of Peebles Elementary School at the March 20 school board meeting.

Its revised proposal consisted of:

• Delay closing Peebles Elementary until 2014-2015, which the administration believes will save $850,000 per year.

• Begin work immediately on creating five extra classrooms at McKnight Elementary, which the administration believes will cost $525,000.

However, the revised proposal still does not address the community’s biggest concern — class size.

Based on the district’s records, elementary enrollment has increased over the last several years. Based on information from real estate agents, new housing developments are projected to add more than 850 homes to the district.

On March 20, the administration said it would need to add 10-14 elementary sections next year to keep class size below district guidelines. And, officials said there will only be 14 spare classrooms if the district expands McKnight and closes Peebles.

Thus, all 14 spare classrooms that remain after closing Peebles and expanding McKnight would need to be utilized in order to maintain class sizes below district guidelines. This would leave no spare classrooms for fluctuations in enrollment.

It is time for the administration to stop using man-hours trying to find ways to support its misguided recommendation to close a school.

Keeping all seven elementary schools open is the only solution that ensures a quality education for the children of our community.

FRANK CORONA

McCandless

The recommendation to close an school in the North Allegheny School District relies on two assumptions:

1. Enrollment will decline overall

2. Class size guidelines (not maximums) will be 25 students for grades K-2 and 30 students for grades 3-5

The district’s ability to close a small elementary school is contingent on a decline in student enrollment, which relies on projections prepared by the administration, as well as those contained in the Phase 2 report.
The 5-year enrollment projections prepared by the administration have consistently understated actual enrollment for the past 13 years.

Enrollment Graph 1

Consider the following:
  • In November 1999, the 2004 enrollment was forecast at 7856;
    2004 actual was 8193 (+337) [11/24/99 Post Gazette]
  • In February 2006, the 2010 enrollment was forecast at 7814;
    2010 actual was 8126 (+312) [2/2/06 Post Gazette]
  • In October 2007, the 2012/13 enrollment was forecast at 7774;
    2012 actual is 8212 (+438) [10/7/07 Post Gazette]
  • In September 2008, the 2013/14 enrollment was forecast at 7835;
    at the November 24, 2012 board meeting it was revised to 8201 (+366)
    [9/24/08 school board minutes]
  • In September 2009, the 2014/15 enrollment was forecast at 7926;
    at November 24, 2012 board meeting it was revised to 8241 (+315)
    [ 9/23/09 school board minutes]
  • In September 2010, using the trend projection formulas that the District has implemented over the past decade, it was anticipated that enrollment will show a slight increase over the next five years. Enrollment in 2010 was 8126. [9/22/10 school board minutes]

This review of the 5-year forecasts in the years 1999, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 demonstrates that there is consistent evidence of the administration underestimating enrollment by an average of 353 students. Given this trend, it is reasonable to assume that 2018/2019 enrollment would be 8585 and not the projected 8101 students noted in the most recent 5-year forecast. If one-third of this increase is attributable to elementary school students, the district will exceed the target capacity of 3,720 students established by the administration.

The graph below breaks elementary enrollment out of the total enrollment forecast and compares actual to projected enrollment for 2011/12 and 2012/13.

Elementary Enrollment

The enrollment projections contained in the Phase 2 report are even lower than the forecasts prepared by the administration.
If it is acknowledged that the administration has consistently underestimated school enrollment since 1999, it is of considerable concern that the elementary enrollment forecasts set forth in the Phase 2 report are even lower than the administration’s elementary enrollment forecasts for the period 2014-2021.

For example, the Phase 2 report projected an elementary enrollment of 3278 students for 2015/2016; this was the number used in the administration’s October 24 presentation.  However, in the November 14 presentation, the administration provided its own forecast of 3401 students for 2015/2016.
Given that the school board minutes over the past 13 years reflect that the board has been concerned with the administration underestimating enrollment, it is of great concern that forecasts contained in the Phase 2 report fall even further below the administration’s projections for the years 2014-2021. If these forecasts are acceptable, it would appear that North Allegheny is preparing for a significant and unprecedented decline in its student population despite evidence of new housing starts and continued migration into the district.
————–

Letter to the Editor, Pittsburgh Tribune- Review, January17, 2013

Wrong NA fix

I am a father of four children who attend North Allegheny School District. We chose NA because of its reputation as providing a quality education.

I am a proponent of reducing costs within the district and originally supported the concept of closing an elementary school. I read the news story “Community group questions North Allegheny enrollment projections” (Dec. 6 and TribLIVE.com). Afterward, I read the Save NA Schools group‘s report mentioned in the story and realized that I made a mistake in trusting the district‘s administrators to make a sound decision.

First, closing a small elementary school (one of 12 total schools) in a district with a $127 million budget should save more like $5 million a year than $850,000 a year. Second, it is clear that at a minimum, the district should re-evaluate its data and analyze this plan again. Finally, what is really driving the deficit problem? Teachers‘ pensions.

The administration needs to address that problem with something other than cannibalizing schools, reassigning hundreds of students to different buildings and overcrowding classrooms for a pittance that will not solve the deficit problem.

Scott E. Russell

McCandless

Letter to the Editor, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 15, 2013

In September, North Allegheny School District parents attended school board meetings to express concern over a proposal to close Peebles Elementary. Board President Maureen Grosheider scolded residents, saying only a threat of school closure made parents pay attention.

The board was presented with 1,000-plus signatures asking for a task force to allow residents to help tackle the district‘s $10 million projected 2013-14 deficit prior to closing a school ($850,000 savings). Espe Elementary closed in 1999 — only after the district received input from a 36-member community group.

Parents delivered a 30-page analysis to the board outlining reasons against a school closure. Did Ms. Grosheider listen? During the presentation, she refused to open her copy of the report.

Now Grosheider and her hand-picked New York superintendent, Raymond Gualtieri, have a choice: Do they listen to the hundreds of parents attending meetings? Or does only their opinion matter?

In the face of community opposition, a comprehensive study and evidence of flawed data, Grosheider seems determined to close Peebles. Why? Maybe because her school in Bradford Woods is in need of renovation ($8 million to $14 million) and only a year ago was targeted for closure. It appears that a plan to save her own school by closing another is under way.

John Harrison II

McCandless

Letter to the Editor

Published 1.9.13 in the Pittsburgh Trib

I am a North Allegheny School District resident, alumnus and a parent of a daughter with special needs. I am extremely disappointed and concerned with the actions of North Allegheny‘s administration in its proposal to close Peebles Elementary School.

At the Nov. 14 school board meeting, the proposed floor plans for the remaining buildings put the hearing-impaired program into a receiving area at Hosack Elementary that currently houses cafeteria tables (aka a storage area). This was done after the administration assured the public that careful thought and consideration had been put into the placement of special needs programs.

At the Nov. 28 board meeting, Brian Miller, assistant superintendent of K-12 education, acknowledged that the district will be moving the hearing-impaired to a second-floor room at Hosack. This only came after parents mailed the floor plans to each and every board member, demanding that a change occur.

This greatly concerns me because, without parent action, the administration would have been content leaving the hearing-impaired exactly where they placed them in the storage area. This is just one example of the lack of due diligence and negligence that has taken place by the administration throughout this process.

Jamie Karlovits

McCandless

Today’s Post Gazette- Pittsburgh North section includes several letters to the editor that further detail the issues surrounding the recommendation to close an elementary school: [To read the letters, click here:]

  • Over-crowding threatened if NA closes Peebles
    • “Why does North Allegheny know better than the Pennsylvania Department of Education? The state recommends a class size of 25 in the elementary grades.”
  • Savings ‘insignificant’ against impact on students
    • “Now the NA school board is considering closing a highly ranked elementary school, which will lead to significant redistricting.”
  • NA not following best practices
    • “This process includes forming a committee of a cross-section of residents to examine the condition of every school, per-pupil operating costs, transportation costs associated with each facility and a property appraisal of each school.”
  • Expenses first, close schools later
    • “Closing Peebles Elementary School, whose students flourish among the highest in the North Allegheny district, should be a last resort after all other possible solutions have been exhausted. This has not yet occurred to the satisfaction of the community.”

The consultant who recommended closing Peebles Elementary cost the district half a million dollars for prior work on the district’s elementary schools. This information, brought forward at the school board meeting last evening, raises a long list of questions for both the Board and the Administration. Most importantly: Why did the district commission a consultant that cost the district half a million dollars to give a “second opinion” on a recommendation that came from 12 experts? What was the motivation behind hiring this consultant? And, are these the  practices and procedures that ensure the best use of taxpayer’s dollars?  Lawsuit- Full Text; North Allegheny Appeal- Full Text

The board voted 7-2 to schedule a public hearing last evening, which is the first step in the process for closing a school. Nearly 50 members of the North Allegheny community took to the microphone to express their concern, doubt, and disappointment at the process both the Board and the Administration are proceeding with for closing a school. A majority of the speakers noted that a petition with over 1,000 signatures requesting a community task force continues to be ignored by the Board. Residents from across the district, including several retirees, urged the Board to slow down the process and allow more time for due diligence to be achieved.

Parents from 5 of the 7 elementary schools explained that this movement is not about saving A school, it is about saving ALL seven. Larger class sizes, more sections per building, and students in non-classrooms were all sited as factors that will compromise the district’s successful elementary education model.

Today’s Post Gazette includes several letters to the editor that further detail the issues surrounding this recommendation and the lack of solid, empirical evidence, upon which the current recommendation is based. [To read the letters, click here.]

With mounds of evidence on their side, residents from across the district will now prepare for a public hearing on January 30th. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

A December 6th Post-Gazette article included a comment by a parent that said Peebles or Hosack students would be hurt by attending McKnight, which the parent categorized as an underperforming school.

This statement was not made by SaveNASchools.  It was made by a parent who attended the board meeting on November 28th.  SaveNASchools does not agree with the parent’s statement.

SaveNASchools is a group that believes the district is comprised of 7 top-notch elementary schools and advocated in its November 28th Community Report to keep all 7 elementary schools open.  Page 3 of the report specifically advocates for McKnight Elementary.  It notes that McKnight Elementary would become dependent on spare classrooms the first day the new elementary model went into effect and that the district’s ability to deliver excellence in education to these students would be compromised.

McKnight Elementary is a phenomenal school with a reputation for excellence.  SaveNASchools is comprised of many parents from McKnight Elementary and these families represent everything that makes this district great.