Posts Tagged ‘best practices’

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.

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SaveNASchools firmly believes that NO SCHOOL in the district should be closed and its mission is to illustrate

(1) the district’s position is incorrect, and

(2) the district’s process is incorrect.

1.  SaveNASchools believes the district DOES NOT have the ability to close a school without compromising its successful elementary education model. If Peebles is closed, the detrimental impact to the remaining buildings will include;

* an increase in class size (e.g. Ingomar would‘ve seen an increase of 7 students per class in 4th grade and 4 students per class in 5th grade)

* an increase in sections (e.g. Ingomar, Franklin, Hosack, and Bradford Woods would operate as four-round instead of three-round schools)

* use of non-classrooms as classrooms (e.g. large group instruction spaces at both Ingomar and Marshall would be used as spare classrooms; the space at Marshall requires accordion walls and the space at Ingomar has no windows)

2. SaveNASchools believes the district’s process for closing a school DOES NOT adhere to a best practices model. The California Department of Education, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International encourages the following best practices for considering a school closure;

* form a district advisory committee before decisions are made about a school closure that includes a cross section of community members (the school board has not addressed a petition with 1,000+ signatures requesting a community task force)

* evaluate the condition, operating costs, transportation costs, and value of each building, which includes getting appraisals (the district has not performed a cost analysis per building nor has it gotten appraisals)

* ensure the process of gathering facts is as credible, transparent, and non-political as possible (the district has two reports-the first report recommends closing a school with $14 million in repairs and the second report recommends closing a school with $0 in repairs; the second report is from a consultant that was involved in a lawsuit with the district where a judge ruled he acted in “bad faith” and cost NA taxpayers over half a million dollars)

The district’s failure to adhere to a best practices model for closing a school DOES NOT mean that a school other than Peebles should be closed. It merely highlights the district’s failure to involve taxpayers, lack of due diligence and inconsistencies regarding the process for closing a school.

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.”