Posts Tagged ‘Bradford Woods’

Ralph J. Pagone says opponents of the proposed closing of Peebles Elementary are “not getting their voices fairly heard.”

When the North Allegheny School Board on Dec. 19 scheduled a public hearing on Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri’s proposal to close Peebles Elementary School, board members Ralph J. Pagone and Christopher M. Jacobs voted “no.”

Scheduling such a hearing is the first step a school board is legally required to take before it can consider closing a school.

At the school board meeting Nov. 28, Gualtieri told the board that closing Peebles would save $850,000 annually for the district, which is facing a $5.7 million deficit. He also argued that the district’s enrollment continues to decline and that its elementary schools are not full and have room for Peebles students.

The community group Save NA Schools has been leading the opposition to closing Peebles, and Pagone has been listening.

The group repeatedly has asked the board to form a community task force which would provide additional ideas for addressing the district’s projected budget deficits prior to a decision on closing an elementary school. It’s not clear what, if any, power the task force would hold and who would be part of it. The board has not addressed that request.

“Why not take a step back and enlist the help of these taxpayers?” Pagone said. “They are intelligent people who have made compelling arguments. We are the stewards of their tax dollars, after all.”

After the board meeting Dec. 19, board member Beth Ludwig indicated she would vote against the formation of a community task force even though she was originally open to the idea.

“I would not want to subject any non-elected community members to the tone and intensity of the current debate,” she said. “Also, at this point, I would not know what the board would have a task force do.”

Pagone said he has a different opinion.

“ Save NA Schools is made up of well-educated people, and they are not getting their voice fairly heard,” he said.

He said he also questions the wisdom of ignoring the recommendation of one consultant who recommended closing Bradford Woods Elementary because of the need for extensive repairs. Instead, the board favors the findings of a second study by Jon Thomas of the Thomas & Williamson construction program management firm, which suggests the opposite.

Thomas & Williamson is the same firm which, along with the school district, was the target of a lawsuit by James Construction Co. over renovations at Hosack Elementary in the late 1990s. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Timothy Patrick O’Reilly ruled against the district and awarded damages of $524,087.

“We had 12 experts who told us what some board members didn’t want to hear,” Pagone said. “So what did we do? We tossed out that study and got a second opinion from a firm which we had questionable dealings with in the past as a result of a prior construction project.”

Pagone said he agrees with members of the Save NA Schools group that enrollment in the district will rise.

“Allegheny County and Western Pennsylvania are experiencing an increase in population for the first time in decades, and people will want buy either new or existing homes in the North Allegheny School District,” he said.

Pagone said he does believe the board should take action to alleviate overcrowded classrooms, particularly at Hosack Elementary, by redistricting elementary students.

And if a majority of the board ultimately decides to close one of the district’s seven elementary schools, Pagone said he believes the wrong school has been targeted.

“If you want to close a building, why not close Bradford Woods Elementary, which the initial report tells us needs $14 million in renovations?” he said. “We don’t have that kind of money, and Peebles doesn’t need any renovations.

To read more on the administration’s arguments for closing Peebles Elementary, click here.

To read the counter-arguments from Save NA schools, click here.

Read more:  http://northallegheny.patch.com/articles/north-allegheny-board-member-challenges-colleagues-on-proposed-school-closing

“…A divided North Allegheny school board voted Dec. 19 to hold a public hearing on a proposal to close Peebles Elementary School. Some board members said they are not comfortable enough yet with the data to actually vote to close the school in McCandless.

But holding the hearing keeps their options open, several members said…”

At the school board meeting last night, information came forward that the consultant who recommended closing Peebles Elementary was responsible for renovating several of the district’s elementary schools in the late 90’s and his work resulted in a lawsuit that cost the district half a million dollars. Below are the facts and information surrounding this situation:

  • In December 2011, a Phase 2 Demographics and Feasibility Study was commissioned by the district.  It hired construction management firm, Thomas and Williamson, to do the work. The December 5, 2012 Tiger News stated, “The Board was not comfortable with the demographic information or cost estimates” in the Phase 1 report so the Board “commissioned a second report to be done by a consulting firm with whom they were familiar from past projects.”
  • On August 22, 2012, Mr. Jon Thomas issued his Phase 2 Demographics and Feasibility Study.  Estimated repairs at Bradford Woods were reduced from $14 million to $8 million.  There were no estimated repairs listed for Peebles. Mr. Thomas recommended closing Peebles and concluded the population in McCandless would decline.  Mr. Thomas and Mr. Briem were the only experts listed in the report.  BWE Project Budget Summary.
  • In September 2012, a parent noted two issues in the Phase 2 report: (1) that the 2010 data used for population projections does not tie to the 2010 U.S. Census and, (2) that there is a mathematical error in the demographic section of the report which, when corrected, establishes that the population in McCandless will remain stable and not decline. Mr. Thomas acknowledged the mathematical error and that such conclusion be corrected, but could not provide an explanation for why the report understates the 2010 McCandless population by using data that doesn’t tie to the 2010 U.S. Census.  [Phase 2 Population projections] [SPC Municipal Profile 2010]
SaveNASchools believes that the district should NOT be relying on ANY advice from a consultant whose work caused the district legal issues in the past. Reliance on Mr. Thomas’s demographic information, enrollment projections, and other assumptions is NOT in the best interest of the district.
SaveNASchools believes that the district does NOT have the ability to close ANY elementary school without compromising its successful elementary education model.  Our recent posts illustrate that the remaining buildings will see an increase in class size, an increase in sections, and the need to operate non-classrooms as classrooms (displacing programs integral to the elementary curriculum).

Today is the last day to call the school board office to register to speak at the meeting on Wednesday, December 19th.  Please call 412-369-5437 and request to speak at the BEGINNING of the meeting.  We need every parent to advocate for their child by standing up and asking school board members to vote against scheduling a public hearing. 

The recommendation to close an elementary school moves students into non-classroom spaces for direct instruction.  This is simply unacceptable.  Every child in the North Allegheny school district deserves to be in a classroom to learn. 

If Peebles had been closed this year, the following non-classrooms would have been used:

  • Marshall would have had to operate a class out of their 4th Centrium (large group instructional space)
  • Marshall would have had to operate another class out of their GOAL room
  • McKnight elementary would have had to operate a class out of their ESL room


Under the new model, the remaining buildings are pushed so close to their Pennsylvania Department of Education gross capacities that only non-classrooms remain as “spare” classrooms.  

  • Hosack would only have one spare classroom available; it’s the learning support room
  • Marshall would only have one spare classroom available; it’s the YMCA room
  • Ingomar would only have two spare classrooms available; one does not have windows and the other is the GOAL room
  • McKnight would only have two spare classrooms available; one is the faculty lounge and the other is the student assistance room
  • Bradford Woods would only have two spare classrooms available; one is the Life Skills room and the other is the GOAL room
  • Franklin would only have two spare classrooms available; one is a faculty lounge and its only 645 square feet


There is no cost savings or operational efficiency benefit that can justify compromising the education of our elementary school students. 

If the Administration and Board have run out of ideas, why not bring the community on board to help brainstorm ways to keep this district strong in light of trying economic times?  Why not establish a community task force to review every line item in the district’s budget and determine where we need to set our priorities?  Why are we in such a rush to do something as drastic and irreversible as closing a school after seeing how detrimental the impact will be on our elementary students? 

Today we conclude our series on class size and capacity issues at the remaining buildings by focusing on Marshall and Bradford Woods Elementary.

Please note that we will not be reviewing Hosack or Franklin.  Hosack already has class sizes of 30+ students (and thus will not see an increase in class size).  Franklin is already operating above its target capacity with a current enrollment of 515 students (and thus will not see an increase in capacity). For those interested, here for the slides on Hosack and Franklin.

That said, what would Marshall and Bradford Woods Elementary have looked like if Peebles was closed this year?  These slides are from the Administration’s November 28th presentation to the school board:  MES and BWE.

Marshall Elementary
  • Marshall would pick up 138 new students if Peebles was closed.
  • Its operating capacity would go from 79% to 95%.
  • 5th grade would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4) and use a spare room (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • 4th grade would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4) and use a spare room (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • 3rd grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5) and use a spare room (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5) and use a spare room (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • 1st grade would have had to operate 7 sections (instead of 6) and use a spare room (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • Kindergarten would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4).
  • With the 6 extra sections added under the new model, Marshall would have had to use its 4th Centrium (large group instruction space) and GOAL room as classrooms.  Only one spare classroom would have remained and it is used for the YMCA program.
  • If current enrollment goes up, Marshall would have to use its YMCA room as a classroom.  No other spare classrooms exist.  Marshall would face class sizes of 25+ for grades K-2 and 30+ for grades 3-5 if there is growth in the Marshall area (e.g. Venango Trails development with 400+ proposed single family homes.) 
Bradford Woods Elementary
  • Bradford Woods would pick up 36 new students if Peebles was closed.
  • Its operating capacity would go from 74% to 81%.
  • 5th grade would have increased by an average of 3 students per class (current class sizes are 24, 24, 26, but would have been 28, 28, 27).
  • 4th grade would have increased by an average of 2 students per class (current class sizes are 24, 25, 25, but would have been 27, 27, 27).
  • 3rd grade would have increased by an average of 3 students per class (current class sizes are 21, 21, 22, but would have been 24, 24, 24).
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 4 sections (instead of 3) and use a spare classroom (which would have displaced programs operating in that classroom)
  • 1st grade would have remained the same.
  • Kindergarten would have increased by an average of 1.5 students 
  • If current enrollment goes up, Bradford Woods would have to use its GOAL room and Life Skills room as classrooms.
Wiring, windows recommended for NA schools

“…The district has 54 proposed projects at the schools, Newman Stadium, Baierl Center and the bus garage for a total cost of $2.6 million. Projects are proposed at most district buildings, with the exception of three elementary schools: Peebles, which the administration has proposed closing; Bradford Woods; and Marshall. Repairs to Bradford Woods and Marshall have been deferred to the fifth year of the plan, Mr. Gaertner said…”

As presented to North Allegheny School District Board of School Directors on November 28, 2012.

[click here] Community Report 1

Based on current enrollment, closing a building would require the remaining buildings to operate at capacities that limit the district’s ability to manage class size and make the system dependent on spare classrooms.  Under the new model, spare classrooms would be used as regular classrooms and “other spares,” such as faculty lounges and open group instructional spaces, would become potential classrooms.  The rooms identified as “other spares” under the new model are not as conducive to learning as a regular classroom setting and displace programs integral to the elementary curriculum.  This compromises the district’s ability to deliver excellence in education and equity across all schools.

The decision to close a school is contingent on a decline in student enrollment and relies on projections made in the Phase 2 Demographics and Feasibility Study (Phase 2 report) and projections made by the administration.  The administration has a 13-year history of forecasting enrollment several hundred students below actual enrollment.  The enrollment projections in the Phase 2 report are below the forecasts provided by the administration, the data used for population projections does not tie to governmental records, and there is a mathematical error in the demographic study that has a significant impact on conclusions related to future growth.  Thus, both sources the district is relying on with respect to a decline in enrollment raise concern with respect to the accuracy of such projections.  If current enrollment goes up, the district cannot reasonably accommodate additional students and faces spending more money than it saved from closing a building.

This report summarizes our concerns, observations, and evaluations in regards to the district’s ability to reasonably accommodate all elementary students in the remaining buildings without compromising the district’s successful elementary education model and curriculum.

  1. Introduction
  2. Building utilization under a new elementary education model
  3. Reliance on declining enrollment projections
  4. Additional Concerns
  5. Conclusion
North Allegheny parents plead for all schools to stay open

November 21, 2012 4:55 am
By Sandy Trozzo /

The third-day enrollment in the North Allegheny School District was higher than projections, but administrators say the increase is not enough to drop their proposal to close one of three small elementary schools.

Enrollment on the third day was 8,212 students, with 3,531 of those students in elementary school, according to the annual enrollment and facilities update presented to the school board last Wednesday. Last year, the third-day enrollment was 8,215.

But parents who are fighting the proposed closing of Peebles Elementary School in McCandless say the data shows that the district is still growing, not remaining stagnant, and all seven elementary schools should remain open.

Jamie Karlovits said she called all of the elementary schools and learned that another 35 students had enrolled after the third day of school — 10 each at Peebles and Franklin, eight at McKnight, four at Hosack, two at Bradford Woods and one at Ingomar. No additional students enrolled at Marshall Elementary.

“The elementary schools in McCandless have more new students than the others,” she said.

Peebles, McKnight and Hosack all draw students primarily from McCandless, and McCandless parents contend that enrollment will increase in those schools as older homes are sold to young families.

Amy Lilienthal said eight of 13 homes on her street have changed hands, several of them sold by the original owners.

“These homes have not contributed children to NA in 20 years. Now, there are 15 children,” she said.

“Just because there is not new construction in McCandless does not mean there is not significant growth.”

Reports from the administration and consultant Thomas and Williamson disagree with that.

In 2006, the last time North Allegheny redistricted students, Hosack’s enrollment was 407. It now is 336, said Roger Botti, director of transportation and operations.

“We lost almost 100 students at Hosack. We really need to address that issue,” he said.

The report also tracked enrollment since 1986. Enrollment peaked at 8,461 students in 1997. The lowest recent enrollment was 8,038 in 2006.

Mr. Botti presented redistricting scenarios including closing Bradford Woods, Hosack or Peebles or leaving all seven schools open but moving children to equalize enrollment and class sizes.

Keeping all seven schools open would require moving 264 students, while closing Bradford Woods would require moving 1,031 students. Closing Peebles or Hosack would involve moving 500 to 620 students, depending on how the attendance lines are drawn, he said.

Tara Fisher of McCandless said that closing a school would result in crowding in the remaining buildings.

“It will be more crowded in the classrooms, more crowded in the hallways, more crowded in the bathrooms, more crowded in the cafeteria. In all cases, it means less square footage to deliver these classes,” she said.

Mrs. Fisher and Laurel Schreiber said they pored over the proposed floor plans presented at the Oct. 24 meeting for various redistricting options and found several items of concern, including converting an audio-visual storage room at Bradford Woods to space for communications art support, which is small-group instruction.

“Support services that are critical to the curriculum are going to storage space,” Mrs. Fisher said.

The Ingomar Elementary orchestra would be moved to a mechanical room under the proposed floor plans, while the hearing impaired program, which would move to Hosack if Peebles were closed, would be put into a new space carved from the receiving area, they said.

“If there was ample space, it wouldn’t be this hard. We wouldn’t even be getting cost estimates of putting hearing impaired into a receiving area,” Mrs. Fisher said.

The two women sent a letter to each school board member last week, outlining their concerns.

Board member Thomas Schwartzmier said that directors recently toured Hosack, Peebles, Marshall and Bradford Woods schools.

The “storage closet” is 400 to 500 square feet with a window, he said. “I don’t believe we are putting students in substandard space,” he said.

Robert Gaertner, director of facilities, said that classrooms have to be at least 660 square feet, and any special education resource rooms must be at least 28 square feet per student and have to be in the “ebb and flow” of the school.

“It’s not like we willy-nilly pick spaces,” he said. “We do not believe that we have done anything detrimental.”

Several factors complicate the process, including that both Bradford Woods and Marshall elementary schools need to be renovated. Estimates for Bradford Woods renovations range from $8 million to $10 million.

Another factor is the concern about dwindling state funding and increasing pension costs. Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri said closing a small elementary school would save $500,000 to $1.5 million.

But Mrs. Fisher contended that the proposal to close a building “should not be tied to the district’s budgeting issues.”

A third factor is that class sizes have increased this year as the district did not replace many retiring teachers. Parents from Hosack Elementary, in particular, have complained about class sizes of 31 students in some third- through fifth-grade classes.

Mrs. Karlovits said the average third grade at Hampton is 24.3 students, while an average third grade in Pine-Richland is 21 students.

“That is a six-to-nine-child difference. How can we compete with those districts” she asked.

Board member Beth Ludwig noted that any of the redistricting plans would add sections.

“I don’t know how we are going to provide those scenarios. I don’t know how we are going to do it with the budget that we have,” she said.

“I don’t know how Hampton and some of these districts are getting away with the class sizes they have, but they are losing or will lose something educationally that we are holding onto for dear life.”

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com

First Published November 21, 2012 4:55 am

1) If an elementary school is closed, the remaining buildings will have to accommodate more classes than what they were designed for; this will have a direct impact on classroom space and programs integral to the elementary curriculum.

a. The remaining buildings will have to use spare rooms as regular classrooms. For example, buildings designed to run three sections of 1st and 2nd grade would be required to run four sections under the new model (e.g. Bradford Woods, Franklin, Hosack, and Ingomar). As a result, each building will lose two of its spare rooms.
b. The loss of spare rooms means the administration has identified “other spares” to be used as classrooms. For example, at Marshall Elementary, the 4th Centrium, GOAL room, and YMCA room have been identified as spare classrooms. At McKnight elementary, the ESL room, Student Assistance Room, and faculty lounge have been identified as spare classrooms. In other buildings, spare classrooms include learning support rooms, orchestra rooms, and faculty lounges.

2) If all intended classrooms are filled to district guidelines, there are 3,960 seats under the new model and there will be limited ability to keep class sizes below district guidelines based on current enrollment.

a. The 3,960 seat capacity assumes all small elementary buildings are loaded with 540 students (e.g. Bradford Woods, Franklin, Hosack, and Ingomar). To put this in perspective, Franklin has a current enrollment of 515 students and they are currently using a faculty lounge as a classroom. If the district lowers its target to 510 students per building, they will only have 3,720 seats, which is close to current enrollment.
b. The district’s current elementary enrollment is 3,548 students, which represents 90 percent of the new capacity (3,548 current enrollment/3,960 new capacity). This will make it difficult to keep class sizes below district guidelines. For example, there are currently 638 students in third grade and there are 22 third grade classes under the new model. Assuming a perfectly equal distribution of students across buildings, there would be 29 students in every third grade class (638 students/22 sections of third grade). Without a perfectly equal distribution across buildings, several third grade classes could exceed the district guideline of 30 students per classroom.

3) If current enrollment goes up, the district would not have the ability to reasonably accommodate extra students and would face spending more money than it saved from closing a school.

a. To date, the financial benefit of closing a school has been estimated at 1% or less of the district’s annual operating budget. The district’s annual budget is approximately $126 million and cost savings are estimated at $500,000-$1.5 million.
b. The district’s ability to close a school is based on a decline in student enrollment. Given Allegheny County is experiencing positive migration, and there are new housing starts in the townships of Marshall, McCandless, and Franklin, the decision to close a school based on a model that can’t accommodate future growth could be fiscally irresponsible because the district would encounter future costs to accommodate additional students.

4) Based on the 1997 Bozzomo model- a model that uses a target capacity of 450 students (instead of 540) for each small elementary school- the remaining buildings would operate at 89% of target capacity if all buildings remain open and the district “balances enrollment” by moving students from overcrowded buildings into those that are less crowded.

a. The new model “creates capacity” by adding 90 students to each small elementary school without adding any classrooms or additional space. The new elementary education model increases the target capacity of the small elementary buildings from 450 to 540 students by using spare classrooms as regular classrooms and accepting North Allegheny School District (NASD) guidelines of 30 students in grades 3 through 5 (instead of 25 students).’
b. If enrollment at the elementary schools is considered in reference to a 450 target capacity (instead of 540), then the schools would be operating at 89% of target capacity if all buildings remain open. This is calculated by taking the balanced enrollment totals for each building (based on Mr. Botti’s November 14th presentation) and dividing by a 450 target capacity: BWE = 400/450 = 88.89%, FES = 403/450 = 89.56%, HES = 408/450 = 90.67%, IES = 401/450 = 89.11%, PES = 397/450 = 88.22%.
c. If the district keeps all elementary buildings open, only 264 students would be redistricted (instead of the estimated 503-1031 students if a building is closed).

5) Over the past few months, elementary parents have suggested other options for addressing the district’s projected budget deficits. These ideas include outsourcing transportation, advertising on the district’s website, and reducing the “other” expense items listed in the district’s budget.

***Members of the community are encouraged to attend the school board meeting on November 28th at 7pm in the Carson Middle School Auditorium and become part of the ongoing discussions surrounding this recommendation.***

A consultant, and the district’s director of transportation and operations insist the district has too much capacity at the elementary school level.

 

North Allegheny parents hoping to get an answer to their request for a community task force’s involvement in any potential school closing decisions were left wondering again Wednesday night. The meeting, which lasted more that three hours, ended without the issue ever being addressed by the board.

As has been the pattern since the beginning of the school year, the meeting opened with a half dozen parents making impassioned pleas againt a proposed closing of one of the district’s seven elementary schools.

A consultant has recommended closing Peebles Elementary, arguing that district has too few students, and too much elementary classroom space.

At the board’s last meeting, on Oct. 24 , Dr. Brian Miller, assistant superintendent of K-12 Education, presented a nearly one-hour demographics and feasibility study which concluded that the closing of an elementary school would not increase class size, nor impact the quality of programs now offered at North Allegheny elementary schools.

Tara Fisher, a parent, suggested Wednesday night that Miller’s assessment left no room for error.

“Current enrollment, under this proposal means each elementary school will be at 90-percent of capacity,” she said. “We do not have enough excess capacity to close an elementary school building in this district. I encourage you to consider that these students get one shot at a solid elementary education, one shot at third grade, one shot at reading, writing and arithmetic, a foundation that will last them a lifetime, and we, as a North Allegheny community need to give them our best. They deserve the best, and we can not offer them the best if we close an elementary school.”

Consultant Jon Thomas told the board, that even with a slight uptick in the birth rate, he still projects that the elementary school enrollment will continue to decline.

Roger Botti, North Allegheny’s director of transportation and operations, presented four redistricting scenarios and their impact on the entire elementary school class.

  1. Close Peebles or Hosack Elementary schools: Approximately 500 students would change schools.
  2. Close Peebles or Hosack Elementary schools: (different redistricting map) Approximately 650 students would change schools.
  3. Close Bradford Woods Elementary school: Approximately 1,000 students would change schools
  4. Leave all current schools open, and balance enrollment, 264 students would move.

Botti’s last proposal drew a round of applause.

Before the board can vote to close a school, it must hold at least one public hearing, advertised at least 15 days in advance. The board cannot vote for at least three months after the hearing, and so far, board President Maureen Grosheider has indicated the board doesn’t have enough information to make a decision.

Parents, such as Wendy Lukish, said they would continue to fight any school closing, insisting it will lead to overcrowded classrooms.

“How are our teachers going to be able to teach? They’re not going to be good at it and our children are going to suffer,” she said. “My husband is a graduate of North Hills and when we were looking for homes, we had to decide between North Hills or North Allegheny. Not being from Pennsylvania, I didn’t know any different, and my husband said, North Allegheny is an elite school, we need to live in that district. So we moved here. So I implore you to look at these numbers, look at what these schools are going to look like, and that people are going to suffer, as will the future of this district.”

For more information on parent’s efforts to form a community task force about the proposed school closings, click www.saveNAschools.com.

http://northallegheny.patch.com/articles/north-allegheny-school-board-makes-no-decision-on-task-force-involvement-in-potential-school-closings?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001