Posts Tagged ‘Gualtieri’

Pittsburgh Trib

The North Allegheny School Board unanimously approved an agreement Wednesday night to release Raymond D. Gualtieri from his duties as district superintendent and grant him medical leave and a severance package before he retires.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

North Allegheny’s school superintendent, Raymond Gualtieri, is taking medical leave, then retiring with more than a year left on his contract.

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North Allegheny Patch

Proposed Addition of Classrooms Not Enough for Group Fighting Proposed Peebles Closure

Richard Cook, North Allegheny Patch

“The group Save NA Schools , which has been fighting for months against the proposed closing of any North Allegheny  Elementary School, said the most recent recommendations by Superintendent Dr. Raymond Gualtieri won’t do enough to alleviate large class sizes if Peebles Elementary  is closed.”

Click here to link to the complete article.

North Allegheny Patch
Superintendent’s Call to Delay Closing of Peebles Elementary Draws Mixed Reaction From Board, Parents

Dr. Raymond Gualtieri is now recommending the school close at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

By Richard Cook, Editor

[To read complete text,  click here]

Board member Thomas Schwartzmier said he was very happy with the delay in the Peebles closing.

“I’m glad that we reconsidered that, it’s something that I would have brought up at the vote had we not talked about it in advance,” he said.  “I think this will give everyone more time to react appropriately as we move forward.”

Board member Christopher Jacobs wondered about the sudden recommendation to add classrooms at McKnight Elementary.

“I felt the administration did their homework and was very confident in their recommendation,” he said. “Why wasn’t that (adding classrooms to McKnight) part of the initial recommendation? Are we less confident now than we were before?”

“I don’t know that we’re less confident but we heard over and over again from parents that parents were not confident with that,” Gualtieri responded. “The administration was confident that the 12 or so spare classrooms was enough, but we heard that over and over again from 330 people as we went through the various elementary schools and we tried to address that concern.”

Alison Fujito, a parent, told the board she couldn’t buy that argument.

“There’s just too much contradiction here for me to have a whole lot of confidence in your current recommendations,” she said. “I’m kinda shocked that these concerns that we’ve raised, 300 of us have raised, you keep calling them parental concerns, why aren’t they your concerns?”

Board member Ralph Pagone reiterated his opposition to closing Peebles at all.

“The last thing any district should do is close a school,” he said. “I still feel there are stones we haven’t unturned yet and I would ask that we continue to do that. “The thing that’s glaringly missing from this power point presentation to me is the $10-14-million dollars in cost that Bradford Woods elementary is going to need. I’d like to see that addressed. The building is going to continue to deteriorate.”

Board President Maureen Grosheider said, she too, wanted to make sure all options were explored when it comes to operating the district efficiently.

“I want to make sure we’ve done our job and our homework to make sure that we are as lean as we can be in as many appropriate places that we can be,” she said. “I would like to see money in the classroom, that’s where I think it belongs.”

North Allegheny Patch

Karen Boujoukos Elected to North Allegheny School Board

During a public interview Wednesday night with the North Allegheny School Board, board candidate Karen Boujokos promised that, thanks to her 10 years of prior service on the board, she would be able to “hit the ground running.”

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North Allegheny Superintendent Recommends Delay In Closing Peebles Elementary

To the surprise of several members of the North Allegheny School Board, Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri recommended Wednesday night a one-year delay in the proposed closing of Peebles Elementary School.

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  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Karen Boujoukos appointed to North Allegheny school board

Karen Boujoukos on Wednesday was appointed to the North Allegheny school board.  Mrs. Boujoukos, of Franklin Park, served on the board for 10 years, leaving the board in 2011.

To read more, click here.

If North Allegheny closes Peebles, transition would take one year

If the North Allegheny School Board votes in May to close Peebles Elementary School, the move will not take effect until the 2014-15 school year.

To read more, click here.

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.

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.

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North Allegheny’s Peebles site-closing plan still debated

January 24, 2013
By Sandy Trozzo, Post Gazette

North Allegheny administrators see closing Peebles Elementary School as inevitable in a district with stable enrollment and excess classrooms in an era when public schools are facing serious financial difficulties.

On the other hand, members of a citizens group fighting the proposed closure see a future with overcrowded schools and higher class sizes. And they dispute the administration’s enrollment projections.

In the middle of both sides is the school board — a majority of whom live in McCandless where Peebles is located.

The school board will hold a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed school closing, which would occur next year. The board cannot vote on the recommendation until at least three months after the hearing.

The background

The process began two years ago when Architectural Innovations, which was contracted to perform a comprehensive analysis of all 12 buildings, recommended closing Bradford Woods Elementary, contending that the school needs $14 million in renovations, and Peebles. The report said there would be sufficient capacity in the remaining five schools to house all elementary students.

But administrators and board members were skeptical of the firm’s numbers and recommendations, and commissioned a second study — this one by Thomas and Williamson, a construction management firm that previously did work for North Allegheny, but was involved with a lawsuit that led to a $500,000 judgment against the district.

Thomas and Williamson reduced the estimate of repairs at Bradford Woods to $8.3 million, and recommended closing Peebles instead. Administrators agreed, making the recommendation in November.

This isn’t the first time a consultant recommended closing Peebles, the district’s oldest elementary school. It also was recommended in 1997.

“When Espe closed, the recommendation was to close Espe and Peebles, and, 15 years later, nothing has changed,” superintendent Raymond Gualtieri said. “We still have the same number of excess classrooms.”

But Laurel Schreiber and Tara Fisher, leaders in the Save NA Schools group, said that 1997 recommendation also included expanding McKnight Elementary to hold 1,500 students, and possibly adding onto Hosack Elementary. Both schools are also in McCandless.

“It is not a parallel set of facts,” Mrs. Fisher said.

Enrollment and capacity

Projecting enrollment is not an exact science.

This year, enrollment was up 89 students districtwide and the 8,215 students enrolled on the third day exceeded the projections in last year’s demographics and feasibility study.

Mr. Gualtieri said enrollment is stable, noting that 314 new students enrolled last year, while 317 withdrew. “We had a wash of move-ins and move-outs,” he said. “That’s been happening for years.”

But Mrs. Fisher said the administration has underestimated enrollment for the past 13 years. The citizens group took the district’s five-year enrollment projections in 1999, 2006, 2007 and 2008, and compared them with third-day enrollment figures. Each time, enrollment was higher than the district had projected five years earlier.

Administrators chose Peebles over Bradford Woods for closure in part because the most growth is expected in the northern half of the district as those municipalities, particularly Franklin Park and Marshall, expand with public utilities.

Brian Miller, assistant superintendent for K-12 education, said that, for every 10 babies born in Franklin Park, 12 kindergarteners show up in school. In other areas, 10 babies are born, but only eight children are still living in the district by kindergarten.

The citizens group contends that enrollment also will increase in McCandless as the older homes of empty-nesters are sold to young families.

Because enrollment is stable, the district has excess classrooms at the elementary level, administrators say. Closing a small elementary school such as Peebles will allow them to better distribute students and lower class sizes.

Save NA Schools disputes that on its website, outlining a scenario of what the district would look like if Peebles had closed this year. The number of sections would have increased, and class size would hover around the maximum in nearly every section, Mrs. Fisher said.

Fiscal realities

Closing a small elementary school and redistributing students allows the district “the ability to be more operationally efficient,” Mr. Miller said.

And that is important as the state cuts education subsidies and increases unfunded mandates, charter school tuition eats a large portion of the district’s budget and retirement costs increase by double-digit percentages every year.

North Allegheny is facing a $5.7 million deficit for 2013-14. During the past two years, the district reduced 90 positions through an early retirement incentive program, initiated activity fees for students, increased parking fees, accepted advertising on its website and in facilities, and is seeking sponsors for naming rights.

But the district needs to continue to search for ways to maximize efficiency, administrators say. The district has estimated an annual savings of $850,000 by closing Peebles. More savings will be realized if the facility can be rented, they say.

“In challenging fiscal times, that’s the way that you need to run an organization. That’s the way a family needs to run their household. That’s the way a private enterprise needs to run their company,” Mr. Miller said.

Mrs. Fisher said the savings does not justify the turmoil in which closing Peebles will leave students.

“Where is the priority for the district? This is a proposal that will save less than 1 percent of the district’s operating budget, but the impact will affect every student and every teacher at the elementary school level,” she said.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

First Published January 24, 2013 5:14 am

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Where they stand: North Allegheny officials, parents

January 24, 2013

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A public hearing on a proposal to close Peebles Elementary School will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Carson Middle School Auditorium, 600 Hillvue Lane, McCandless. Here are the positions of school officials and the parents’ organization:


• School buildings are under-utilized. There are the same number of spare classrooms as in 1997 when a community task force recommended closing Espe and Peebles schools.

• Closing a small elementary school will better equalize class sizes throughout the remaining schools.

• Projections show the district’s enrollment remaining stable.

• On the Web:

Save NA Schools

• If Peebles is closed, the remaining six schools will see an increase in class size and an increase in sections, which eliminates the spare classrooms and makes it harder to manage class sizes. Seventeen classes would have 29 students or more.

• Other school districts have lower class sizes, especially in third grade. North Allegheny’s guidelines call for 30 students or fewer in grades three through five. The average third-grade class is 21 students in Pine-Richland, 21 in Mt. Lebanon and 24 in Hampton.

• The administration has underestimated projections for 13 years. Board members have questioned projections both from the administration and in the Phase 1 report.

• On the Web:

The proposed timeline for closing Peebles is an April 30, 2013 vote with closure effective for the 2013/2014 school year. In contrast, the proposed timeline for Bradford Woods was outlined as follows in the Aug 17, 2011 school board minutes:

8.17.11 Meeting minutes excerpts

So, why is the proposed timeline for Peebles an April 30th, 2013 vote with closure effective for the 2013/2014 school year?

The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities provides the following guidelines with respect to the decision to close a school:

  • Ideally, a decision to close a school should be made as early as possible in the school year, but no later than December.”

There are several reasons:

  • “It will permit parents and students adequate time to adjust to choose a new school or adjust to their new assignment”
  • “It will provide adequate time to plan and execute the actual closing of the building.”
  • “It will permit the financial impacts to be included in the annual school budget. There will be both additional costs and savings that need to be identified for that school.”

“When a district builds a new school or renovates an existing building, there is usually a comprehensive community involvement process used. Closing a school should also include a similar process.
Adequate time to conduct this process is important so that all relevant information can be examined and included in the deliberations. This process must have integrity above all else.”

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:

“…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…”

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…”