Posts Tagged ‘Miller’

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

If previous meetings are any indication, it’s likely to be another packed house when the North Allegheny School Board  meets Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7:00 p.m.,  200 Hillvue Lane.

That direction came after the board listened to to a nearly one-hour demographics and feasibility study presentation by Dr. Brian Miller, assistant superintendent of K-12 Education, and impassioned pleas by several parents.

“If we want to remain a leader in education, in southwestern Pennsylvania, what we should not be doing at a time when Allegheny county is seeing young, educated adults moving into the this area is closing an elementary school instead of preparing for and competing for growth in this district,” said Tara Fisher, a North Allegheny parent. “As a North Allegheny graduate I think we are better than this and I encourage you, despite what the administration tells you about this proposal being possible, that you consider – is this the direction we want to head?”

A consultant has recommended closing Peebles Elementary. Dr. Miller indicated to the board that such a decision would not increase class size nor impact the quality of programs now offered at North Allegheny elementary schools.  But after questions by several board members, Grosheider instructed the administration to consider redistricting plans under four different scenarios:

Parents also asked again for the formation of a community task force to take part in any decisions regarding school closings.Grosheider indicated the board would respond to that request at Wednesday’s meeting.The board is grappling with a projected $8-million dollar deficit and little prospect of increased funding from Harrisburg.

For more information on parent’s efforts to form a community task force, click www.saveNAschools.com
Based upon the 1997 Bozzomo model [Table 3.5: Option #1 ‐ Base Option ‐ PDE Unit Capacities] – a model North Allegheny has used with great success and assumes no more than 25 students in a classroom with a target capacity of 82% for each elementary school building- the elementary schools are working at expected capacities– and any over or under utilization can be easily fixed by limited redistricting.  In fact, the  authors of the Phase 2 report stated that this model “has stood the test of time, albeit with a slight adjustment in the Franklin enrollment zone in 2006.”
If the population of the smaller schools are considered in reference to this capacity, then the schools are working– or, in fact, exceeding their target capacity.
BWE-  88%
HES- 74%
IES -90%
PES- 83%
FES- 100+%
MCK- 100+%
MES-100+ %The latest recommendation by the administration moves to a new elementary school model based on 30 students in a classroom for grades 3 through 5 with a target capacity of 90% for each elementary school building instead of 82%.  This means loading elementary school buildings to 540 students instead of 450 students, which “creates” additional capacity and leads to perceived “excess” capacity in some buildings.

Further, the building capacity numbers that the administration is targeting are a best guess scenario and do not take into account building specifics.  The elementary buildings across the district are not one-size fits all- and important programs will be lost to the reconfiguration of elementary schools.  The presentation Dr. Miller presented to the North Allegheny School board on October 24th assumed target building capacities of 540 for every elementary school except McKnight and Marshall.  This is inconsistent with both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies, which listed individual target capacities for each elementary school building. 

 
For example, in the Phase 2 report, NASD target capacity for BWE was listed at 600 students, FES was listed as 595 students and PES was listed at 520 students.  But in the presentation made by Dr. Brian Miller at the October 24th board meeting, excess capacity was calculated using 540 for all three buildings.  Changing the denominator in these calculations has a huge impact on the excess capacity percentages that are being presented to the community and can be very misleading.

A HUGE thank you to everyone that attended the school board meeting last evening. We had a great turnout and representation from 6 of the 7 elementary schools. This movement is about being opposed to closing ANY elementary school in the district because of the impact it would have on the remaining six buildings. Dr. Miller confirmed last night that, no matter which school is closed, it will be felt across the district.

It was extremely encouraging to see several board members step forward and ask the administration for more specific information on how this proposal would impact our elementary school children. We also saw, for the first time, financial estimates tied to this recommendation. The cost of maintaining a small elementary school is below $300k/year (utilities and maintenance) and we heard that it would only save the district about 5 staff members (a principal, secretary, nurse, and a couple specials teachers).Given the district’s operating budget is roughly $126 million per year, if the cost savings from closing a small elementary school are $1.26 million or less, this proposal is best described as “one that will have direct impact on teachers and students across all elementary schools while saving the district 1 percent or less in its annual budget.” This is a VERY powerful point moving forward.Despite that we did not receive a decision on the community task force last evening, and that we were told we won’t receive a decision until after the November board meeting, everyone should feel very encouraged about the information and discussions that took place at the board meeting last night and our position moving forward. Thank you again for your support and lets keep the momentum rolling!

You are invited to attend the Superintendent’s Coffee.

Attendance is not limited to NA parents– but is open to the entire community.

• Meet District Administrators.
• Hear an overview of key information for parents.
• Q & A will close the session.

Bradford Woods Elementary School • 41 Forest Road • Bradford Woods, PA 15015 • 724-935-5081

Some of you may have heard that during the last school board meeting, the night before the 2012-2013 school year began, a recommendation was made to close Peebles Elementary School.  The immediate reaction was that it was a Peebles’ problem.  But really, it is a Hosack problem- and to a very large extent, a district-wide problem, too.

Arleen Wheat, assistant superintendent for special education and pupil services, said “We’ve done a lot of those transitions, I feel very self-assured that the students can be assimilated into Hosack. It’s a great school.”

But, as a Hosack parent, that really isn’t the issue.

Hosack currently has an enrollment of 335 students and– according to the Phase Two feasibility study cited by North Allegheny school district– a capacity of 550 students.  The Superintendent stated at the Superintendent’s coffee last week that elementary class size **is ** being increased to a target of 30 students per class– and possibly 33 and 34 in some cases.  With the closing of Peebles Elementary, the plan is to load Hosack to “capacity”.  To increase capacity you need more students in each classroom– and to get more classrooms to accommodate the increased number of students you will need to turn the art room,  the music room,  the orchestra room, into classrooms….

But again, this doesn’t just affect Hosack and Peebles students– school size at Ingomar, McKnight, Franklin and Bradford Woods, and Marshall will grow as well.

At no point in the meeting was it addressed how closing an elementary school will save money.  Last year, Ray Gualtieri, NA Superintendent, stated numerous times that closing a school would only save about $220K per year.  The reality is that by increasing capacity at the other schools,  capital improvements will need to be made at those other schools.  Capital improvements = $$….. which, considering that NA is forecasting an $8M budget shortfall this year doesn’t appear to make very much sense.

Some have suggested that without the closure of one of North Allegheny’s elementary schools a tax increase will be necessary to find the necessary funds.  We do not believe that a choice between appropriate class sizes in community schools and increased taxes is necessary or accurate.  These two options should be last resorts and more appropriate cuts and innovative cost saving measures can be found before these extreme measures.

This is where our presence (and voices) are needed.

Both Dr. Gualtieri and Brian Miller, NA Asst. Superintendent,  will be speaking at Peebles Elementary on Monday, September 10 at 9:00am.  I cannot urge you enough to attend this meeting. Please invite your neighbors.  Please share this email with others.  It is important that we demonstrate that we stand together as a community and that the Superintendent and the School Board are put on notice that we are paying attention.  That, as parents of Hosack students, this recommendation to close Peebles Elementary directly effects our children and our neighborhoods.  The plan to close Peebles is in no way “a done deal”– and we can make a difference.  (Parking may be tight that morning.  It was suggested by a Peebles parent to carpool, park at Memorial Park Church, and walk over to the school.)

If you are not able to attend this meeting please plan to attend the School board meeting at the Central Admin Office on

September 12   (Work Session)

September 19 (Regular Meeting)

And, you are invited to attend the President’s Coffee on Thursday, September 20 at 9:15a which will be held at Bradford Woods Elementary school.

If you are on Facebook I urge you to join the parent-led group Save Peebles Elementary https://www.facebook.com/groups/save.peebles/

You may also sign an on-line petition that can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-peebles/

I feel so passionately about Hosack– thank you for reading–

Sincerely,

Laurel Schreiber, Hosack Parent