Posts Tagged ‘Tara Fisher’

Community group questions North Allegheny enrollment projections

“If an elementary school building is closed, current enrollment would account for 90 percent of the total available seats in the remaining buildings,” said Tara Fisher, 36, of McCandless, a member of Save NA Schools. “It limits the district’s ability to keep class sizes below district guidelines.”

The report concludes that the district has a history of underestimating enrollment and that an enrollment increase could end up costing the district more money in the long run if a school is closed. The report also concludes that the district cannot guarantee the same level of education if a school is closed.

http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/3081573-74/district-board-enrollment#axzz2EBM1tEFZ

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

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

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

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!