Posts Tagged ‘Thomas & Williamson’

At the school board meeting on Wednesday night, the administration said the offer from Architectural Innovations to do a more comprehensive demographics and feasibility analysis has been respectfully declined.

The offer letter from Architectural Innovations can be viewed here.

The administration’s explanation for declining the offer has been posted to the district’s website and is shown below.

———

“Update: February 28, 2013

 We understand a letter was submitted by Architectural Innovations to the North Allegheny School District in January 2013 in which they offered the School District free “services to complete the Feasibility Study and Demographic Analysis, which would encompass the entire School District…substantiate all estimated costs…could include another demographic analysis….” What is the North Allegheny School District’s intention relative to this offer of free services?

The North Allegheny School District administration will not be engaging in any further work contracts for services related to the current Demographics and Feasibility Study at this time. This Study was originally initiated for three reasons: (1) to analyze the need for renovations and upgrades at Bradford Woods Elementary (BWE), Marshall Elementary (MES) and Marshall Middle (MMS) Schools; (2) to review building capacities; and (3) to provide a demographic study with a ten-year projection of student enrollment. Both the Architectural Innovations report presented in August 2011 (Phase I) and the Thomas & Williamson report (Phase II) presented in August 2012 provided detailed information relative to all three of these criteria. District administration also conducted its own detailed demographic study as a part of the research phase of this project.

While the January letter received from Architectural Innovations inferred otherwise, District administrators recently verified with the firm that their original study did, in fact, provide a capacity analysis of all twelve schools – not just BWE, MES, and MMS. The District sees no need for the additional study, since all the relevant work offered in the January 2013 proposal was completed by this firm and reported on in August 2011.

All the components of the Demographic and Feasibility Study – the Architectural Innovations report, the Thomas & Williamson report, the NASD research and data collection, and community input – are currently being used as a reference by the School Board as they decide whether or not to close Peebles Elementary School (PES). Information relative to secondary schools is not integral to that current concern. The existing information is adequate to support planning that may occur for re-districting at both the elementary and middle school levels.

With regard to the similarities and differences between the Architectural Innovations report (Phase I) and the Thomas & Williamson report (Phase II), both consultants agreed that BWE, MES, and MMS require renovations and upgrades. However, the two reports offer plans that recommend different timelines and different budgetary objectives. Those timelines and budgetary objectives influenced the recommendations of each consultant.

Based upon their findings, the Architectural Innovations report presented more than a dozen recommendations, in response to their identification of over-capacity at the elementary level. The top three recommendations included (1) doing nothing but extensive renovations at BWE, MES and MMS; or (2) closing BWE and doing renovations/upgrades; or (3) closing BWE and PES and doing renovations/upgrades.

Thomas & Williamson presented three options for consideration by the District, based upon their identification of over-capacity at the elementary level. Their recommended option was that of closing PES.

The demographic studies from both reports come to the same conclusions relative to elementary student enrollment over the next ten years. Stable to slightly declining enrollment was projected by both. This information also coincides with the yearly study done by the District administration and the annual work that occurs in support of District enrollment and staffing projections.

As such, Architectural Innovations has been informed that the District is satisfied at this point in time with the sum total of the research and data that has been gathered in support of this project. The scope of their report was complete as submitted. While they offered to retain another demographer at no charge, the conclusions of the original demographer who conducted the study for Architectural Innovations have been verified over the course of the last year and half by two other sources.

It is worth noting that, after Architectural Innovations presented their August 2011 report, the Board requested the Phase II study. The administration issued an RFP detailing the additional work required. Architectural Innovations responded to the Phase II RFP. The quote they submitted was two times higher than the cost of their Phase I study. The District could not justify paying that amount of money for the scope of work in the Phase II study. In negotiations, the District reduced the scope of the RFP and asked Architectural Innovations for another bid. Their quote was still more than 30% higher than the cost of the Phase I work. Ultimately, Thomas & Williamson was selected to do the full scope of work originally requested in the Phase II study.

The work on the Demographic and Feasibility Study has continued for 18 months following the delivery of the Architectural Innovations Phase I report. This project has had on-going exposure in the public forum. The North Allegheny School District has not heard from Architectural Innovations since their bid on the Phase II RFP until the receipt of the letter dated January 2013. After thoughtful consideration, their offer to do additional work has been respectfully declined.”

———

Related Posts:  New Development: Consulting Firm Urges District To Seek More Data

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.

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoods/alleghenyneighborhoodsmore/3401119-74/peebles-closing-district?printerfriendly=true#ixzz2KBQsIYOw

The latest installment of the district’s propaganda for closing Peebles is titled “FAQ: The Recommendation to Close Peebles Elementary School.”  Here are the 5 points we find most interesting:

  1. “NASD could close a small elementary school and still have 9 spare classrooms to work with for flexibility in the remaining six schools.”  The administration listed 11 spare classrooms in their Nov 28, 2012 presentation to the school board, but now they only have 9.  To be clear, 9 spares across 6 schools means some buildings would only have 1 spare available to manage class size.
  2. “Class size would not be affected.” 

The administration is using averages to mask what is happening on a per building basis.  The administration’s Nov 28, 2012 slides clearly illustrate that:

(1) McKnight, Ingomar, and Bradford Woods would have seen an increase in class size across multiple grade levels, and

(2) there would be 17 classes with 29+ students and minimal ability to manage class size given only one spare in some schools.

  1. “Peebles has no ‘spare classrooms’ when the facility is analyzed under the guidelines of the redistricting model, which allows for 4 sections of grades K-2.”  This highlights one of the biggest issues related to the district’s new model; the small schools that remain would be required to run 4 sections of K-2, even though they were only designed to run 3 sections.  The reason why no “spare” exists at Peebles, and only 1 or 2 “spares” exist in the remaining buildings, is because Hosack, Bradford Woods, Franklin, Ingomar, and Peebles were NOT designed to operate as 4-round schools.   
  2. “Closing Peebles Elementary School will save NASD at least $1.25M each year for the next seven years.”  The administration listed a savings of $850,000 in its Nov 28, 2012 presentation to the school board.  We wish we could explain the $400,000 change, but as we’ve already seen, the data supporting this recommendation is not consistent and continues to be a moving target.
  3. “The District does not have a tenant for the Peebles building.”  It has been confirmed that LaRoche College is the potential tenant for Peebles Elementary.  Since an official legal document is not in place, the district can technically state it “does not have a tenant.”  The administration illustrated its fondness for semantics when it recently told the Tribune Review it had “no substitute costs” because its substitutes were hired through a contractor.  Given the administration’s cost savings calculation is contingent on $1M of “Potential Lease Revenue,” it’s clear that there is indeed a tenant for Peebles.

Saving the best for last: “Mr. Thomas donated his services free of charge to complete this work.”  So, Mr. Thomas, a consultant from a construction management firm, “donated all of his services” to complete the Phase 2 report and recommended closing a school with $0 repairs instead of one with $14 million in repairs.  Nothing more needs to be said.
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

“… the ‘take no prisoners’ attitude of Jon Thomas dashed all hope of developing an ameliorative relationship on this struggling project” —page 18 of the Court of Common Pleas Memorandum Order prepared by Judge O’Reilly.

At the December 19th school board meeting, it was revealed that the consultant who recommended closing Peebles cost the district a lawsuit for his prior work on the district’s elementary schools. The consultant is Jon Thomas of Thomas & Williamson. The case is James Construction v. North Allegheny and Thomas & Williamson. Below are some notable excerpts from the Memorandum Order prepared by Judge O’Reilly:  [click here for full text]

  • “James Construction, in its complaint, asserts that the delays in the project, which were not of its making, required it to speed up its work in order to complete the project, and as a result seeks damages from North Allegheny and Thomas & Williamson (T&W). It also seeks payment on several unpaid invoices, and further asserts a defamation claim against T&W. It also seeks the attorney’s fees and other exemplary damages under the PA Procurement Code.” (page 4)
  • “D&L was the predecessor project manager to T&W. North Allegheny hired T&W as the replacement project manager. Jon Thomas of T&W was acting as a “consultant” to North Allegheny. North Allegheny’s Project Facilities Manager, Rob Gaertner, was also involved.” (page 13)
  • “Assertions by the defense ignore the conditions and circumstances that prevailed on the project … One cannot turn a blind eye to [a memorandum], which Gaertner did not dispute-he just responded ‘Don’t mention it.'” (page 17)
  • “The termination of D&L, resistance by North Allegheny to even acknowledge delays, and the “take no prisoners” attitude of Jon Thomas dashed all hope of developing an ameliorative relationship on this struggling project. “(pages 18-19)
  • “My review and analysis of this involved case lead me to conclude that in addition to the funds due to James Construction for acceleration/compression, retention, and outstanding pay requests, counsel fees and expenses are due.” (page 25)
  • “After analysis, I also find that there was bad faith by North Allegheny as most vividly shown by the recognition of delay yet the refusal to do anything about it, other than to threaten the contractors with dismissal…I also find that while there is no libel by T&W, its unnecessary comments to Scabbo about James Construction are additional evidence of bad faith.” (pages 26- 27)

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).

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

There is a North Allegheny school board meeting on Wednesday, October 24th at 7pm at the Central Admin Offices that will cover information relevant to all elementary school parents. At this meeting, the district’s administration will provide an update on the Phase II Demographics and Feasibility Study and document their work

over the past month. More specifically, the administration will review:

1) Building capacities,
2) Enrollment trends, and the
3) Current educational program.

The administration will also share their “modeling” criteria for different scenarios (e.g. closing an elementary school), communication, and next steps.

Elementary school parents are encouraged to attend so that they can hear first-hand the details of all proposals being considered by the administration and the school board.

North Allegheny parents blast idea of closing Peebles Elementary

September 20, 2012 5:38 am

Print Email Read Later

By Sandy Trozzo, Post Gazette

Cost-cutting moves made or being considered by North Allegheny School District continue to draw fire from parents.

Parents of students at Peebles Elementary School asked board members to keep the school open during the board’s Sept. 12 work session. Other parents decried higher class sizes in elementary schools.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-north/north-allegheny-parents-blast-idea-of-closing-peebles-elementary-654205/#ixzz270jaTGEt

North Allegheny parents lobby to keep Peebles school open

By Bobby Kerlik Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

More than 80 North Allegheny elementary school parents showed up at a school board meeting last week to show their opposition to a recommendation to close Peebles Elementary School in McCandless, one of seven grade schools in the district.Several parents spoke to board members Sept. 12 and said closing the school would have a negative impact on property values and drive up class sizes in other schools.
Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yournorthhills/yournorthhillsmore/2599004-87/board-parents-peebles-schools-close-elementary-mccandless-members-open-class#ixzz270pRY4ew