Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors: Investigate if important information about Schenley was withheld at the time of closing
  • Petitioned Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors

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Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors

Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors: Investigate if important information about Schenley was withheld at the time of closing

    1. Petition by

      Concerned Citizens

      Pittsburgh, PA

The main reason given by Superintendent Mark Roosevelt for closing the iconic Schenley High School building in 2008 and moving students on an emergency and very expensive basis was that there was pervasive asbestos plaster in the building.   Mr. Roosevelt  said that the plaster posed a serious risk to students and staff and that renovation would cost approximately $76 million dollars, in large  part due to the expense of asbestos related construction and remediation.

However, the school district recently released results of  tests conducted in 2009 showing that of hundreds of plaster samples, only two had more than trace amounts of asbestos. According to a July 2012 City Paper report, a former project manager for the district's building consultant states that similar low concentrations of asbestos had been found in routine tests during the years prior to 2008 and that district officials were aware of these low numbers. Nevertheless the Superintendent and his administration continued to report only results of less accurate tests conducted back in 2002 showing higher levels of asbestos and  ignored its consultant's recommendation to conduct a different, more precise test.  The more precise tests were finally done in  2009, AFTER the vote to close the school, and  results were  not disclosed to the public until August 2012.  This 2009 report indicated that all of the asbestos believed to be in the building could be removed for just over $1 million.

Two individuals who were members of the Board in 2008 confirm that they first learned of these recommendations and findings  in 2012. In the words of one of these Board members, "If a School Board Member must constantly verify whether a staff member is telling the truth then no Board of any type can function. The more technical the information or recommendation the more we have to trust the staff."   The "truth" means not just statements which are carefully crafted and technically correct but the whole truth with no effort to conceal or mislead.

The appropriate remedy at this time is for the Board to investigate whether information was withheld and to obtain a clear statement as to the extent of asbestos in the building's plaster and a corrected estimate for renovation .  The amount spent to move students on an "emergency" basis should also be specified. This information should be made public before any further decisions are made regarding the building.

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Heads up!

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      Heads up!

      - A renovation estimate from PPS is due tomorrow.

      - However, the requirements of the Board resolution for the estimate have not been met.

      - Specifically, Board members were to be provided with specifications and instructions for the estimate in advance of the estimate being done, so that any issues could be resolved before a figure was released.

      - Despite numerous requests by Board members, specifications have not been provided.

      - It is possible, then, that the estimate may include nonessential items like air conditioning, and that where there are various options for resolving an issue a more expensive option may have been chosen. For example, the 2004 capital budget for ventilation upgrades was $1.35M; a later estimate for a different approach was $2.99M; but if the unprecedented approach of taking down all corridor walls is chosen the cost could be increased by $10M or more. Continues...

    2. Heads up!

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      Continued...

      - Concerns about an inflated scope of service and therefore an inflated estimate are real because, incredibly, PPS officials and agents are still refusing to confirm that asbestos in the building plaster is minimal.

      - Therefore, any estimate released by PPS should be taken as just a starting point subject to reduction when nonessential items are removed and less expensive options explored.

      - The final step in any reasoned decision will be to compare the estimate for renovating Schenley to the renovation that Peabody will require, and to consider also the cost of making available to high school students at U Prep and Sci Tech athletic facilities comparable to those provided to other high school students in the district (cost of athletic facilities being approximately $20M).

      - Until PPS does the right thing by Schenley we will not "just give up."

    3. Mayoral candidates address questions on Schenley

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      Mayoral candidates address questions on Schenley:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USp4GC2Z2mg

      Schenley School & Pittsburgh Promise - Pittsburgh Mayoral Candidates on Jan 27th, 2013

      What is your position on the Schenley School closings? Do you think the Pittsburgh Promise is living up to its expectations and how can it be improved? Moderator: Chris Zurawsky Candidates: Michael Lamb.

    4. Petition signed by 2 District 8 City Council Candidates

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      Candidates for Bill Peduto's City Council seat who have signed the petition are Jeanne Clark and Sam Hens-Greco.

    5. PPS to obtain renovation estimate in light of new information

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      Victory! PPS will obtain a new estimate for renovation in light of new information (minimal asbestos). The print version of the PG just has a small note, but the online version of the PG has a longer article and lively online discussion; go to:

      http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/schenley-high-school-renovation-information-sought-by-pittsburgh-public-schools-671641/

      The petition will stay online at least until a bona fide good faith estimate is obtained. Please be sure to thank the following elected officials for their support of an investigation: Jim Ferlo, Jack Wagner, Michael Lamb, Barbara Danko, Bill Robinson, Amanda Green Watkins, James Ellenbogen, Daniel Lavelle, Darlene Harris, Natalia Rudiak, Bill Peduto and the six Board members who voted yes (Regina Holley, sponsor; Mark Brentley; Tom Sumpter; Sherry Hazuda; Sharene Shealey; Bill Isler).

      Schenley High School renovation information sought by Pittsburgh Public Schools

      Pittsburgh Public Schools board member Regina Holley Wednesday tonight successfully persuaded her colleagues to get up-to-date estimates of how much it would cost to renovate the former Pittsburgh Schenley High School in Oakland. The resolution came as the district is in the process of reviewing four bids to purchase and reuse the school, which closed in 2008.

    6. Controller Lamb wants review of decision to close Schenley building

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      Please give Controller Lamb a thumbs up and ask your county council, city council and school board representatives to join the Controller's request.

      Press Releases
      Sent 01/18/2013 @ 2:09 pm

      PITTSBURGH - As the Pittsburgh Public Schools consider the sale of the former Schenley High School building in Oakland, City Controller Michael Lamb sent an email to Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane and members of the School Board, asking for a review of the decision to close the former high school.

      "I know the Board and staff at PPS have labored over the decision to close Schenley and the prospects for the future of the building," wrote Lamb "I am writing today to join in the suggestion that the Board should not only take its time with this decision, but also review information that has been made available since the decision to close Schenley to determine the cost effectiveness and impact on student achievement of that closure."....

    7. 1000 supporters!

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      We did it, 1000 signatures and wonderful comments that explain why almost 5 years after the closing people still care so much. Thank you for all your efforts. Stay tuned for information on the next steps.

    8. Reached 1,000 signatures
    9. Final 100

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      Thank you everyone for your signatures so far. Here we go, final 100.

    10. PA Auditor General observes a strong case made to reopen Schenley

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      Your voices have been heard!

      Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner included observations about Schenley in the cover page of his audit released on Monday. The full report can be found at http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/Reports/School/schSDoftheCityofPittsburgh010213.pdf , including the following:

      "...recently there has been debate regarding whether the decision to close the school was a wise one, and whether the asbestos contamination is as significant as once projected to be.... The divided Board is a clear indication that some members believe that Schenley is still a valuable asset to the school district. Community members have made a strong case for the school to be re-opened, and for the original decision to be reconsidered."

      Please thank Auditor General Wagner, and help to reinforce this message by working to obtain the final 136 signatures we need to reach 1000. Many people are still unaware of last year's new information regarding Schenley.

    11. Schenley/ Public Hearing/ Financial aspects

      Concerned Citizens
      Petition Organizer

      Public hearing testimony 11/19/12:

      "[Schenley was built] with massive limestone walls to make it strong and sound indefinitely. Of course like every other building in the district it needs a system renovation every 30 - 40 years.

      So why were renovation estimates so astronomical? Part of it of course was that asbestos was incorrectly said to be present in plaster throughout the building. However, ...[a] much bigger item was the cost of knocking down all the interior walls and putting them up again in different places. Without this unusual step the cost per student of renovating Schenley should be the same as it is for any other building in the district... [Maintaining buildings is one reason PPS is given an annual budget of half a billion dollars.]"

    12. Reached 750 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Timothy Sherrell PITTSBURGH, PA
      • 10 months ago

      My daughter was forced to not be able to graduate out of her school as a result of the forced move to a temporary other school.

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      • about 1 year ago
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    • Robert Glover PITTSBURGH, PA
      • about 1 year ago

      I am a father and an advocate of preserving our communities.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Carmen Pace PITTSBURGH, PA
      • over 1 year ago

      As a 1973 Schenley High alumni; I love this beautiful historic builiding. I agree with words the are ectched in the building Enter to learn Go forth to serve. PLEASE RECONSIDER and Reopen Schenley as a school and stop lying to the people!

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Rebecca Einhorn PITTSBURGH, PA
      • over 1 year ago

      I consider Schenley to have been the best high school program (IB) housed in the most beautiful architecture within the Pittsburgh Public School System. My son was accepted to the Schenley IB program and a few months later that program was in a state of chaos due to the move from Schenley to Frick and then to Reizenstein /Obama Academy (and now to Peabody). These extremely irresponsible and chaotic results are obvious. We need believable answers as to why Schenley was locked to our students.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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