Thursday, June 26, 2008

Some Days, You Win. Some Days, You Lose. Some Days, It Rains.

Voting to close Schenley were board members Heather Arnet, Theresa Colaizzi, Jean Fink, Floyd McCrea and President Bill Isler. Voting no were Mark Brentley Sr., Sherry Hazuda, Thomas Sumpter and Randall Taylor. (P-G, Joe Smydo)


"The closing and the destruction of Schenley High School -- the public's not going to forget this," said Mr. Taylor.



Plans for a supermarket in the Hill District that would include a pharmacy, dry cleaner drop-off service, bakery, deli and flower kiosk were announced Wednesday.

McCormack Baron Salazar, which developed Crawford Square in the Lower Hill, is proposing a 50,000-square-foot, full-service Kuhn's Market. (Trib, Bonnie Pfister)

We don't want to jump the gun or speak out of turn, but this is finally sounding like just the thing for Pittsburgh's Hill District -- in one of several critical areas of neighborhood needs, anyway.

Details on what type of assistance the developers will seek from the URA were not available.

So this must be separate from the $2 million in grocery store "seed money" that was being offered by the URA and the Penguins as part of a Community Benefits Agreement.

Oh, yeah. What ever happened to the Community Benefits Agreement? Remember, the one that our politicians celebrated as nearly complete the day our Planning Commission met to green-light the Penguins arena in January, promptly and utterly forgot for a full three months, revived again suddenly just two days after our city development czar got into a wee bit of trouble, prevailed upon One Hill to painstakingly ratify about six weeks ago, and allowed to remain unsigned and unrecognized by the City, the County and the Pens ever since?

There is so much we've been meaning to discuss...


The decimation of fire prevention and education, decrepitude of stations, and overstaffing in some areas and overwork in others that TriData encountered could lead to suggestions for station mergers and upgrades, restorations of some jobs, and transfer of a few duties from the paramedics to the firefighters.

The plan could generate friction with unions. (P-G, Rich Lord)

That's why we respectfully disagree with the headline. Prove us wrong, Pittsburgh.


It's nice to know you can write a column for the Post-Gazette while being stoned out of your ever-lovin' wits (P-G, Ruth Ann Daily).


  1. Bram, You're right - Schenley supporters will NEVER forget - so all of you on the School Board and City Council who have ever thought of moving on to bigger and better offices, don't even bother to knock on my door. This means you - Dowd, Arnet and Isler. And the really sad part is that if this really was about the kids, the vote would have gone the other way. P.S. Thank you Taylor, Brentley, Sumpter and Hazuda!

  2. What does it say about me that I enjoyed the Dailey column more than anything else she has ever written? I would love to see Fluke become a weekly feature.

  3. Remember kids, revenues minus expenses must be greater than or equal to zero. Why don't you Schenley people get this?

    If you want to save the school, advocate for improving the PPS from the bottom up. Where is the evidence that spending $40 million or more to renovate a building has resulted in any academic improvement?

  4. An odd argument, when the District has been profligate in spending money on bricks and mortar (and colossal LED displays) in other situations, including when students from a closed high school must be redistributed to four or five different buildings ill-equipped to accommodate them.

    On a related note, what is it with Ms. Colaizzi?

    I think I am better disposed towards Luke than her. I think I am better disposed towards Rick Santorum than her. In a Trib account, she tells a reporter that you can't even take down a chalkboard in Schenley, because asbestos will fly everywhere. Jen England, get on your horse!!!

  5. I'd love to see some bottom up improvement in the PPS. If they supported their strongest programs and teachers and actually reformed their failing schools, I'd be delighted.

    Instead they've used a scare number of 70+M and linked it (erroneously) to the cost of abating asbestos. That's given them plenty of cover for other capital spending. Just for next year they're paying to reopen two closed schools (and renovating one) and also renovating two other existing schools. None of those is free either, but when you spend money in one, two, three or five million increments here and there, month after month, it just doesn't get the attention.

    It'll be very interesting to see if someone gets that building and miraculously finds that it's a lot cheaper, A LOT cheaper to make it perfectly safe and suitable.

  6. Thanks for the shout out Bram! I am so frustrated by the pps debacle I've about given up. In my desperation I wonder how I'm going to afford private school, whether I should just move out of the city or maybe I should pray my daughter suddenly gets talent (I hear CAPA is still pretty good).

    The frustrating thing is, no matter how many times we point out, "um, you are still spending like $70 mil on infrastructure to move the kids out of Schenley" and create all these temporary schools, THEN create other permanent schools, we still get some dufus telling us we are ignoring the budget restraints. Huh? Its like Roosevelt could litterally throw crap at the public and say THE MAGIC ANSWER is to rub crap all over you and everyone would suddenly be covered in crap.

    And yes, all the elected officials involved should worry about their jobs. Especially those in areas like Squirrel Hill, Greenfield, Highland Park, Regent Square, and Oakland. I can't see this not having tremendous backlash. I still have a desperate hope that somehow Roosevelt and the board will not totally destroy public education in this city. But it doesn't look good. Maybe they are following the clear cut and replant strategy. The problem with that is new growth takes a while to mature.

  7. Bram,
    The spending decisions you refer to were made by Dr. John Thompson, the previous superintendent. By many accounts, a district right-sizing plan, including the closing of facilities, should have been completed years ago. Instead, the board failed to act on it. Where were your couragous calls for reform then? How much time did you spend working to ensure that the school district was making financially sensible decisions? Or producing individuals who were ready to be responsible citizens? Where were you, Bram?

    To suggest that Mr. Roosevelt does not have the best interest of the district in mind, or that Heather Arnet's thoughtful piece in the PG and her subsequent vote was borne of something other than a careful examination of the facts, then you are being intellectually dishonest. Only a cynic would go that route.

    The bottom line is economics. The right-sizing plan is a good first step, the Pittsburgh Promise is another step in the right direction, but the fact of the matter is that the school district continues to experience declining enrollment, and with it, the number of taxpayers to support it. If the board had decided to keep Schenley open, such a decision would have been supported by facts, and not the emotional arguments so many have made during this debate.

  8. One could just as easily call the $76 million figure "emotional" and the $38 million figure "a fact" -- and call the need to downsize the District at this highly successful school's expense "emotional", and the long-term financial advantages of maintaining a superior building while closing similarly dilapidated buildings housing inferior schools to be "a fact".

    But that would be so condescending and willfully disingenuous as to make everybody nauseous, don't you think?

    I can't apologize for not having become locally political until about two years ago, and I don't think that I need to. I will point out that since this blog's inception, we have been advocating for amendments to State Act 55 which would enable our School District to tax our region's greatest aggregators of wealth and resources: the mega "non"-profits.

    That would certainly help the School District to cope with its challenges AND provide a higher quality product for its students. I can't fathom why our courageous school district politicians aren't advocating in favor of that necessary and overdue reform.

    I don't recall describing Arnet's essay or her vote dishonest or unthoughtful -- I do recall calling them mistaken, and I suppose, yes, I did imply that she's trying very hard to have it both and every which way. I don't think that's the harshest thing ever suggested about a public official.

    As to Roosevelt, once again I don't think I have ever implied he doesn't have the best interests of the students at heart. It's just that from what I've seen, we have very different visions of what that end result should be, and the means to that end. For example, although a handful of themed or boutique schools is an exciting idea, remaking the whole district in this template and segregating students by achievement, inclination and de facto by background at the ripe old age of 10 I do not find to be particularly helpful, courageous, or even American.

  9. Anon 2:50 Exactly which job do you hold in the Administration?

  10. What parents want is simple. We want to believe that the decisions made are what will best serve ALL kids including our own. We want to believe so badly because it ain't easy raising kids these days. We have our hands full. At times it seems that many decision makers are out of touch with the real kids. (They are familiar with the "stepford kids.") Don't rag on Bram, for pity's sake. Those parents among us who are older and tired at the end of the day neeed a Bram to carry the ball for us at times, The district and city have a lot in common. Both entities lived beyond their means for a few generations.

  11. Annonymous 5:15 and the rest of you cynics should know that I do not work nor never have worked for the district. Do I have to be an employee to take this position on Schenley?

    To be clear Winky, I am a parent and I take this issue very seriously. Don't you dare suggest that I don't have my hands full, or that I am a "Stepford Parent". Take your bleeding heart class warfare argument elswhere. It bores me.

    "For example, although a handful of themed or boutique schools is an exciting idea, remaking the whole district in this template and segregating students by achievement, inclination and de facto by background at the ripe old age of 10 I do not find to be particularly helpful, courageous, or even American."

    Bram, you have laid out what in your mind is wrong about the superintendent's plan, but not a word about what you think IS the right course of action. And if your course is so much better than Superintendent Roosevelt's plan, then why not present it to Theressa Colazzi or Heather Arnet? Why let better ideas sit silently on this blog when they can be utilized to save this troubled district?

    In the meantime, I don't want to hear any bullshit about invented asbestos conspiracies, or inflated improvement estimates, or even about how there is this conspiracy to keep smart (read white) students away from poor black students. When you are ready to embrace logic, reason and fact, then we can have a discussion. Until then it's just bullshit.

  12. I suggested a few times that preserving and marketing Schenley as the themed school of classical liberal education would make the rest of Roosevelt's plan much more palatable and sustainable.

    I think we are having a discussion. I'm enjoying it. I wouldn't mind even if you were associated with the School District in some way, it wouldn't make your comments any less legitimate.

  13. Anonymous 11:02, I do sometimes have a hard time making myself understood, if that is the case here I apologize. My "stepford" comment was aimed at decision makers who have not been in the classroom face-to-face with students as a teacher or administrator in a very long time. They usually can relate to the top achievers, but are much less successful in communicating with the mainstream students. I do not know how many kids you have in PPS, past, present, or future, but there are kids who do not have the support from home and if being concerned about them makes me a bleeding heart, I accept your label.

  14. Anonymous 11:02, I was hoping to keep the conversation going and hoping that you went back and reread my post where I originally used the word STEPFORD. If you had and read every word for a change you might have not been offended. I am grumpy today.

  15. And if your course is so much better than Superintendent Roosevelt's plan, then why not present it to Theressa Colazzi or Heather Arnet? Why let better ideas sit silently on this blog when they can be utilized to save this troubled district? from anon at 11:02

    Have you tried this? Many, many parents have tried to offer some alternatives (small and large) to the current plans, emphasizing things the district already does well and aiming the most radical changes at the places it is failing the most. Unfortunately, it seems these plans are *the* plans and that the requests for input and "engagement" from the parents are made so they (the administration) can say they asked.

    It's an odd sort of reform that starts with some of your highest performing schools -- remember CAPA and CAPA Rogers are being reformulated as well, and from what I heard at the last public hearing, those parents have realized that their input was not considered, either. It's like lip service, only this time it's ear service. They listen and then they're done.

    Again, I don't doubt that they think they're doing good things nor do I say that everything is great and needs no change. However, some of the changes I've seen are, to be blunt, bad and the conviction that everything you've thought of is right and can't be improved? Well, that's a recipe for disaster no matter what you're trying to run or accomplish.