Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We Must Burn the School District in Order to Save It!

It is crucial for the district to move forward with its courageous and visionary plans for high school excellence that the individuals and families who have spoken out on this topic know that this administration and school board have heard their concerns and will address them. (P-G, Heather Arnet)

When describing proposed education reforms or the personalities driving them, why is it always necessary to use language more frequently associated with World War II veterans and New York City fire fighters?

At any rate, this op-ed may bury Schenley High School forever.

Read this next, and weep (P-G, Jake Oresick), and ask yourselves one last time whether the closure of this civic phenomenon will somehow benefit the District and the City.

Your Comet editor / author attended not Schenley, but Taylor Allderdice. I will be the first to tell you, if they tried to close Allderdice, we would be sad -- and instead of organizing and letter-writing and attending meeting upon hearing upon workshop, we would instead be channeling our energies into throwing the biggest, most debauched farewell party you have ever seen.

Allderdice is a good example of a school that is successful because of teachers and programs -- but Community? Inclusiveness? School spirit? Forget about it. We have fonder memories of Bagel Nosh than we do of time spent in the actual building. We would party, and we would watch it burn. You can take it to the bank.


Here is the whip count from the Trib's Bill Zlatos:

The vote promises to be close. Board members Randall Taylor, Mark Brentley Sr. and Sherry Hazuda said Tuesday they will vote against closing the school. Members Jean Fink and Theresa Colaizzi said they will vote for closing the school, and Board President William Isler hinted that he would vote to close the school, without specifically saying so.

Board member Floyd McCrea said he is unsure how he will vote, and two other members -- Heather Arnet and Thomas Sumpter -- did not return numerous phone calls.

We had high hopes that newcomers Hazuda and Arnet together would further elevate the May 2007 primary election as a watershed moment for progressivism and far-sighted government -- but it appears from today's op-ed that the latter may have absorbed some of her predecessor's penchant for triangulation and institutional mollification.

One more thing struck us about Arnet's piece:

The new superintendent therefore was charged with a Herculean task; steer the district back to financial health while increasing student achievement. Three years into Mr. Roosevelt's tenure, the district is stronger financially and more money is being invested in academic improvement.

We have two honest questions. Firstly, how precisely is this "more money" being invested? More teachers? Better teachers? More modern equipment? Standardized workbooks and prefabricated syllabuses?

Secondly, and on a related note -- how long will be long enough to fairly begin holding the new regime accountable not for "more money being invested", but for actual improvements in student achievement? Because inevitably, at some point, we have a duty to tie these orgiastic visions of excellence down to real-life standards.


  1. If you are on the fence about Schenley the Oresick piece will help you make up your mind. Add to that Bram's thoughts on his Taylor Allderdice feelings and you won't have to think any further about Schenley. I do still believe there would have been no uproar if the programs were not being split. If someone would have just picked up the kids and moved them intact to another location. A location that had the same amenities like sinks and toilets at the proper height for high schoolers and stages on which to perform.

  2. I worry about the ESL kids being split between two buildings, Brashear and Allderdice. If an ESL parent wants to get to Brashear they could go nuts trying to understnd its location and the bus transportation. I do not believe Milliones and Reizenstein have been dormant long enough to have escaped their previous reputations. Not many years ago opposing teams needed an escort to their bus from Milliones for girls' games. There is so much to overcome.

  3. I'm not going to pretend to be the pre-eminent expert on Schenley or education, but I'd have to agree with 1:02. It's the only way I can really see how closing a building has caused such an uproar. You can't even use the neighborhood argument. Many of these kids drive past Peabody en route to Schenley.

    I also won't pretend to truly understand Roosevelt's - or Arnet's - motivations. She, in particular, puts herself at political risk given the number of Schenly disciples in District 2, and her district has a habit of remembering these kinds of things come election time. So, I have to think her position is (gasp!) well-reasoned and thought out.

    I am positive many in this realm will vehemently disagree with me. But, then again, this is reform. If reform wasn't controversial, it wouldn't need to occur in the first place. And, let's face it. Roosevelt is in a no-win situation and the PPS's problems extend well beyond that triangular building in Oakland.

  4. Actually his major problems are unrelated to the triangular building and unaddressed as yet in HS reform. Those major problems being failing high schools with huge underenrollment and including one high school that's been in lockdown virtually all year.

    Where exactly do you see the reform in his plans for them? The answer is that these kids, the ones still in the failing schools aren't in the reform plan. Their brothers and sisters in K-6 will have to start choosing in a few years, though -- which "theme" do they want to lock themselves into? And within that theme which "major" (unchangeable) will they want to choose?

    I'm hoping that there is still a school teaching all subjects reasonably well in 5 years when my 1st grader needs to go somewhere. Here's hoping he doesn't have to pick a career at the age of 10.

  5. I agree totally with the bit about Allderdice being about teachers and programs. My son graduated from Dice this month, and has no sense of sadness about leaving there and getting off to college. I am thrilled that I dont have to put up with the place any more. FOUR principals in four years????? And I am even more thrilled that I am done with the PPS....I cant be a supporter of this mess any longer.

  6. McCrea needs to get off the fence and make a decision.

    I get the feeling he will vote to close.

  7. My Schenley memories are certainly not all warm and fuzzy, but I know a good thing when I spend a fifth of my life in it.

    Schenley kids are underdogs by nature, carefully cultivating the chips on our shoulders, always out to prove something. That's why this fight wouldn't have lasted this long if it were any other school - we know what we've got and we're used to people devaluing it, whether it's the Allderdice soccer team, the suburban kids at the Kelly awards or the school board.