On July 20, citizens of the East End community gathered to voice their concern over proposed changes for several schools in their region. Though the group of past and present school administrators, parents and neighbors differed on why they opposed the plan or what they would rather see accomplished, they called for a postponement of the school board vote scheduled for the following night.
|NAACP REP— Marilyn Barnett, Ed.D., NAACP education chair, hosted a press conference regarding the East End schools.
“In that the proposed realignment of Pittsburgh Public Schools for the East End of Pittsburgh was only released on June 25, and the possible impact on the students affected could be significant and long lasting, B-PEP requests that the final decision on this plan be delayed,” said Black Political Empowerment Project Chairman Tim Stevens in a letter to the superintendent. “Because of the importance of this decision, there should be at least one community meeting, if not more, held in the East End where the superintendent and his staff present the proposed plan, along with its justification and the potential impact on the student, parents and the community.”
The next day, the group got their wish when the Pittsburgh Public School District Board of Directors chose to postpone the vote on the reconfiguration of several East End schools until next month.
Last month the District announced their plans to transform Westinghouse High School into a 6-12 single-gender academy. Under this new proposal Peabody would close and students would be moved to Westinghouse.
“The last five years, what has happened in this city would never have been tolerated under superintendent John Thompson. I am stunned by the silence of this community,” said Mark Brentley, district 8 board member. “I have no problem with single-gendered schools. I think they can work, but I don’t want Mark Roosevelt to do it. I don’t want this administration to do it. Parents you have the power. Please flex your muscles.”
|PARENT INVOLVEMENT—Donna Key is the president of Lincoln’s Parent Teacher Association.
The concerned parties involved in the meeting included representation from the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP, PURE Reform, B-PEP and A+ Schools. Leading them was former District 1 School Board Representative Randall Taylor who had represented the East End for several years.
“We’ve got to be honest about one thing at Westinghouse and that’s that our parents have rejected it. We need to give up Westinghouse because the parents who should have been sending their kids to that school have given it up,” said Taylor. “We have a beautiful building (Reizenstein) right here. They’re already scamming with developers across the street to get rid of it.”
Taylor said he would like to see the district hold onto the Reizenstein building which currently house the Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 school, although as part of the proposal this program would be moved to the Peabody building. He also found fault with 6-12 systems as a whole.
“I think this East End merger of 6-12 is outrageous. It’s unsafe. 6-12 doesn’t exist anywhere else in public education,” Taylor said. “We want K-5s just like they have in the south part of the city.”
|TAKING THE HEAT—School board member Sharene Shealey also attended the meeting.
Out of the close to 40 participants at the meeting Reizenstein, only approximately seven were parents of students who would be affected by the reconfiguration. Most of them were parents of students who would be move from Lincoln Elementary to Westinghouse if it is changed into a 6-12.
“I feel like I’m standing talking and talking and talking,” said Donna Key, a Lincoln and Peabody parent. “I feel like they don’t care. They’ve already made their plans.”
“You’re asking the most vulnerable children in the school district to come together all at once,” said Regina Holley, Lincoln’s former principal. “The parents were never asked would they like this kind of program to go in.”
To date the district has not confirmed whether or not they will host a community meeting regarding the school changes.