Alumni rally to ‘Save Westinghouse’

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To date there are 229 boys and 231 girls enrolled for the Fall 2011 school year at Westinghouse High School, where the students will be split into two single-gender academies. However, although the school’s transformation was voted on and approved last year, there are still many concerned citizens working to put a stop to the district’s plans.

On April 16, the Westinghouse Alumni Association held the Save Westinghouse rally and cabaret at the Homewood Coliseum. Approximately 1400 people attended to raise money for this year’s graduating class and to raise awareness about the changes that could affect next year.

Bulldoggs
BULLDOGS FOR LIFE—From left: Lawanda Long, Richard Lipscomb, Michelle Baldridge, Reggie Bridges, Rhonda Sears and Dorien Russell are members of the Westinghouse Alumni Association. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“The purpose of the event was to get some awareness for the East End Plan and the upcoming merger between Westinghouse and Peabody. We’re basically trying to save our school. When we heard many students were having trouble paying to go to their proms we decided to combine the rally with a cabaret to raise money,” said WAA President Reggie Bridges. “We don’t necessarily disagree with the single gender issue, but we disagree with the process. We know there’s some redeeming value in putting kids in single gender (schools). We wanted to bring the community together to rally around it and to talk about our legacy. We’re trying to do all these things to introduce to the kids the rich history of Westinghouse.”

Even before the rally was held, the district had begun to rethink their plans for Westinghouse. On April 13 at the Board Agenda Review Meeting, Superintendent Linda Lane presented a proposal to make single-gender learning a magnet option.

“We had families of over 400 students tell us they wanted a single-gender option for their children. By creating a magnet program at the Westinghouse facility we can honor the choice of these families, while ensuring we are able to provide strong, robust feeder school options for East End families,” Lane said. “We are committed to continuing the plans we have started that will transform the program at Westinghouse to one where students will grow, both academically and personally.”

However, Bridges and other concerned citizens are not satisfied. Bridges said the decision came as a result of possible overcrowding at Milliones University Preparatory School, which will be taking in students from Peabody when the building is given to Obama 6-12.

“A great deal of the students were opting to go to UPrep instead of Westinghouse and they were exceeding their limit. Last week Dr. Lane presented a proposal that changes things, it won’t be a single gender. We will have some single gender classes,” Bridges said. “We’re going to be presenting them with petitions to show how many people are against this East End plan.”

Bridges’ sentiments mirrored Lane’s own in a statement released after the board meeting where she presented her proposal. Lane said her plan to reinstate Westinghouse as a feeder-pattern school would alleviate possible overcrowding.

“We need to adjust our current plan so we do not run the risk of disrupting our growing program at Pittsburgh Milliones,” Lane said. “We also need to ensure we open our new school at a level that enables us to create an enriching program at the Westinghouse facility that provides the students who live in Homewood the same resources and benefits found in our larger comprehensive high schools.”

Still, Bridges believes the merger should be studied more closely for reasons beyond its single-gender model. He also said other plans for unique schools such as CAPA High School, took more than two years to consider.

“The plan they’re proposing for our school has some safety issues. There’s a safety issue because of neighborhood rivalries. We feel the students at Peabody should have the ability to finish out at Peabody. We believe it can work, but we believe you don’t just rush into it.”

Bridges also questions other reorganization decisions made by the district. He is especially critical of the district’s decision to move students from the East Hills out of Allderdice High School and into Westinghouse.

“We feel they’re segregating the schools. They decided to take the Black students from the East Hills area, going to Allderdice, they want to put all those students in Westinghouse,” Bridges said. “The Black kids in Allderdice whose scores are probably lower, instead of teaching them, they’d rather put them in Westinghouse.”

The district will hold a public hearing on April 25. The school board is expected to vote on the plan on April 27.

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