Since the Pittsburgh Public School District first announced their proposal to shut down Oliver High School, in conjunction with a larger plan to close seven school buildings, members of the North Side community have been speaking out in opposition. At one of several community meetings hosted by the district, several citizens opposed to moving Oliver students to Perry High School, advocated instead closing Perry and moving its students to Oliver.
While the argument might just sound like two rival schools battling to preserve their legacy, each school has its merits. Moving forward, the district has announced they will consider community feedback to possibly revise their plan and instead close down Perry.
|BEARS VS COMMODORES—From left: Shannon Williams, Martyia McCray and Elliot Alexander discuss looming changes for their alma martyrs. (Photo by Ashley G. Woodson)
At a meeting Oct. 14, community residents gathered to discuss the possible closing of one of their beloved schools. Unlike other meetings that bring concerned parents out to rail against the PPS, the meeting at the Crazy Mocha coffee shop on the North Side saw recent alumni of both schools discussing how to repair the city’s broken education system.
“They’re saying shutting down these schools is inevitable so what kind of programming are they going to have at this school. I see if more of as, if a school’s closing, it’s going to affect our entire community,” said Shannon Williams, 22, who organized the meeting. “For one thing, I went to Oliver, I graduated from Oliver, but I do think the magnet programs at Oliver would be more beneficial for the community. When you go to Oliver, you see a different side of the school. When I was there we had one of the best ROTC and law programs in the country.”
Leading the discussion throughout the day, where about 25 people cycled through the coffee shop, were Williams and friend Martyia McCray, 23, another Oliver graduate. While they advocated for keeping their alma martyr open they also called for increased outreach by the district and involvement from the community.
“They definitely need to advertise what’s going on a lot more,” said McCray. “I’m tired of people complaining and not doing anything. Anything we can do to better the education of our kids is important. I want to see our kids get a better education and that’s not going to happen if they keep closing schools.”
Alongside fellow North Sider and Perry graduate Elliot Alexander, 25, the young adults detailed the Oliver, Perry rivalry, which they said has existed as long as they can remember. However, they admitted rivalries on the North Side exist between rival groups living on different streets and said many people who attend the two high schools don’t get involved in the rivalries.
“We all know how the North Side is so if they merge the schools, we all know what’s going to happen. They haven’t said anything about security,” Williams said. “Perry and Oliver aren’t that different. If we know each other and I see you outside of school its fine, but there’s always been a rivalry. It’s tradition. The North Side itself is divided. If you’re rivals, the first mentality is ‘get out of my school.’ These kids are trying to find some kind of identity so they identify with anything.”
This week Williams and McCray are planning to visit Oliver to raise awareness about the issue, but also to see how they can volunteer to work with students in the school. Alexander said he too would continue to advocate for the North Side community and improving education for its students.
“I’ve lived here all of my life so it made sense to me to get involved in the community. It’s just the issue of closing schools to me. It’s a personal thing for me, particularly for this end of the city. It’s about time for our younger generation to start speaking up,” Alexander said. “Even though I did go to Perry, I do think it would be more beneficial for the schools to merge into Oliver, but I was never really into the Perry versus Oliver rivalry.”