Alarm over no textbooks at Perry High School

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When Thaddeus Morris entered Pittsburgh Perry High School last year as a junior, he learned things were a little different than they were in Jacksonville, Fla., where he’d been the year before. Most noticeably–there were no textbooks, of any kind, for any class.

Now, six months into his senior year, things are different. He has one, and he only has that because his father, Gregory Morris, went to the school board two months ago and told the board and Superintendent Linda Lane that none of the 900 students had textbooks.

“I just got my Physics book about a week ago,” Morris said. “I don’t have any books for my other classes, and it’s been like this for two years. It may have held me back some because with the books I could go at a faster pace and get ahead. Without them, I can’t”

Gregory Morris said he hesitates to think what would have happened if his son had attended Perry since 9th grade. He is especially concerned because higher achieving Pittsburgh Public Schools like CAPA, Allderdice and Obama all have textbooks.

“This is 900 students we’re talking about, and there are no textbooks. If the curriculum were online I probably wouldn’t complain but it isn’t at Perry,” he said. “Then again, 80-90 percent of the students there can’t afford the Internet, so they couldn’t use it anyway.  They’re going backward. It doesn’t sit well with me.”

It apparently didn’t sit well with the superintendent either. After Morris’ appearance at the school board and a subsequent rally he held, Lane got on the intercom system at Perry, apologized and said the situation would be fixed.

And the administration thought it had been, until the New Pittsburgh Courier called.

Chief Academic Officer Jerri Lynn Lippert said she had just recently spoken to interim Perry Principal Jeffrey Spadafore, who said all books had been distributed. She said that, for whatever reason, the school was sitting on its supply of text, and only distributing enough for classroom use. It distributed no student copies.

“Whenever a new course is approved, the central office buys enough text for each student in that school. The site-based budget allocates $100 per student for academic support,” said Lippert. “Perry hadn’t used any of its allocation to replace any books. We just spent $20,000 to get as many of the missing texts as possible. Perry paid half.”

Their per student allocation, she said, could be spent on any number of things other than replacing lost or damaged books, SAT fees, or advanced placement testing.

“They’re clearly spending it on something,” she said. “But we were told all the books had now been distributed.”

That was news to Morris, who is still waiting for the rest of his books. His cousin, a sophomore at Perry still has received no textbooks.

Lippert said she would immediately contact Spadafore again, and would have him contact the Courier right away. He did not do so by Courier deadline.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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