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“They probably would have found a way to do it anyway because it was just bad. The Gates folks have been trying to privatize schools across the country for a while,” he said. “I don’t think there is any leeway to repurpose that funding, but I’ve never gotten a straight answer on that. It would be nice.”

But Brentley and the new board didn’t stop there. It also voted to kill a scheduled public hearing on closing the Woolslair Elementary School in Lawrenceville, something the outgoing board also approved in its last meeting. With no public hearing, there can be no closing.

“I think there was a level of spite from the lame-duck board in ramming that stuff through despite calls to wait. So that was one way to look at,” said Brentley. “But by even putting it out there, there’s no guarantee that the 100 kids in Woolslair would end up at Arsenal as they project. There has to be more in our toolbox than closing schools and cutting staff.”

Brentley also floated the idea that the district should acquire new property—specifically the bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture. He sees it as a perfect adjunct to the CAPA middle school and high school.

Asked how the district with a projected $50 million budget deficit by the end of 2015 can afford to spend another $7 million to buy the building out of receivership, Brentley asked how can they not?

“We have suburban kids paying full freight to attend CAPA and we have waiting lists at both the middle and high schools, it is our highest academically performing school—we can’t afford not look at it,” he said. “We could keep the name alive in a perfectly synergistic way.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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