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Legislative Meeting (1/23/2013)

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A. Preliminary Information

         Video of Legislative Meeting

Board Members Present: Brentley, Colaizzi, Fink, Hazuda, Holley, Isler, McCrea, Shealey, and Sumpter

         Board Members Absent: none

         Meeting Time: 7pm-9:30pm

         7 Volunteer Contributors

 B.  Summary of Meeting

Dr. Lane recognized the 9 board members and their dedication to the Pittsburgh Public Schools as part of “School Director Recognition Month”

 The following items from the agenda review were further discussed at the legislative meeting:

Committee on Education

Item #15 (Propel Charter School)

  • Brentley noted the Board’s past actions in closing Burgwin school in Hazelwood, thinks Burgwin should be restored and questioned whether the board is allowing all students access to good education in Hazelwood.
  • Holley also supports Brentley in restoring Burgwin. Her biggest concern is that the charter school does not meet 2 important criteria for approving a charter school (that it is innovative and a model for PPS). She is also concerned that the children of Hazelwood might not necessarily benefiting from the charter school (children from outside the neighborhood and other districts could attend it as well).
  • Sumpter noted a school in Hazelwood might offset current transportation costs.
  • Hazuda said that the board has relied heavily on the review board that recommended the passing of this charter school in the past.
  • Fink spoke out against charter schools, saying she would feel uncomfortable sending a child to a charter school.
  • Brentley remarked they did not have a quote on how much opening this charter school would cost the district. (Mr. Weis explained that as part of Charter School Law, cost is not to be considered as part of the approval process) Brentley expressed that he was upset by this news.

 **All items in this report other than item #15 (Propel-Hazelwood Charter School) were approved.

 The breakdown of votes for item #15, which was not approved, are as follows:

4 no votes-Brentely, Fink, Holley, Sumpter

1 abstained-McCrea

3 yes votes-Hazuda, Isler, Shealey

 Committee on Business and Committee on Finance

 **The whole report was approved.

All board members voted yes for everything, other than McCrea who voted no on item #15 (Acceptance of Audit Report)

Personal Report

General Comments:

  • Colaizzi, Hazuda, Brentely, and McCrea thanked retirees.
  • Brentley asked for an updated status of those teachers who were furloughed but brought back as positions opened for them.
  • Holley asked if there was a possibility for distance learning in content areas that do not currently have teachers.

 **The board unanimously approved the personnel report.

Budget Matters

 **The board unanimously approved budget matters.

 New Business

Holley read a new business item that stemmed from a petition with more than 1,000 signatures that Schenley school be used as a future facility now that new information about asbestos levels has been obtained which they did not have when the school was closed. Would like to have an estimate on the cost to renovate Schenely high school, including construction and removal of Plaster with minimal reconfiguration to the school.

  • Brentely supported this item, advocating that the board needs accurate numbers and that a bad decision was made to close the school based on bad information
  • Colaizzi argued that while asbestos is the word associated with the closing of Schenley, there were many other issues; the number one issue being the poor ventilation system.
  • Dr. Lane explained they have binders of information on Schenely and that with renovation, the district would have to borrow money and pay back more
  • Holley upset that the district has spent millions of dollars on Reizenstein and Frick, both of which were closed, but won’t spend money on Schenely. Why were we not able to fix the mechanical problems at Schenely?
  • Isler understanding of Holley’s anger, he was stunned Schenely was not upgraded. However, he is concerned with borrowing money, stating that we do not have the tax base to support what it costs to rebuild this school. The building would take a lot of money that would not be going to the children
  • Sumpter was amazed by the dialogue occurring and that the board was debating on whether or not to receive information. Stated that the board needs intelligent information to move forward

 **This item was approved (6-3 vote). The votes were broken down as follows:

 Yes votes-Hazuda, Brentely, Isler, Holley, Sumpter, Shealey

 No votes-Colaizzi, Fink, McCrea

C. Reflecting on Meeting

 Good Governance Practices:

Focus on Mission- (Equity) Holley noted that simply opening a charter school in Hazelwood does not necessarily benefit the children of Hazelwood, as children from outside the district can attend a charter school.

Transparency- (Public Input) In regards to Schenley, Holley stated that citizens asked her to charge into the meeting and advocate for them-“we can’t simply close a school and ask parents to just go with it.”

Conduct- (Respect) Shealey was respectful of everyone’s differing opinions as chair of this meeting.

Competency- Isler had read through the reports on the closing of Schenley high school at length prior to the meeting.

Role Clarity- (overall Budget Matters) Isler concerned with borrowing money to rebuild Schenley when we do not have the tax base to support it.

 Board’s actions supporting equity and great teaching:

The board spent the majority of the meeting discussing the possible opening of Propel-Hazelwood Charter School and receiving more information on the closing of Schenley High School and the possibility of it being renovated for future use.  When discussing topics of opening and closing schools, the board kept the students and parents at the forefront: what was fair for them? Who would benefit? Would all children in the area benefit? Etc.

Andi Thieman

Andi is a Board Watch observer and author of our blog on board meetings. We thank her for her help.