City school board discusses high school reorganization

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The current model of secondary education in Pittsburgh is not working -- and hasn't for many years -- administrators told the city school board on Monday.

That reality, they said, along with the federal government's move to peg education funding to school improvement and reform efforts, was a key factor in the district's decision to restructure some East End schools.

"The traditional model of 10 comprehensive high schools just does not meet the educational needs of our district," Derrick Lopez, assistant superintendent of secondary schools, told the board's education committee.

In presenting the district's Excel.9-12 plan, Mr. Lopez said the proposal reflects some of the changes and innovations of the next era of public education

The plan, which may face a board vote on July 21, proposes the closure of Pittsburgh Peabody High School, relocation of the International Baccalaureate program to the Peabody building and creation of two single-gender academies at Pittsburgh Westinghouse High School.

Under the plan, Peabody students will be sent to either Westinghouse in Homewood or Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, the University Preparatory school in the Hill District, starting in fall 2011.

Pittsburgh Faison K-8 and Lincoln K-8 would also be reconfigured to a K-5 grade organization. Also in the plan would be the creation of what will be known as the Gateway Center to the Promise, serving all students in the North Side.

The center would be a partnership between Pittsburgh Oliver High School and the Community College of Allegheny County, creating four academies offering various career and technical education choices.

The proposal met with a series of questions from board members who questioned the legality of some parts of it, challenged its narrow scope of some East End schools and wondered about its expansion of a 6-12 grade school organization model.

Board member Thomas Sumpter worried that the plan limits the distribution of current Peabody students only to Westinghouse and Milliones.

How about allowing the Peabody students the option of attending Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, Mr. Sumpter asked.

Seated in Squirrel Hill, Allderdice is an East End school, but it was untouched by the realignment plan.

"It's almost like we're creating a sub-region within a region," Mr. Sumpter said.

Sherry Hazuda echoed Mr. Sumpter's sentiments as she proposed that the board consider extending open enrollment to all schools, which would allow students from any part of the city to attend any school in the city, if they meet the admission requirements.

William Isler wondered how much the plan will cost to implement, but Mr. Lopez said that is yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, Mark Brentley, a constant school administration critic described the plan as another "large initiative" designed to lump together students in underperforming schools.

Mr. Brentley's assertion, however, was countered by Sharene Shealey.

"As someone who ran to join this board on a platform of improving education in Homewood, I am very encouraged and happy that this is the plan you have put forward," Ms. Shealey said.


Karamagi Rujumba:krujumba@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1719.


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