Changes OK'd for city high schools
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The Pittsburgh school board on Wednesday approved a plan to close Pittsburgh Peabody High School, create two single-gender academies at Pittsburgh Westinghouse and a teacher training academy in an effort to improve the city's persistently low-performing high schools.
The plan, known as Excel. 9-12, to be implemented starting in fall 2011, also calls for relocating the International Baccalaureate program at Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 from Shadyside to the Peabody building in East Liberty.
The move will happen in the 2012-13 school year after the closure of Pittsburgh Schenley High School currently housed in the Reizenstein Building together with Pittsburgh Obama.
As a result, Peabody students will have a choice of attending either the single-gender academies at Westinghouse in Homewood or Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, the University Preparatory school in the Hill District.
Under the new feeder pattern, Milliones will be the neighborhood high school for all students who live west of Negley Avenue, and Westinghouse will be the designated school for those who live east of Negley. However, students who live east of Negley and prefer not to attend a single-gender school will have the option of attending Milliones.
Peabody will continue to house the robotics program as a career and technical education offering, and the health careers and culinary arts academies will be at Westinghouse.
A teacher training academy -- where new teachers will undergo 13 months of instruction before being placed into the city schools-- will be housed at Pittsburgh Brashear High School and Pittsburgh King PreK-8.
The 13-month residency program was negotiated as part of the new five-year contract the district recently reached with the teachers union, and all new teachers' compensation will be tied directly to how well they perform in the classroom.
The teacher academy is a key component of the Empowering Effective Teachers Plan, part of the $40 million grant the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the district last year.
It will complement the new model of teacher evaluation known as the Research-Based Inclusive System of Evaluation, or RISE-- scheduled to roll out district-wide this fall.
All of this will cost about $26 million over the next four years with much of the money going to operational costs at the six schools mostly affected by the changes.
The plan was approved in an 8-0 vote. Board member Mark Brentley Sr. abstained.
Describing most of the plan as yet another "experimental program" that will adversely affect poor African Americans for the most part, Mr. Brentley accused school administrators of reorganizing schools only because they have failed to implement programs that could improve the schools as they are.
But Mr. Brentley's assertions were countered by his colleagues, who commended the district administration for crafting the plan.
Describing the plan as a "bold, radical and innovative plan," board member Dara Ware Allen, said it represents a significant reinvestment of resources into city schools.
"We have been doing the same thing for a long time and it has not been working," said board member Sharene Shealey, who represents Homewood, focal point of many changes.
As part of the plan, Westinghouse, which underwent a $25 million renovation in 2001, will be expanded into a sixth- through 12th-grade building and restructured to house the two academies, with a total capacity of about 1,100 students.
The sixth- through eighth-graders at Pittsburgh Faison K-8 and Lincoln K-8 will be reassigned to the Westinghouse single-gender academies. Both elementary schools, which have separate primary and intermediate buildings, will convert to K-5 configurations.
The Homewood Early Childhood Center on Hamilton Avenue will then move into the former Faison intermediate campus, known as the Crescent building, on Bennett Street. The Lincoln intermediate campus, known as the Belmar building, will remain empty, as will the site of the Homewood early childhood center.
Meanwhile, a partnership between Pittsburgh Oliver High School and the Community College of Allegheny County will create four academies offering various career and technical education choices.
The partnership will create what will be known as the Gateway Center to the Promise, serving all students in the North Side feeder pattern. But students throughout the district will also have access to the program offerings during the school day, evening hours, weekends and during the summer.
As part of the restructuring, Oliver will have an extended school day and year to enable students to complete high school within three years and enter CCAC in their fourth year
The board approved an evaluation of Superintendent Mark Roosevelt's performance and increased his salary by $15,000 to $240,000 a year, effective Aug. 29.
The vote was 8-1. Mr. Brentley was the lone dissenter.
First Published August 26, 2010 12:00 am