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On Halloween, Mark Roosevelt, Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, announced that he's attempting again to close Schenley High School and move its students out of Oakland into existing Middle School buildings in East Liberty and the Hill District
 
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letter to editor, Post-Gazette - 17 November '07

 
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larry meyers



Joined: 12 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2007 12:26 am    Post subject: letter to editor, Post-Gazette - 17 November '07 Reply with quote

Subject: Schenley High - letter to editor
Date: November 17, 2007 12:15:27 AM EST

Regarding your editorial “School Test” (11 November 2007) addressing the issues raised by Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt’s plan to close Schenley High School and create four schools for grades six through twelve:

Mr. Roosevelt should be applauded for his willingness to wrestle with the intractable, long-term problems, both financial and academic, of the district’s schools. At the same time, the Post-Gazette is to be commended for raising critical questions about specific facets of his recent proposal, especially regarding the prudence of assigning and transporting 11 to 18-year-olds to the same building in neighborhoods as disparate as Downtown, the Hill, and East Liberty. If this, indeed, is to be the first step in a citywide plan to create “themed” high schools, then all city residents with school-aged children should be concerned.

However, neither Mr. Roosevelt nor your editors seem to fully appreciate how crucial it is to find a way for the district to keep the Schenley High School building open, as well. As your editorial states, safety is the issue here, too, and the purported expense to restore the structure ($64 million) seems insupportable. Yet, your willingness to call for a wake for this historic and architecturally significant building is alarmingly shortsighted.

On Tuesday, 13 November, members of the Schenley community rallied at the Board of Education to save their school. At the same time, across Forbes Avenue, your paper reported that architect David Lewis was being honored at Carnegie Mellon University for lifelong contributions in urban design. Would that the Board had heard him, as well: “The shape of every city’s future is based on its heritages...the greatest strength of any city is its tradition and its local culture. Tradition is the bridge between the past and the future. Unlike history, tradition is open-ended, forward-looking, and perpetually unfinished. It is the vital language that citizens use when they relate local heritage to what they want their community to become in facing the challenges of change.”

This is the message that those of us in the Schenley community - students, parents, teachers, and alumni - are imploring Mr. Roosevelt and the Board to comprehend. Schenley High School, located at the crossroads of the city’s richest educational and cultural neighborhood, and since 1916, the flagship of the district’s secondary academic mission, must remain open. The genius of its architecture fosters an environment of inquiry, cooperation, and commitment that is best reflected in the passion and enthusiasm of its students. As one Hill parent says, “keeping Schenley open is school reform.”

We know we are facing an enormous “challenge of change,” but we must all be willing to work together creatively to find a way to sustain the heritage of what a current senior so eloquently describes as “the covenant of diversity” that thrives at Schenley High School.

Larry John Meyers
Squirrel Hill
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