Study of North Allegheny's Peebles Elementary scrutinized
North Allegheny School District residents opposed to closing Peebles Elementary School are questioning why an engineer conducted a recent study of the school for free.
Alan Lilienthal, a Peebles parent, wondered whether it is appropriate for the district to have accepted a free study.
“I also wonder why anyone would work for free, unless there was something to gain down the road,” said Lilienthal, of McCandless.
But Jon Thomas, of Thomas & Williamson Program Management of Ross, said the district asked him to do a demographic and feasibility study.
“They came to me and said, ‘Can you help out?' I said, ‘I'd be honored to help out,' ” said Thomas.
Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, said such practices are not uncommon.
“Sometimes, there are consultants who donate their time. On its face, I do not see that as a problem. They are thinking of closing a school, not building one,” Himes said.
Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri supports Thomas' recommendation to close Peebles, which the school board is considering.
He said closing Peebles would save the district $850,000. He has warned that the district faces a $10 million deficit for the 2013-14 school year.
An earlier study by Architectural Innovation of Ross recommended closing Bradford Woods Elementary School, which it said needs $14 million in repairs.
Yet Thomas said that amount reflects doing a complete overhaul of the school, which he said is not necessary.
“I don't think they need to tear the whole school apart,” he said.
Thomas hired a demographer who said Marshall and Franklin Park are the areas of the district with potential for growth — not McCandless, which is home to Peebles.
Thomas has managed school projects before, including for North Allegheny.
James Construction Co. sued Thomas & Williamson and the school district over renovation work at North Allegheny in the late 1990s. James won damages of $524,087 from the district in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.
Lilienthal was among about 100 speakers who talked at a Jan. 30 public hearing on closing Peebles. The meeting ended at 2:21 a.m., and everyone who spoke opposed closing Peebles.
Since the meeting, some parents have started to lobby state Rep. Mike Turzai, a Bradford Woods Republican and parent of a student at Bradford Woods Elementary School, to speak in favor of keeping Peebles open.
“We believe that Rep. Turzai has put pressure on some of the board members to keep Bradford Woods open,” said Doug Karlovits, another Peebles parent.
Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for Turzai, said the notion is false.
“Rep. Turzai did not do anything like what this group is claiming. Closing a school is a totally local decision,” Miskin said.
The school board could vote as early as April 30 on whether to close the school.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Watershed group coordinating efforts to meet Saw Mill Run deadline
- Upper St. Clair baseball field to be repaired after mine subsidence
- Flag-collection effort gains steam around Pittsburgh area
- Borough takes the reins of Dormont Day
- Groveton VFD receives outpouring of support after station fire
- Young achiever: Amelia Porter Bacon
- Bellevue to repair library, add play equipment to park