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North Allegheny School Board Members Continue to Challenge Colleagues over Peebles Proposed Closing

Board member Ralph Pagone insists parents should have "a seat at the table" to help decide whether to close Peebles Elementary

The North Allegheny School Board will go ahead with a public hearing next week on the proposed closing of Peebles Elementary School despite the efforts of two board members to postpone it indefinitely.

At the board's meeting Wednesday night, board member Ralph J. Pagone proposed postponing the hearing, saying he believes that parents and taxpayers should have more of a say in the matter. Pagone also said he believes the administration may be relying on incorrect enrollment projections as it considers closing the school. 

Another opponent of the closing, Christopher M. Jacobs, seconded Pagone’s motion. The board voted 7-2 against the motion, but not before a somewhat heated exchange between Pagone and fellow board member Beth A. Ludwig. (see video)

After the meeting, Pagone said he wasn't surprised by the outcome of the vote.

"I'm not comfortable with the process where we are right now that we are in a position to have a hearing next week," he said. "I think the process should be longer."

"We should engage the community. You know, this is a public school, paid for by taxpayers' dollars. We are stewards of their money, and it just baffles me that we don't give them a seat at the table with us to help us solve this problem together," he added.

"It is a community problem, it's not a Peebles problem. The decision impacts all six of our remaining elementary schools, should a vote come down to indeed close Peebles."

The community group, Save NA schools, has asked repeatedly for the formation of a community task force that would be involved in any school-closing decision. That request that was made again Wednesday night by Michael Munson, a North Allegheny parent.

"I don't believe there's been a formal acknowledgment, really any comment to that," he said. "I think that's something the district and the parents and the taxpayers deserve. Doing nothing is worse than saying no."

The board did not respond to Munson's comments.

After Wednesday's public hearing, state law requires the school board to wait three months before taking a vote on whether or not to close Peebles Elementary.

Both the district and Save NA schools have used their respective websites to present arguments for and against closing Peebles.

Click here for frequently asked questions  and answers from the North Allegheny School District.

Click for Save NA schools' explanation as to why the school should not be closed.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30 in the Carson Middle School Auditorium.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the public hearing began at 7:30 p.m.

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Jo Paytas January 25, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Public meeting begins at 7:00 PM - not 7:30 PM as posted in article. I would like to take a moment to thank Mr. Pagone and Mr. Jacobs for standing up for our children and being stewards for NA schools and taxpayers. This closing has been rushed through, the logic behind it has many holes and innacuracies. The community should be a part of the decision and the request is continuely is ignored. Whether Ms Ludwig likes it or not, I for one am glad that Mr Pagone continually asks questions, without them we the parents would never know what is really going on behind the scenes since we are shut out of the process.
Richard Cook January 25, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Jo, thanks for pointing out my mistake about the time of the hearing. It has been corrected.
Kevin Mahler January 25, 2013 at 01:50 PM
Kudos to Mr. Pagone and Mr. Jacobs for advocating a more measured and transparent process. Asking questions is an essential part of the decision-making process - and it helps the community to have those questions asked in a public forum, rather than in some behind-the-scenes meeting. I understand that this is a difficult situation, with many different stakeholders who have many different goals. However, at a previous Board meeting, Ms. Ludwig was lamenting the district's budget situation and citing efforts that have been made to close the gap, then said (as best I can recall), "What more can we do?" To me, that's the crux of the problem. The Board and Administration either need to come up with a comprehensive solution on their own, or they need to get help to answer that question. Right now, they are doing neither, because closing Peebles will not fix the deficit problem, yet they also will not consider more community involvement. With that fact in mind, this process looks increasingly like political theater - an act that has the potential to cause real harm to children, families, neighborhoods, and property values - rather than an honest attempt to do the best thing for North Allegheny and all those stakeholders. I hope for better from a district with so many resources at its disposal.
Laurel Schreiber January 26, 2013 at 02:34 PM
NA Patch: Thank you for keeping the community informed!
Hugh Jassole February 25, 2013 at 04:06 PM
NA Patch: Thank you for keeping the community informed because we're too busy to care/notice unless it directly impacts us!

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