Monday, May 29, 2006

Lebo: "First Friday" Coming This Friday

From the Washington Road merchants' website:

First Fridays
Sponsored by National City Bank & WYEP 91.3 FM

Our National City/First Fridays series kicks off on Friday June 2nd from 6 – 9 p.m. Come hear Mack Martin and the Dixie Travelers and other bluegrass and country groups. Enjoy the restaurants, do some shopping, and visit with your neighbors the first Friday of every month from June to October. Listen for details about National City/First Fridays on WYEP at 91.3 FM. We’re delighted to welcome WYEP.FM as our media sponsor for 2006.
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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Lebo: News Roundup

The Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Food Festival is coming, June 14-17.

More "traffic calming" for Mt. Lebanon is under discussion. (This is unwise, in my view; I'd rather see the MtLPD write more traffic tickets for speeding and other moving violations.)

The PG covers the Zamagias TIF application.

Mt. Lebanon may pass an ordinance that enables vendors on Washington Road to sell food from sidewalk carts. (This would be a good thing, I think.)

School Board president Joe Rodella thinks that the Board handled the "Top 25" list issue appropriately, by staying neutral and out of the way of a police investigation. As reported by the PG, his statement seemed not to recognize that the District brought a lot of criticism and unwanted publicity on itself by referring a student disciplinary matter to the police in the first place. Meanwhile, the Allegheny County District Attorney announced that his office has no plans to pursue the matter. The announcement made the front page of the Post-Gazette, which, curiously, did not report the fact that the sun came up that day -- an event that was as surprising and newsworthy as the DA's statement.
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Lebo: HS Percussion Ensemble and HS Strings

From the Mt. Lebanon HS Fine Arts website:
Congratulations to the High School Concert Percussion Ensemble on an exceptional performance at the National Music Educator Association Conference (MENC) in Salt Lake City April 19 – 22nd. The students demonstrated they are among the top musical ensembles in the country. The invited ensembles submitted audition tapes to their state music educators association (PMEA) who then recommended ensembles to the national selection committee; only one percussion ensemble is selected for this honor. Congratulations to directors Mr. Richard Minnotte, Mr. Thomas Earley, Mr. Subha Das and to all the students who performed.

The High School Chamber String Orchestra, String Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra recently returned from the 2006 Orchestra America National Festival where all three ensembles received accolades from internationally renowned music educators, professional musicians and conductors. They were described as one of the top orchestras in the country. Only a maximum of eight ensembles are chosen by audition for this honor. This year only six ensembles were chosen, and Mt. Lebanon comprised half: the Mt. Lebanon HS Chamber Orchestra; the Mt. Lebanon HS String Orchestra; the Mt. Lebanon HS Symphony Orchestra; Mission Viejo HS Chamber Orchestra from Trabuco, California; Alan C. Pope HS Chamber Orchestra from Marietta, Georgia and Libertyville HS Orchestra from Libertyville, Illinois.

The High School Percussion Ensemble has been selected as one of only three in the country to represent Malletech Instruments as a Malletech Artist Ensemble. Most of these artist slots are reserved for the most elite professional players and teachers; however Mt. Lebanon's ensemble has been recognized as one of a few select high school performing groups in the country to receive this honor. Congratulations!!
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lebo: The Zamagias TIF

At last Monday's meeting, the Mt. Lebanon Commission was set to review whether to participate on a committee to review the TIF proposal for the Zamagias development slated for the Washington Road/Bower Hill Road intersection. I don't know the outcome of the meeting, but Bill Matthews suggested that I post a link to a letter that he sent to the Commission in advance of the meeting, expressing deep skepticism of the economics behind the TIF. Here is Bill's letter. [pdf file]
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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lebo: Public Library Brouhaha

I can't put my hands on a link right away (there are pieces in the most recent Almanac that don't seem to be online yet), but Mt. Lebanon Public Library partisans are up in arms over what they perceive as an attempt by the municipality to "take over" the library.

As I understand the matter, the short version is that the Mt. Lebanon Commission proposes that an employee of the municipality sit on the Library Board. The Library Board perceives this as a conflict of interest, at the least, and as an effort to take over the Library's budget process, and more (I think), at worst.

I'll let those with more and better information share it in the comments.

Where does the Library's budget come from?

UPDATE: Thanks to one of the commenters for this link to The Almanac's coverage.
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Lebo: News Roundup

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Lebo: New Art Gallery on Washington Road

Planet Art Gallery has arrived at 632 Washington Road. The owner is Linda Mitchell.

Planet Art is having a Grand Opening tomorrow (that's Saturday, May 20) from 6-9 p.m. Check it out!
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stevenson Out, Harris In

The results are in from Tuesday's primary and Representative Tom Stevenson will not be the Republican candidate for his office in the November general elections. Mark Harris, a 21 y.o. college student, successfully defeated Rep. Stevenson and will face Matt Smith in the fall.

It looks as though the "middle-of-the-night" pay raise has come back to haunt Tom as well as other candidates around the state. He's one of many incumbents that have lost their offices in the primary election. It's actually refreshing to see people so motivated by an issue that they come out and vote. I just wish that it wouldn't take something like this to get people to come out. Everyone should appreciate and take advantage of the freedom we have to elect our political officials.
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Monday, May 15, 2006

Lebo: More on Zamagias Condos

Late last week, I heard that a TIF application was submitted to Allegheny County in connection with the Zamagias condo project proposed for the corner of Washington Road and Bower Hill Road. Stay tuned for more.

Previous related posts:

Zamagias condo project
More on Zamagias's TIF
TIF Madness
News Roundup
News From All Over
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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Lebo: On a Positive Note

I attended two performances this weekend of the high school musical, Cinderella, and I have to report that I was blown away by the quality of the production. The singing, the dancing, the costumes, sets, and tech work were all first rate. Congratulations to all of the students and teachers and parents who were involved in putting on this show!
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lebo: And About that Board

Set aside, for a moment, what precisely the Mt. Lebanon School District could and should have done in connection with the "top 25" list, assuming that the School District acted swiftly and appropriately.

What does this episode tell us about the School *Board*?

Mt. Lebanon has a long tradition of encouraging its citizens to just trust the Board to do the right thing, which in turn has a long tradition of trusting the District administrators to do the right thing.

A year and a half ago, that legacy of "just trust us" blew up in the face of the District. Then-Superintendent Margery Sable, according to accounts that I heard, insisted on critically reviewing the work of her subordinates, instead of just going along with what she was told. That, among other things, brought her into conflict with the Board, and she walked out of town with a "separation agreement." And four members of the School Board that negotiated that deal, a Board that took the position that the citizens should just trust the Board in the matter of that agreement, either declined to run for reelection, or were defeated at the polls last year.

The four members of the School Board who were elected last Fall heard a clear message from the voters: We want a more active Board, and more transparency in School District decisions. "Just trust us" is a motto that the taxpayers of Mt. Lebanon should have heard for the last time.

So what's happening right now? The Superintendent who succeeded Margery Sable, George Wilson, sent home a "just trust us" letter summarizing the weak discipline handed to two students involved in "the list." Board president Joe Rodella declined to comment, because (I'm paraphrasing) "we trust the Superintendent".

I know that Board members have heard directly from parents whose children are involved in this mess. Aside from early comments by Mark Hart, they haven't been talking much. I hope that Board members start to speak out about what's happening here, and I also hope that the town learns a lesson in what to expect from elected leadership. Trust is *earned* through critical engagement. Managers make mistakes, and when they do, boards need to act, and they need to explain what they're doing and why.
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Lebo: School District Faces Claim

The Mt. Lebanon School District's lukewarm response to the "top 25" list scandal has landed it in serious hot water. According to today's P-G:
A parent of one of the girls on the sexually explicit "Top 25" list at Mt. Lebanon High School has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the district with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, alleging that district administrators did not take swift and appropriate action when they were notified of the list's existence.

This isn't as over the top as it might seem. Imagine the following hypotheticals:
(1) Male coaches of teams at High School X meet over dinner at the home of one coach and write up a lewd list of the "tastiest district secretaries." One of the coaches brings it to the school and passes it around to various male teachers. Inevitably and rightly, someone on the high school staff complains to the Athletic Director. The Athletic Director does nothing for two weeks, telling the complainant privately that there is nothing to be done, since the document wasn't prepared on school grounds, or on school time, or using school facilities. A public uproar eventually ensues. Has the School District violated the law by ignoring this problem? Almost certainly. As a practical matter, is someone in this scenario (say, the Athletic Director) likely to be terminated over this? Yes. As an ethical matter, is that the right result? Yes, again, I think.
(2) Same scenario, but it takes place in a corporate office. Men on the sales staff, after an evening out drinking together, assemble a demeaning list of the "juiciest" secretaries on the staff. The document inevitably gets circulated around the office. The office supervisor does nothing. Does company liability follow? Almost certainly. Terminations? Yes again.

Maybe the Mt. Lebanon School District's handling of the "top 25" list can be distinguished from these hypotheticals. But an investigation -- of the District -- certainly seems warranted.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lebo: Harassment Session Result of Sex List

The post title is the unfortunate headline from today's Post-Gazette, which catalogs the remedial steps that the Mt. Lebanon School District has on the schedule:
--ongoing suspension for one student involved in the list. The boy's lawyer said that it's " "a rather severe punishment. ... We think it's too much." As to his parents, "[t]hey are not happy." I'm hoping that this means that the parents are not happy with the son, rather than not happy with the school district. Somehow, and unfortunately, though, I don't think that's the case.
--an in-service day for teachers at the high school next week, on sexual harassment. I assume that this will take place next Monday, which the students already have off.
--follow-on "group discussions" between students and administrators on the same topic. No word on which students or which administrators.
--athletic coaches will be put through sexual harassment training and then will conduct sessions for their athletes.
--"District officials also plan to review the student handbook and in the future include a more detailed section on sexual harassment, likely referencing the "Top 25" list and other specific examples of sexual harassment. The district also plans to review the sexual harassment curriculum taught in health classes and will review its programs involving sexual harassment at the middle school level . . . ."

Can I continue to be unimpressed by the timidity of the school district's actions? A neighbor of mine suggested something that I thought was interesting, particularly since all high school students are required to do community service: All of the students involved in producing and distributing "the list" should be made to serve some number of hours at a rape crisis counseling center.
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Lebo: School Response Slow

If you're scoring at home, you've noted some similarities between the Mt. Lebanon "top 25" list uproar and the investigation of the Duke lacrosse team.

From today's New York Times: "Report: Duke Response to Rape Charges Slow."

Duke's response to rape allegations involving members of the men's lacrosse team was too slow and relied too heavily on secondhand information, a report commissioned by the university has found.

That included assertions by Durham police that the accuser "kept changing her story and was not credible," the report released Monday said. Relying on such opinion, the report said, was a mistake.

The day after the March 13 team party where a 27-year-old black woman claimed she was raped, Durham police told campus officers that "this will blow over," the report said. . . .

The report -- commissioned by Duke's president and prepared by two former heads of universities -- does not say who at the Durham Police Department cast doubt on the accuser's complaint, but said taking those comments at face value and allowing them to shape Duke's thinking "was a major mistake."
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Friday, May 05, 2006

Lebo: Traffic Way, Way Up!

BlogLebo got more than 1,000 hits today, which is off the charts by usual standards. Just about every visitor came from a search engine and a search for info on the Top 25 list. Is this story getting coverage somewhere other than in the local Pittsburgh media? What's with the sudden jump?
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Lebo: Too Little, Too Late?

It's barely news at this point, but the Mt. Lebanon School District seems to have done the bare minimum in suspending a single student for his role (and I assume that it's a "he") in the affair of The List.

I still hope that no one makes this a court case, but both the tone and the content of the District's message leave a lot to be desired. Not to mention its timing, but the "too little, too late" angle is a bit played out at this point. The District sits on the situation for a month, waiting out a Superintendent's vacation and a police investigation that everyone has to know will go nowhere, and all the Superintendent can write is "No one can begin to understand the hurt, embarrassment and humiliation that these young women have had to endure as a result of the publication and reckless dissemination of this material."

I won't take the time to deconstruct the whole letter, but there's plenty to criticize in this one sentence.

First, the "publication and reckless dissemination of this material" is certainly grotesque, but the source of the harm in the first place is that letter was assembled at all.

Second, "no one can begin to understand"? I thought that the whole point here was that thousands if not millions of women around this country know exactly what kind of pain this -- and worse -- causes every day. The folks who have the power to do so should put a stop to it not because the pain of Mt. Lebanon women is unique, but because their pain is the same. If the angry parents of Mt. Lebanon really want to do something effective here, they shouldn't go to court. They should organize a protest march and encourage the women of Pittsburgh to turn out.

Post-Gazette coverage
Tribune-Review coverage

Mt. Lebanon School District official notice
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lebo: Department of Meaningless Statistics

Newsweek magazine is out with its annual list of the best high schools in America. Mt. Lebanon, which dropped off the list last year, is back on, at #988.

Lebo has learned, however, not to pay much attention to "best of" lists.
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Lebo: New Restaurant -- Iovino's Cafe

Have you been to Iovino's Cafe, which opened recently on Beverly Road? Post a review in the Comments.
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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Lebo: The Top 25 Goes National

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