Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guest Post: David Franklin on Talks of Censure

David Franklin, a frequent commenter on Blog-Lebo, sent us his thoughts on the rumors about censuring Mr. Fraasch for having shared his report with the community. Joe and I thought Mr. Franklin’s words deserved a spot on the front page. What follows, then, is Mr. Franklin’s essay. —Tom

I’ve heard that there have been letters submitted to the Board asking that Mr. Fraasch be removed from his Board seat or at least censured for circulating his thoughts about the high school project. Good grief, you’d think that he was arguing for something far worse than simply tighter controls on our school district’s wallet. Lest anyone contend that I am playing favorites here, I know Mr. Fraasch (I met him for the first time last month) but we’ve only talked in person once. We have exchanged emails (generally when he responds to mine to the School Board at large). I don’t agree with Mr. Fraasch on every issue, and I would concur that his comments to certain media outlets were perhaps poorly chosen and not well-suited to advance his ultimate position. I do, however, admire his courage for supporting what many believe to be an unpopular opinion. That’s a tough thing to do here in Camelot. So, please understand that I am not writing this post as his friend or even as an advocate for his position on the high school project.

Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, let’s look at what he’s really done and said. For all intents and purposes, all that Mr. Fraasch has done to earn the ire of so many is take the finance director’s 4-year budget projections and some other readily available publicly-generated data and distribute it among the community with a message that essentially says, “Hey, take a look at these projections and figures. Some are pretty scary when read in the context of the decision to build a new high school.” I repeat, these statistics were NOT generated by Mr. Fraasch. He did not concoct these figures in an attempt to defraud or deceive. Similarly, Mr. Fraasch has NOT said that the project should stop, nor has he advocated that the high school project is a waste at any price. In fact, Mr. Fraasch HAS gone on record as stating that he would firmly support a project in the $75 million price range. Interestingly, Mr. Fraasch’s “commitment” came shortly after others on the Board also advocated for spending considerably less than $113 million. Some of his colleagues even advocated for a project cost CLOSER to Mr. Fraasch’s number than the number they ultimately approved as the maximum spend. From where I sit, Mr. Fraasch may not be on the same page as his colleagues on the Board, but he’s at least in the same chapter.

So if it wasn’t the substance of his message that was “wrong”, let’s consider the means by which he delivered it. Many residents received his “white paper” via email. Others may have read it on his blog. And still others heard or saw his comments on KDKA radio and TV. I would be concerned if Mr. Fraasch had elected to remain quiet in all prior Board meetings and then resorted to this sort of “off the record activity”; but clearly this isn’t the case. Mr. Fraasch is on record, perhaps more so than any other Board member, with regard to his thoughts and opinions on this project. Further, unsolicited emails from board members are nothing new. I’ve received them from other Board members and even the spouses and parents of elected officials. Similarly, at least one other Board member and two Commissioners currently host personal blogs on which they post updates, position statements, etc. (Ironically, I previously argued on this site that allowing our elected officials to blog on the side is a potentially dangerous and slippery slope. At that time, I was told I was nuts and that the benefits of communication far outweigh any risk of miscommunication. Hmmm). And just yesterday, Mr. Kubit used the District’s own website to post some persuasive information to support the position of the Board majority. So again, it would appear that Mr. Fraasch’s methods are not unique and, in fact, they are utilized by others in Mt. Lebanon who hold elected office.

Lastly, while Mr. Fraasch’s opinions are certainly contrary to the majority of the Board, I’m not convinced that they aren’t shared by a majority of the residents in our community. School Board members don’t take an oath to represent the School Board. They take an oath to represent the residents of Mt. Lebanon. I think we would all agree that a referendum on a $113 million price tag for the high school would fail miserably. So, in reality, aren’t his concerns and opinions more in line with those of his constituents or at least a large percentage of them? And for that he should be censured?

I’m left to conclude that those who would censure or seek the removal of Mr. Fraasch are doing so simply because they disagree with him. I can think of no other reason. Many of you will remember that following Dr. Sable’s termination there was a cry for increased transparency on the Board. “No more hiding the ball,” we cried. “We’re entitled to know,” we shouted. The School Board campaigns that followed even focused on renewed openness and an increase in candid communication with the taxpayers. After all, this is the Great State of Mt. Lebanon! For heaven’s sake, we’re certainly educated and intelligent enough to hear the good AND the bad and decide for ourselves, right?

The irony of the current situation is not lost on me... how about you? I could go on and on regarding the representative form of government, free speech, the emperor wearing no clothes, totalitarianism and a bunch of other obvious things, but instead I’ll close by encouraging those Board members who have received such requests to do the right thing. Regardless of whether you agree with Mr. Fraasch or not, please respond to those residents and explain to them that here in Mt. Lebanon we ARE prepared to accept the good with the bad. Please let them know that you appreciate that others in the community (including other elected officials) may disagree with you, but we don’t need to bury their opinions, silence their voices, or run them out of office... or out of town. After all, the next elected official advocating an unpopular or difficult position might just be you.

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Blogger JE Cannon said...

HAHAHAHA....wow. This just gets better and better.

The other day I referenced the school board operating like the Politburo. I was being snide but I now see I'm more prescient than I thought.

So, let me see if I understand this: if people voluntarily serving the community actually share information with that community, they are to be punished? That would lead one to conclude anyone in any elected position should not share information with those who voted for them. Do I have that right? It would seem some in our community need a civics class. That kind of attitude has no place in our nation.

But hey, if it happens, think of all the additional publicity it will generate for Lebo! We're building up quite a clip collection thanks to our school board.

January 26, 2010 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and I may not agree on everything. Thats fine, we can work that out, we are first and foremost neighbors in the same community.
But on the main point of this Guest Post you nailed it pretty darn well.
Dean Spahr

January 26, 2010 4:30 PM  
Blogger joemanich said...

Thanks for the post. I admit that I have not been doing my duty following the comings and goings of our local Mt Lebo government, so I'm coming late to this. I'm appalled that we have a majority in this board that is not even interested in taking a time out to consider the present economic conditions to figure out if given the pension fund situation is it really prudent to dive into such a project. Shame on me for not paying attention, shame on the board majority for not considering what this monstrous tax hike will do to the good citizens of Mt Lebanon.

January 26, 2010 6:28 PM  
Blogger Patti Kerber said...

My 2 children graduated from Mt. Lebanon, one in 2000 and one in 2006. During both of their high school years, I heard repeated discussions about the need for renovation or replacement of the high school. Both my children experienced the malfunctioning of the building and the effects it had on their education. I faithfully attended PTSA and other meetings during my time as a high school parent with many discussions about what was needed and wanted in the high school. We have talked and talked for 10+ years while the high school deteriorated. It is time to make a decision and get on with the work. I trust the school board to do what is right and am willing to pay higher taxes to accomplish that even though I have no children in the school system

January 26, 2010 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Bill Lewis said...

Thank you very much for this Guest Post, David.

And, lest we forget, a somewhat similar attempt to *gag* and punish those who spoke out on SB issues occured just a few years ago. Let us not forget a community wide post card mailing by the Save Mount Lebanon Schools Committee asking voters not to reelect then candidates Rose, Walton & Garson.

This resulted in Sue Rose & members of her campaign committee in suing the Schools Committee leaders. The case was eventually dismissed by Judge James. One of the primary stated reasons for the opposition to the candidates on a post card was " Now they want to build a new High School that cost over 100 million dollars with your money ". Carol Walton was not reelected, but she was appointed and remains a member of the Master Design Committee for the HS. And, some members of the SB and their followers wanted to censure Mark Hart because they thought he had aided & abetted the Schools Committee !

Some things just never change do they.

January 26, 2010 10:27 PM  
Blogger JE Cannon said...

I had a child graduate in 2009 and the condition of the school had no bearing whatsoever on his education. The entire argument is completely subjective.

I also have yet to see ANY study that produces a direct correlation between the building and the educational result.

As for trusting the board, I suppose that's an individual decision. Based on how this entire process had unfolded, I don't see any reason to trust the board as an entity. And I am not willing to pay more in taxes. I agree renovations need to be made. But they should be done in a manner that is fiscally prudent and sensible. I have yet to see that type of thinking delivered by the school board.

January 26, 2010 10:33 PM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

Unfortunately the persons who want to censure Director Fraasch are members of the same PTA leadership group that slimmed Dr. Sable. Sue Rose voted to separate Dr. Sable, perhaps she can tell you who those PTA leaders are.

January 26, 2010 11:03 PM  
Anonymous David Huston said...

Director Josephine Posti posted this on her Center Court blog:
"The District recently prepared a document that will be mailed to households and is available online"

Why are my tax dollars being used to pay postage for one director's personal opinion?

Mr. Kubit is now spending School District money to further his own agenda, in clear violation of Policy BBAA:

"The Board will not be bound in any way by
any statement or action on the part of any individual Board member except when such statement
or action is in pursuance of special instructions (authorization) by the Board."
"This does
not preclude a Board member from voicing a minority viewpoint, but such should be indicated as
personal, not Board, opinion."

I'm all for free speech, but don't ask me to pay to distribute another person's personal agenda.

January 27, 2010 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Kim Ressler said...

I understand your point, Dave, and I do not object to Mr. Fraasch's right to publicize his opinion. His elected position does not require him or any other member to stay silent in or out of board meetings. I do have a problem with some of his numbers. Just one example is his statement that Bethel Park's high school is planned at a cost of $88 million including soft costs, disputed on their website: "At a Special Meeting held on Monday, January 5, 2009 the Bethel Park Board of School Directors set a 'maximum project cost' of $98,800,000 and a 'maximum building construction cost' of $81,440,423." That max cost includes soft costs. In 2009, BP borrowed $94,290,000. As is expected of all board members, Mr. Kubit included, Mr. Fraasch should be very careful about the numbers and facts he uses. They are elected representatives of the community and should be held to a high standard. Mr. Fraasch ran on the platform that the original price tag was too high; that number has come down. But didn't I hear him ask that the project be done for $60 million at last week's meeting? Is he at all realistic concerning what needs to be done?

January 27, 2010 2:59 PM  
Anonymous David Huston said...

Ms. Ressler, you "should be very careful about the numbers and facts [you] use"

Mr. Fraasch asked that the project be done for $75 million at the 18-JAN-2010 meeting.

He can speak for himself regarding the specific language surrounding the $75 million figure, if you need more details.

January 27, 2010 3:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Kim, thanks for your catch. I think you're right, that Mr. Fraasch did quote the wrong Bethel Park figure.

Do you have any reason to believe, however, that the fundamental claims in Mr. Fraasch's report are wrong? He claims (1) that our district's expenses are already high, (2) that economic conditions are terrible, (3) that the economy and the state have, in combination and beyond our control, increased our district's expenses further, (4) that our planned renovation was already ambitious, and (5) that all the preceding add up to make an already ambitious project into a genuinely risky project.

Do you have reason to doubt about any of those claims?


January 27, 2010 3:53 PM  
Blogger James Fraasch said...

With respect, Ms. Ressler,

The $88 million comes from the following document available from the Bethel Park website:


From the document:

"Bids include not only the cost of constructing a new high school, but also include the
demolition of the eight-building campus once the new school is open. These bids do not
include fixtures and furniture (estimated at $2 million) and technology (also estimated at $2
million). The total cost of the building will be $88 million, which will also include “soft costs”
such as architectural fees, engineering fees, site work, etc."

That letter was posted in August of last year. Their bids came in significantly under their Act 34 numbers. Be that as it may, please know that I have asked our project manager if the bids received for projects like BP and USC are reflected in our $113 million estimates. Our construction manager has said "yes" to this question in a public meeting at least two times.

Believe me, I HOPE bids come in low like they did for BP. That's just not what PJ Dick is saying at our public meetings.

The $88 million number is accurate.


January 27, 2010 3:57 PM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Oops! I'm stand corrected.

Mr. Fraasch, I'm sorry for saying you had the wrong number. (I saw the Jan 2009 info from BP's renovation page and didn't realize you had obtained your number from the more-recent info of August 2009.)

Sorry about that. Still, it's good test of your fact-checking, which, it would seem, is better than mine. ;-)


January 27, 2010 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Kim Ressler said...

Yes, I purposely left out the remainder of the numbers on the Bethel Park web site. My point is that we should all be careful. We need to be careful in setting the price too high and too low. Construction estimates for BP were 17% below original projections - do we have any idea as to what the real cost of this construction is? Can we really know until the bids are put out? And should we really compare BP's project to ours? Bethel Park has the available land to construct a new school on their campus, as did South Park. They are only including one gym, while our population apparently needs three. They are not striving for LEED certification, although it will "be built with an eye toward incorporating as many LEED standards as possible." Where do you propose to make the cuts to meet a lower construction costs number? Gyms? Swimming pool lanes? LEED certification? Accessibility? We can all use numbers to support any case we wish, but where do we draw the line? I guess my question for all is, what are you willing to pay and what are you willing to give up to meet that number? What costs are you willing to take on and what parts of the project do you wish to put off? Will there ever be a good time for a real rebuilding of Mt. Lebanon High School? Or does it come down to the thought that the existing layout is really OK, despite the opinions of staff and students? Do you, Mr. Fraasch, agree with the goals of the project as a whole, and do you truly believe that it can be done for $75 million? And can you back that up with real numbers?

January 27, 2010 4:36 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Kim, you and I are friends so I'll respond to you in manner that reflects the nature of our friendship. If nothing else, I intend to stay pals.

If Fraasch's Bethel Park number was off (which it now appears it was not), then sure, he should be called to task on that. Personally, I have enough trouble understanding our own project so admittedly I have not paid any attention to how we compare to the price tags in other districts regardless of whether those comparisons have been made by Fraasch or others on the Board. Also, I'm not sure that too many people are basing their opinion of this project on what we are spending vs. what others spending.

Honestly though, yours is the first and only attempt that I've seen from anyone to try and demonstrate that his information was bad. Clearly, if Fraasch was totally of his rocker on all or most counts, corrective information like yours would be coming from all angles. It's not. People are just telling him to shut up. Yes, I realize that the Board's new FAQs reject the notion that taxes will go up 50% over three years or 14% this year, but again those weren't HIS projections. They were the finance director's projections. And further still, the dismissive "NO" offered in the FAQs rings rather hollow and certainly offers me no comfort if the numbers are actually something equally gross like 47% and 13%.

And again, I'm not defending Fraasch's information. By all means if it is wrong then please, please, please, someone enlighten us all. I'm all ears . . . Honestly.

Any way, it just seems to me that public calls for Fraasch's removal and censure are over the top and, in my humble opinion, far more damaging to the reputation of our community than anything he has said or done to date.

After all, from where I sit, Fraasch remains firmly outnumbered on the Board with respect to this issue. Those who oppose him HAVE NOT LOST A SINGLE VOTE on this project to date. I've never seen such venom spit in the direction of the guy who's LOSING every vote. So then, the lawyer (cynic) in me starts to wonder, if the majority of the Board has it "right" what is it about his opinions and information that his opponents don't want me to hear?

January 27, 2010 4:45 PM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

Dave, maybe they don't want you to hear why 68,000 extra sq. ft. are in the plan, or that the Act 34 numbers are inflated for a reason we don't yet know.

68,000 sq. ft. is too big to hide in plain view. If their is something that hasn't surfaced yet, it will. Then the community will know why the PTA leadership wants Mr. Fraasch censured.

January 27, 2010 5:20 PM  
Anonymous Kim Ressler said...

Thank you, Dave. I'm new to posting on a blog - I did not expect so much response! If you look back, I agree that Mr. Fraasch should be able to speak his mind as freely as any member of the community. Unfortunately, his attempt to educate those who have not been involved in this process did come across as hostile, provoking a response from those favoring the project equal in venom to those who heckled a few citizen speakers in support of Act 34 at last week's meeting. I picked the BP number because he did, but I don't know that we can compare ourselves to other projects as much as we would like to or compare preliminary estimates to final projections. And Mr. Fraasch did state that "a 45-50% real estate tax increase is coming over a short period of time," which does come across as threatening. He meant to scare the population - unfortunately, fear begets anger.

Mr. Fraasch has as much responsiblity as any of us to keep the conversation cordial and respectful. And I do expect more of that from him as an elected official than the admitted first-time meeting attendee that sat in front of me at last week's meeting who stuck her tongue out at me.

I have tried to follow this process from the start, even serving on the Ed Spec Committee, and yet the only numbers I feel like I can trust are those given us by the specialists we have hired to do so. Was the $113 million number arbitrary? If so, then we hired the wrong folks. If not, what are we willing to give up to lower that number to one with which we are more comfortable? How are we going to justify a lower number in the PlanCon process? And what are any of us going to do to keep the discussion reasonable and cordial, no matter which "side" one takes on the issues? Don't we, Mr. Fraasch included, owe each other that much?

January 27, 2010 5:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Kim, you ask a good question: If we go with a more-modest renovation, what will we have to give up? That is, if we think a better building is going to give us better student outcomes, won't a more-modest renovation deny us some of those better outcomes?

The answer to those questions hinges on another question: How do school facilities affect student outcomes? Fortunately, the U.S. Government Accountability Office answered this question for us, in a report issued at the end of October 2009 – so this may be news to you. (The following is long, but it's important, so I'm going to ask you to read it all. I want to impress upon you that these research results are credible and represent a careful, nearly exhaustive examination of all relevant evidence, over 100 research papers in total.)

To determine what is known about how school facilities affect student outcomes, we conducted a search for research studies that addressed this topic. We identified studies dating back to 1980 and selected those that were either from peer-reviewed journal articles or were methodologically rigorous studies from (or sponsored by) other sources, such as government institutions. Two GAO staffers, one analyst from the audit team and one methodologist from the research group, systematically reviewed each of the studies selected, evaluating the design, measurement strategies, and methodological integrity and entering this information into a database. From more than 100 studies that we initially selected, 24 were selected to be included in our review. We excluded studies because, for example, they did not provide sufficient detail on the analytical approach or failed to control for other plausible explanations for differences. The selected studies were sufficiently rigorous and included tests of hypotheses; measures of association; and multivariate techniques, such as ordinary least squares regression (see table 3).

And what did the researchers at the GAO conclude?

None of the studies examined was able to conclusively determine how much school facility conditions contribute to student outcomes relative to other factors, such as student demographics, and none proved a causal relationship between school facilities and student outcomes.

(Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office. 2009. Report GAO-10-32: School Facilities: Physical Conditions in School Districts Receiving Impact Aid for Students Residing on Indian Lands. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-32)

So the research argues (strongly) that we have no reason to believe that the money we spend to make our high school better will improve student outcomes – at all. (The researchers were unable to say that the causal effect of school facilities on student outcomes was statistically different from zero!)

And that's the problem.

We do have good reason to belive, however, that money invested in other things, say teaching, improves student outcomes. By overspending on this renovation, then, we squander money that could have been invested in purchasing our students those better outcomes.

In effect, this plan chooses a better building over a better education. That's why I'm in favor of a more-modest renovation, one that gives us a building that's safe, sound, and adequate but leaves us the resources to buy better teaching, too.


January 27, 2010 6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kim, you say that "the only numbers I feel like I can trust are those given us by the specialists we have hired to do so. Was the $113 million number arbitrary?" No, they were not arbitrary. $113 million was just under the amount which would have required a vote by the community and the board knew that this referendum would not pass. Thus the architects were told to present a $113 million plan.
Joe Wertheim

January 27, 2010 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article for me- has been and continues to be the defining reason for questioning the HS estimates we're seeing.

If you haven't read it I suggest look up:
The case for restoring and reusing older school buildings.
Pennsylvania Dept. of Education
PA SChool Board Association

Its about 32 pages long, lots of photos and this on page 24... "the district [Mt. Lebanon] has not needed new schools to attain educational excellence. Instead it has carefully maintained and systematically renovated its 10 schools, most of which date from the 1920s and 1930s.
They show a chart on those schools showing their renovation date and costs per sq. ft.

Washington 2004 $112/sq. ft.
Lincoln 2004 $81/sq. ft.
Howe 2003 $82/sq. ft.
Markham 2004 $100/sq. ft.
Foster 2003 $76/sq. ft.
Jefferson 2004 $84/sq. ft.
Hoover 2005 $86/sq. ft.
Mellon 1998 $68/sq. ft.
Jefferson 1998 $81/sq. ft.

There maybe many good reasons why the HS is estimated have a renovation estimated sq. ft. costs of close to $200. But I find some of the answers curious. Especially, when distiguished professionals like Taylor, Rothchild and CAC crew seemed to side with the PDE.

Further more so does American School & University Magazine and RSMeans Construction data.

Another red flag, this document really holds Mt. Lebanon up as an example for school district construction. I would think the district would be proud to show it to the community, yet look at the MTLSD renovation blog, its not there! Wasn't distributed in the DeJong sessions! Mmmmmm? Could it be they really didn't want anyone thinking about renovations?

Please before you question Fraasch's intentions or even Celli's design, read this one article.
If you still don't have any questions fine.

Oh by the way, there is one section titled..."Old Buildings Can Be Green Too!"

Thanks for listening.

Dean Spahr

January 27, 2010 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just thought of something:
If you wanted to attact families looking for a great education in a great community you couldn't come up with a better one than "Renovate or Replace"
The municipality should have it prominently displayed on the website to attract new people!

Dean Spahr

January 27, 2010 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Kim Ressler said...

Thank you, Dean, and all, for your civility and passion. I have listened, much, and today was the first I spoke here.

"Renovate or Replace" was actually distributed to the Ed Spec Committee by Mr. DeJong. I believe I still have a copy. But much noise was made by staff and students against keeping certain parts of the high school as it now stands. This project has not moved forward quickly, in part due to the efforts to get so many people beyond any small group involved. On one hand, the original plan omitted Building B which was then kept due to public opinion. I also believe the board acted on the wishes of the community when they voted for more than renovation only. For example, the voices were loud and clear about not using temporary classrooms which would be required in such a plan (and yes, Baldwin may not have used trailers but they did set up temporary classrooms in the gym, for one). The impracticality of the current library and cafeteria/food production arrangement as well as the unknowns and fears of asbestos abatement solidified the majority of the board's stance against that building. And, realistically, how can accessibility be improved between buildings as they are now sited? How are the concerns of the athletics and fine arts programs, of which we are so proud, to be addressed? Which of the rest of the 15 Design Criteria are we to set aside?

Mr. Rothchild admitted at a December board meeting that the CAC was unaware of much of the history of many of the decisions made on what to renovate and what to replace.

I will continute to listen, and continue to thoughtfully process all that I hear. And I will strive to respond respectfully and intelligently, which is the desire of the original post that started this whole discussion.

January 27, 2010 8:39 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Kim, I didn't find Fraasch's "report" hostile in the least, but that's not something we need to debate here. However, I would like to follow up on the 45-50% tax increase remarks. I'm happy to hear anyone else respond, and please don't feel compelled to jump back in the water (I realize that some folks here can be a bit, shal we say, abrupt), but had Fraasch pulled this figure out of thin air, I would agree that would be irresponsible. However, he was merely reciting information that was prepared by the school district's finance director. I'm assuming that the finance director has no axe to grind or position to advocate, so why is Fraasch the Big Bad Wolf for distributing this information to the public? And understand, most of us appreciate that these numbers are certainly subject to change (after all they are 4 year projections). They could certainly go down as suggested by Mr. Kubit, and they could certainly go up! However, for the sake of our discussion here, let's assume though, as the unbiased finance director has, that these numbers are just right. Aren't people's concerns legitimate? You suggested that Fraasch's comments in this regard were "threatening" and meant to "scare" us; but they're not his numbers. Should we blast the finance director for doing her job?

Kim, I'm not trying to pile on, but since you are really the first person in the community to come forward on this site to discuss the other side, I'm trying to grasp how his use of the district's own data is irresponsible etc. in the eyes of many. Are we supposed to ignore bad news?

January 27, 2010 8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No thank you kim! You told me something I did not know. I wasn't on the Spec committee and had to find the document on my own. So part of my post has been in error. I stand corrected. It still isn't on the MTLSD renovation blog with the other documents though. If you don't think it needs to be there, thats OK.
But you don't address some key points:
the PDE states we've been able to attain educational excellence through renovated schools. Tom Moertel's documents from the feds. support that statement. So it seems to me a new school doesn't guarantee a great education!
ALso, you didn't address the per sq. ft. costs.
Just a few years ago we renovated bldgs. for &$76-112/sq. ft. If building materials etc. are now cheaper, why are renovation costs double?
RSMeans has a comparison of school construction costs in 25 cities for 2008 and 2009. Pittsburgh is on the list at $152/sq. ft. for a HS in 2009.
Whether thats new or renovation costs 545,000 sq. ft., the current bldg. would be $82,840,000!
Celli's design: 475,000 sq. ft. = $72,200,000.
And as I read this article, it wasn't all about numbers. It was also about the community and the excellence ed. standards.
I'd imagine if I were googling prospective areas to move to in Pittsburgh and I read that document, I'd put Lebo on the top of my list.
Thanks again for correcting my error, I hope you can find answes on the other- what do we call them, numbers, specs, estimates.
I don't want to them facts just yet!
Dean Spahr

January 27, 2010 10:01 PM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

Are folks aware that Upper St. Clair is using temporary classrooms for their middle school remodeling?

Mt. Lebanon used temporary classrooms at Lincoln School before we added the addition. I was impressed how nice those classrooms were when I visited them. The temporary classrooms were nicer than the Lincoln classrooms before the remodeling. What is the real reason we are not using temporary classrooms at the High School?

January 27, 2010 10:50 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

And to close the loop on this one, please check out this re-post of a comment that Mr. Fraasch made way back in May 2009:


Telling indeed . . . .

January 27, 2010 10:50 PM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

I assume this is the quote of Mr. Fraasch from May 2009 that Mr. Franklin is guiding us to:

"Take the budget for one example. Are you prepared to have your taxes raised 30-50% over the next five years? Think about that for a second. Our budget puts us on a path to increase taxes from 23.81 (last year) to 34.98 in 2014-2015. That increase depends on what rate we get on our high school bonds, the cost of the high school project (this number is based on $100 million) and what return the PSERS investments get. The increase may get bigger or it may come down if the stars align. As an example, if you own a $200,000 house in Mt Lebanon, your taxes are projected to go from $4,762 all the way to $6,996. A $400,000 home will go from $9,524 to $13,992.

Ask yourself if you really think those tax increases are going to attract young families to Mt Lebanon."

January 27, 2010 11:46 PM  
Blogger Marjie said...

Thanks Kim for coming on Blog-Lebo and adding your perspective. This thread demonstrates the level of back and forth discussions we should have been having as a community throughout the whole planning process. Hopefully many more folks will see it.

January 28, 2010 6:33 AM  
Anonymous David Huston said...

Trailers would have helped this botched P.J. Dick project:

January 28, 2010 7:30 AM  
Blogger Marjie said...

Commenting on Dave's original topic: censure. As in this very thread where the topic morphed off of Dave's opinion re: censure and back on to the critical topic so too should the real cries for censure. Calls for censure when a much more important issue is at hand push us all off point.

As for the notion of censuring any board member for expressing their opinions and concerns I could launch (but I won't!) into a full blow essay on freedom of speech, the due diligence responsibilites to the public of those in leadership positions, the importance of transparency and the characteristics of representative government but I won't. I just hope that in our civics, history and social studies classes these concepts are not being drowned out by the ever popular team player push.

Not every situation suits the concept of team player. Imagine our nation's appellate courts without dissenting opinions. Many dissents later came to reflect the law of the land. Or our legislative bodies without debate or capacity to use a free press to express opinions publicly for constituent consumption.

Our town is too intelligent to act otherwise...and we have more important things to discuss and focus on.

January 28, 2010 8:12 AM  

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