Thursday, May 19, 2011

Letter: Incumbent school directors should resign

Steve Diaz wrote the following letter to editors of Blog-Lebo. —Ed.

To the Editor:

Re: High School Renovation and the Election

The results of the election this week confirm that despite the continuing use of nasty personal attacks and gang mentality by the incumbents, an open, honest evaluation of the high school renovation fiasco necessarily reveals a sloppy, inadequate, and prejudged rush through a complex project with no regard for the facts or legitimate public concerns. How embarrassing for the “officially” endorsed Republican candidates that an outsider, James Cannon, outpolled all of them, and the Democrat cross-filers as well. He beat all comers, incumbent and newbies, by a significant statistical margin. In the general election he has every opportunity to garner the top final vote, which should, by any fair and reasonable measure, make him the next president of the Mt. Lebanon school board.

The article in the Post-Gazette today underscores why James Cannon is so popular. First, the incumbent “officially endorsed” candidates are scrambling to do a complete volte-face. Mr. Kubit and Mr. Remely are quoted to the effect that many of the project elements as to which they articulated absolute support and commitment, such as renovations for the high school theatre and LEEDS certification, now are stated by these board members to be either not as economically viable or productive as they previously claimed without doubt (see the infamous flyer mailed to us by them at our own tax-paid expense). In fact, if they addressed such matters as seats and sound system in the theatre and other items of deferred maintenance (such as wiring or wireless upgrades and disability access), they would not need to spend anywhere near the scope of their planned project budget.

Second, they omit to mention how throughout the Act 34 public hearing process, these two, and indeed all of the incumbent school board members (save Mr. Fraasch, whom they bullied unmercifully), opposed and ridiculed ANY criticism of the plan that produced the calamitous bid results. Specifically, Mr. Kubit, Ms. Capucci and all the then incumbents who now seek re-election, loudly and consistently accused those who raised similar and other points of concern of “being against the children” and “not understanding” the needs they “had” to address. Who doesn’t seem to understand now?

Third, in an unbelievable exercise of hubris, the school board members yet seek to salvage as much of their discredited approach to school maintenance as possible (see the Post-Gazette this morning). Even now, after the petition of “The 4,000,” after the disastrous bidding, and after a primary election in which an outsider opposed to the program out-polled all the incumbents he opposed on the ballot, the board persists as if only some cutting and trimming will salvage their ill-conceived, vain, and wasteful project. We are supposed to accept that the “irreducible minimum renovation” can now somehow be reformed by the same clueless gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight in the first place. Pardon my candor, but I find it unlikely to be so.

Moreover, the school board persists in planning a high school renovation in a vacuum, pretending we do not also have a major, as yet unquantified, teacher pension funding obligation that will likely easily compete with or exceed the proposed cost of the White Elephant project the school board will not give up. The school board has given no accounting of how we will pay for both their grandiose spending on unnecessarily monumental building schemes and for the promised labor benefits we offered to secure the best teaching faculty possible. This from a school board that had done nothing to support the scholastic program even as our academic performance and standing has continuously and seriously deteriorated.

Finally, I object to the lack of accountability and responsibility. Why do none of the incumbents apologize to the opponents they savaged during prior public debate as they now proceed to incorporate many of the very suggestions the opposition offered before the project was finalized? Why do the incumbents, who were so strident in their “leadership” before, not accept any personal fault for the decisions they themselves made? It’s all well and good to blame the consultants, but who hired them and who took their advice while refusing to consider any criticism? The incumbent members of the school board had a clear field and made the policy choices that followed their own judgment, in the face of strong community opposition. Why does the school board fail to meet the No.1 priority of arresting and turning around our slipping academic program and why do they fail to accept any responsibility for it ? They don’t even talk about the academic record, let alone campaign on it. Now that the numbers are in, it is time for the same power brokers who want to lord it over this community by raising our taxes to unsustainable levels, to take “credit” for what they have “achieved.”

It is not good enough for failed decision makers to just posture a cosmetic change of direction. They must admit their failures and take responsibility for them. The members of the school board need to be adult enough to accept the failure of their policy and of their policy making process. It is time to step aside and let new leadership clean up. Not only those incumbents on the ballot, but the entire incumbent school board should resign to demonstrate good faith in their promise to look after the best interests of this community. As things stand now, no one has gained anything under the guidance of this school board; the only responsible course of action for them now is to go, not to sit tight and make new promises they can’t keep (or if they do “keep” them by whatever means, only spend us into oblivion when the bill comes due on the teacher pension fund).


Steve Diaz
Mt. Lebanon

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Anonymous John David Kendrick said...


Exactly what is your vision for the mission of our schools and what organizational structure (and infrastructure) would you like to see implemented to achieve the mission?

What specific policy steps would you like to see enacted so that we can transition from the current state into your future vision?

May 21, 2011 12:49 PM  

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