The Northside Leadership Conference dismissed Superintendent Mark Roosevelt’s deadline set for 1 p.m. March 11 to agree to a compromise on the closing of Rooney Middle School.

In a deal brokered by City Council President Darlene Harris last Sunday, the head of Pittsburgh Public Schools sent a compromise proposal to Conference Executive Director Mark Fatla just before the Conference’s board meeting Wednesday evening.

“We advised [President] Darlene [Harris] to tell the administration that we couldn’t possibly agree to the proposal in that amount of time,” Fatla said.

The compromise states that the school program at Rooney 6-8 in Brighton Heights will close at the end of this year and current Rooney students will have the option to attend Allegheny 6-8 in Allegheny Center, Pittsburgh Classical Academy 6-8 in the West End or Schiller 6-8 in East Deutschtown. Rooney’s building will stay open, pending the possibility of future use.

The only part that is different than what administrators have been pushing at two recent community meetings is that Morrow K-5 will remain in its building for at least another year, instead of moving the school intact into the Rooney Building. This doesn’t mean, however, that Morrow students couldn’t be moved to the Rooney building in 2011-2012.

The compromise does not follow either recommendation of what the majority of community members lobbied for at the two communities held on the Northside this year.

At those two meetings, community members told administrators Derrick Lopez and Linda Lane to either convert Rooney into a K-8, so Brighton Heights could retain its middle school, or stall Rooney’s closing for one year in order to gather community and parental input.

School officials have been pushing for the closing of Morrow K-5 because a consultant’s report last fall said the building was in need of a $17 million renovation. To save money, their plan was to close Rooney because of dwindling enrollment and move the much larger Morrow student body to the Rooney building. 

But parents at the second community meeting on March 3 blamed low enrollment on the school’s bad reputation. Several parents said if the district cleaned up Rooney’s act, they would be more interested in sending their own children there.

Only seven students from Morrow’s 5th grade class last year attended Rooney in 6th grade this school year. The majority of Rooney students come from Northview ALA K-5.

The rushed nature of Roosevelt’s request for an agreement in less than 24 hours annoyed some Conference members, who saw it as a means of buying them off before the board meeting on March 15, which is expected to be a showdown of sorts.

“I think a very telling fact is that they have already reassigned, for the 2010-2011 school year, the 5th grade Morrow kids and 6th and 7th grade kids at Rooney,” Fatla said. “If they’re engaged in a public process to help them make a decision, but are making families make choices without Rooney being an option, then they’ve already made their choice. They’re saying one thing publically, but they’re already making their decision. That’s not right.”

Ebony Pugh, spokesman for Pittsburgh Public Schools, said the school board plans on holding more community meetings on feeder patterns and facilities before a legislative meeting held in November.

To speak at the March 15 school board meeting, call 412-622-3600 no later than noon on Monday, March 15. Each person is allotted 3 minutes to address the board.The meeting begins at 7 p.m.in Conference Room A of the Administration Building, 341 S. Bellefield Ave. in Oakland.