Monday night at a Pittsburgh Public Schools public hearing, one wing of the meeting room was filled with Perry High School’s Commodore blue, while the other was filled with people in black T-shirts that read “Oliver High School, better than ever.”
The public hearing focused largely on the two Northside high schools, one of which the district’s realignment plan has slated for closure.
The plan, which was announced in August, originally called for Oliver High School to close and combine with Perry in the hopes of filling 10,191 unused seats in the district and reducing a projected $41.2 million budget district-wide deficient.
Eighty-eight speakers signed up for PPS’s public hearing on Monday at PPS’s administrative offices, where they could speak in front of the board without argument or rebuttal. The majority of the speakers addressed the proposed Perry Oliver merger.
Speakers from Perry and Oliver argued largely in favor of their own schools
Supporters of Oliver said that their building was larger, has a nearby field and free childcare, cosmetology, JROTC and culinary programs in house.
Perry supporters emphasized the new HVAC system, central location of the school, musical-friendly auditorium, recent $7 million renovations and AYP standards as reasons to preserve Perry.
Others in attendance focused less on the buildings and facilities, but rather on curriculum and strategy of combining two rival schools instead.
Eric Ewell came to talk to the board about transportation issues on the East End, but addressed the Perry and Oliver speakers before he began.
“You are divided, and you will be conquered,” he said about the scoffs and yells the audience made to opposing speakers. “The core of it all is education”
Despite high tension, throughout the night, any mention of unity and working together drew applause from both the Perry and Oliver sides.
“Look at this room – Perry on one side, Oliver on the other. We should all be coming together,” said Nichole Tarver, who asked the board for a year of transition before the merge.
“We have an opportunity to be innovative,” said Derek Long, a teacher at Oliver who came to speak as a member of the community, asked the board to focus on the task of merging the two schools. “This is an opportunity to draw students back.”
Dr. Rochelle Oaks, another Oliver teacher who had three children go to Perry echoed Long’s sentiment of unity.
“I am not loyal to a building. I am loyal to students,” she told the board.
The school board will vote on the realignment plan as early as November 22 for the 2012-2013 school year.