Archive for April, 2007

Hope High Reaccredited

Hope High School has been given full accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Having lost its accreditation, Hope was taken over by RI Commissioner of Education Peter McWalters in 2005. Hope underwent restructuring, including division into three “Academies”, new administrators and a requirement that teachers who wished to remain must commit to a set of principles of professionalism.

The ProJo story is here. Congratulations to the students, faculty and administration of Hope High on their achievement!


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Tuesday’s meeting with Ai3

UPDATE: I’ve added links within this posting so that you can see the architectural drawings that are being described.
Sam Zurier has been kind enough to write up this summary of Tuesday’s meeting at King. I hope to get Jpegs of the designs to add to this on Friday.

Architectural Involution, also known as AI3, made a second presentation to the public on April 24 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. school. At this meeting, AI3 presented refinements on the preliminary conceptual sketches that it had developed and offered for discussion two weeks before. The meeting was co-hosted by the School Department, including Mark Dunham, the Chief Financial Officer and Superintendent Evans.

At the previous meeting on April 11, AI3 had proposed three concepts: (1) renovation of the existing building with relatively few structural changes, (2) a “hybrid” that retained 75% of the exterior facade but involved significant reconstruction work on the interior, and (3) new construction. The April 11 presentation included two alternative “hybrids” and two alternative models of new construction.

On April 24, AI3 first presented a refinement of its renovation model. The model retained the key feature of a new rear wall consisting primarily of windows. The refined renovation still features an undersized gymnasium (4100 square feet rather than the desirable 6000-7000), but other spaces have been enhanced with a cost: the renovated school requires 132,000 square feet of interior space. The new model also calls for the removal of a stand of trees on the edge of the school that are popular with neighbors. Also, the renovated school retains certain disadvantages of its layout in terms of dispersion of students and travel around the building.

The “hybrid” alternative that AI3 retained allows for a larger gymnasium, but in just about every other way would support an educational program that is weaker than what is available from the renovation model. Given the complexities and expense associated with this type of construction, AI3 announced that this alternative is no longer viable.

AI3 proposed two alternatives for new construction. The first retains the shape of the current building, with an interior courtyard. The narrow dimensions of the courtyard present issues concerning access to light, and the shape does not support the creation of a major classroom wing oriented along an east-west axis.

The second alternative is a refinement of another design that had been proposed two weeks before. The earlier design, which was in the form of a cross, changed the footprint of the building to push closer to the edges of the property, raising concerns for those living nearby. The refined design combined an east-west academic wing with a more compact footprint. This creates several advantages in terms of the resulting educational environment. Also, the revised plans call for a separate auditorium, a concern raised from the earlier round. The plans call for 117,000 square feet, which is closer to the dimensions approved by the State.

AI3 will now refine its plans further, and submit them to Gilbane for cost estimates. AI3 will then prepare an analysis of two principal alternatives (renovation versus new construction) on such measurements as cost, time to construct, educational quality, and environmental impacts. AI3 also will meet with other constituent groups (such as preservationists and the State Historical Preservation Commission) before presenting the alternatives to the School Department and the Mayor’s office for decision.

Many of the participants in the room expressed concerns about the process, which appeared to foreclose further input from the local neighborhood and the education community. AI3 and Mr. Dunham explained that it was important to obtain that feedback at the front end to shape the choices that would be made later on. After much discussion, it was agreed to reconsider this position and look for possible ways to involve the community as the deliberations move forward.

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PEEC meeting

Last night’s Providence Educational Excellence Campaign (PEEC) meeting was immensely interesting. While the student and parent speakers acknowledged that there are many excellent teachers in the public schools, they also spoke forcefully and movingly about their frustrations with the attitudes and behaviors of others. Some of the stories were truly appalling. The emphasis was on the ways in which the current contracts and procedures protect bad teachers, make it difficult to recruit and retain good teachers, and discourage the best teachers from giving their all. See this ProJo story for details.

Commissioner McWalters’ generally agreed about the flaws of the contracts , but emphasized the limits of his power to intervene in individual cases.

Up to this point, ESPEC has kept its focus firmly on the reopening of the Nathan Bishop building. This has been a significant and time-consuming struggle. It has required enormous energy, which we have not wanted to see dissipated across multiple fronts. We realize, though, that what goes on inside the school is as important as the building. Those of us who were members of Superintendent’s Bishop Committee supported site-based management, which is now part of the plan for the school. We have not yet taken explicit positions on other contract issues, but I hope East-Siders will follow and join the work of PEEC and other groups concerned with teacher quality.

Visit the PEEC website.

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Ai3 meeting tonight

As a notice for any readers not among the 380 people on the ESPEC email list, the architects from Ai3 will present a second round of designs tonight at Martin Luther King Elementary School, from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

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School Board Approves Budget

The ProJo reports this morning that the Providence School Board approved a $322.2-million budget last night. Salaries and benefits account for $250 million of this sum.This amounts to a 3.5% increase over last year.   The full story is here.

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Bishop Designs from Ai3

Here are the design proposals from the first meeting with Ai3 architects. Apologies to those who checked earlier and found nothing, the links vanished for some reason I can’t see.

UPDATE: I’ve converted the very large PDF files to JPG files. They are much smaller and take less time to load.

Existing Plan

Option 1 (renovation)

Option 1 perspective drawing

Option 2a Hybrid Design

Option 2a perspective drawing

Option 2b Hybrid Design

Option 2b perspective drawing

Option 3a- New Construction

Option 3b- New Construction

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PEEC forum Tomrrow

The Providence Educational Excellence Coalition is hosting a public forum:

Futures in the Balance:
A Community Campaign for Effective Teachers in Every Classroom
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
6:30 P.M.
For more information call 401-854-5506 x 142

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