South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Mount seeks donors to dress up district with flower baskets


Mount Washington Community Development Corporation is looking for donations so hanging baskets can be erected along Grandview Avenue and the neighborhood business district this year.

During the past two years the baskets were installed through a partnership with the Colcom Foundation and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Executive Director Chris Beichner and Program Manager Greg Panza explained at a membership meeting on March 17. But this year things are different.

MWCDC asked Colcom for a grant of $20,000 and was given a challenge grant opportunity of $10,000 instead. If MWCDC raises $10,000 or more through local contributions by May 20, it will receive $10,000 through Colcom.

Each hanging basket costs $250 and that includes installation, daily watering, replacing damaged baskets and winter maintenance. "The biggest expense is daily watering," Mr. Beichner said. Donations less than $250 are accepted because "every dollar counts."

Donors will have their names listed in an issue of The Viewpoint, the MWCDC newsletter. Those interested can contact the MWCDC at 412-481-3220 ext. 201, visit the office or send a check to: MWCDC, 301 Shiloh Street, Pgh PA 15211.

The guest speaker that night was Mayada Mansour, program director for A+ Schools, a nonprofit independent advocacy agency interested in improving public education.

"Education is where my heart is," said Ms. Mansour, a former science teacher.

Asked by CDC member Tom McCue what she thought of the new governor's planned cuts for education, Ms. Mansour replied, "I don't have the time to express all the anger I feel about this."

Her agency wants to make sure every child receives an effective education and that the school board governs properly. A+ volunteers attend Pittsburgh school board meetings and later issue report cards on how well it is doing.

"The behavior used to be in the headlines. Now it is the issues," said Ms. Mansour, who added she thought the volunteers made a difference and citizens can now expect a higher level of performance from the school directors.

A+ is now involved in a campaign to empower effective teachers and to develop student leadership.

She distributed the agency's annual report to the attendees. The study describes conditions at all Pittsburgh schools, including the four serving the Mount: Brashear High School, South Hills Middle School, Grandview Elementary and Whittier Elementary.

At Brashear in Beechview the number of teachers is 85, while the number of students is 1,188. The student stability rate is 87.7 percent and the school has had two principals within the past four years. U.S. News & World Report chose the school for a Bronze Medal.

Over at South Hills Middle School in Beechview there are 32 teachers and 456 students. Student stability rate is 87.6 percent. The school has the interscholastic boys baseball championship for 2009-2010.

Whittier in Mount Washington has 18 teachers and 274 students. Student stability rate is 87.4 percent. This year, students participated in Scouting for Food.

There are 21 teachers and 294 students at Grandview in Allentown. There have been two principals in the past four years. Student stability rate is 83.1 percent. Student artwork was distributed for the 100th anniversary of Grandview Park.

The MWCDC has three elections per year at membership meetings and this month saw an election regarding by-law changes. During an organizational assessment in 2009 the Community Technical Assistance Center reviewed the CDC by-laws. Changes were recommended by the center and a CDC committee and were intended to clarify confusing language, bring by-laws in compliance with current law and make sure they followed the best practices of the industry.

However, that night the vote was 19-11 against making the changes.

Board member Pete Karlovich and vice president Jon Lusin chaired this part of the meeting and denied all motions on any subject made by former board member and officer Frank Valenta.

"What type of organization do we have here now?" Mr. Valenta asked.

Mr. Beichner said he might call the police and have Mr. Valenta removed if attendees thought he was being disruptive.

"These changes will give us flexibility and not jeopardize our funding," Mr. Karlovich said.

Among the attendees were unsuccessful candidates from last year. Mr. Karlovich said last year the board and the nominating committee were seeking professionals to run for the board of directors.

"Next year we might want all nonprofessionals," Mr. Karlovich said.

"I wish you would have told me. I wouldn't have run," one man said from the audience.

"That's my fault, Mr. Karlovich said.

Audience members pleaded for more time to study the changes but Mr. Karlovich and Mr. Lusin insisted on holding the election that night.

After the meeting someone asked Mr. Valenta why he continued to fight for changes in the organization.

"Because of the satisfaction," he responded.


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