by Francesmary Modugno

Bypassing the Democratic Process and Targeting Youth Sports Edit

Elected school board members Tom Brown, Patty Schirripa, Tom DiPietro, Sandra Hughans and Ray Wolkowiak pushed through a policy to restrict access to Carlynton facilities. They specifically targeted youth sports groups. The policy severely restricts non-residents from participating in groups that use the Carlynton facilities. Any group not adhering to the policy would be forced to pay thousands of dollars in fees for property they have already paid for with one of the highest tax rates in Allegheny County. In addition, non-residents participating in youth sports groups are now required to pay a $100 per quarter ($400/year) fee to the district. This is more than 3 times what the district residents pay in taxes to the district to support the facilities (about $120/year/resident).

These directors knowingly pushed through a policy that district youth program leaders explicitly told them would cause their groups to fold, to cut back on program offerings and/or to substantially increase fees for district participants.

Within the first weeks of the new policy, football, soccer, swimming, basketball, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts have announced they are leaving Carlynton, raising their fees, cutting back on program offerings and seeking other facilities. No director who voted for this policy can say how this new policy benefits the children of the district.

The policy that was voted on was not made public and was e-mailed to all directors by Brown only the morning of the vote. The vote was not part of the public agenda and there was no valid reason for the directors to "push through" a vote on the proposal without first seeking public input on the specific policy. Residents present at the meeting were not given an opportunity to comment on the specific policy before it was adopted. In addition, Brown, Schirripa, DiPietro, Hughans and Wolkowiak allowed only brief discussion by the other directors before forcing a vote. The directors didn't even have time to understand what they were voting on.

Moreover, no justification was provided by any director for the specifics of the policy. For example:

  • why were only youth sports groups targeted?
  • how was the percent of non-resident participation determined?
  • how was the non-resident fee determined?

Key Videos Edit

An Assault on DemocracyEdit

A video of the June 26, 2008 assault on democracy is available to view here:

Ignoring the Facts and the Will of the PeopleEdit

At the August 7 meeting, several groups present data showing that the new facilities policy directly hurts the students of the Carlynton School District. Despite parents showing that the policy was "detrimental", "draconian" and "punitive", the directors who voted in favor of the new policy did not agree to move to re-vote on the policy. View the discussions on-line:

Parents Speak Out En MassEdit

At the August 21, 2008 meeting, about 50 parents appeared to express their displeasure at the new policy and the directors who thrust it upon the public.

  • In Part 1 (, Director Sharon Wilson expresses her disappointment at the new policy and the negative impact it has had on the Carlynton Community.
  • In Part 2 (, the directors discuss the policy. Some admit that the policy that they voted in favor for was not the policy they intended to impose on the people. They express an openness to revising some of the components.
  • In Part 3 (, parents tell of the detrimental effect this policy has had on youth sports, including:
    • disbanding of some programs
    • increased fees for residents
    • increased volunteer requirements for resident parents
    • house sales falling through
    • loss of business sponsorship for Carlynton clubs

Th directors ended the meeting agreeing to drop the $100/quarter non-resident fee if the group is paying rent. They also agreed to have a draft of any new policy prior to any meeting where it will be discussed and allow the public time to review and comment on it.

Deja vu: Slipping Through Another Policy without Public NoticeEdit

Contrary to their commitment at the August 21, 2008 meeting, at the Sept 4, 2008 meeting Brown, Schirripa, DiPietro, McCartney, Wolkowiak and Hughans pushed through another policy without informing the public or their fellow board members of their intent. They again changed the policy on the fly and bypassed their procedures of recommending a draft and waiting until the next meeting for a final vote.

A video of the re-assault on the democratic process is here:

Other Key Materials Edit

A detailed response to a message circulated by Patty Schirripa defending her position is here.

The text of the adopted policy is to the right (click on it a few times to enlarge):
New facilities policy - brown proposal


Everyone should be concerned not only that these directors knowingly passed such a punitive and detrimental policy, but also that

  • the policy was passed without time for public review and comment,
  • district procedures governing the process were overruled in order to push this policy through,
  • those pushing the policy through provided little opportunity for other board members to review or comment on the proposal, and
  • the directors openly ignored the input of the people most affected by the policy.

Learn more about this issue Edit

  • Video clips of some directors expressing their viewpoints of this issue at various school board meetings. Entire meeting discussions are also here.
  • Comments to the Carlynton school board on April 17, 2008 and May 1, 2008 urging the school board to adopt a more open policy and to seek input from the community prior to adopting any new policies.
  • Proposed modifications to the existing policy that would address the concerns raised about the current policy while at the same time ensure that resident groups can create the best possible environment for citizens, especially youth.
  • The 7 original proposals put forth by the Carlynton school board. These clearly show an intent to heavily penalize any group that has non-resident members. Some even penalize youth sports teams for hosting home meets against non-resident teams.

What you can do to help Edit

  • Join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on this issue:
  • Write a letter to the editor of the Signal Item or Post-Gazette West
  • Call the Carlynton school board members,
    • Those who voted to override district procedures and push the policy through (note that unfortunately many of these directors have a track record of misrepresenting facts, so you need to check the facts behind whatever they tell you!):
      • Wolkowiak: 412-276-1679
      • Schirripa: 412-276-8061
      • Hughans: 412-279-2184
      • DiPietro: 412-279-4592
      • Brown: 412-279-4988
      • McCartney: 412-279-3664
    • Those who voted against the motion and the manner in which it was pushed through:
      • Roussos: 412-381-6260 or 412-849-1060
      • Tassaro: 412-276-2490
  • Write a letter to the Carlynton school board members (click for contact info). If you choose, send a copy of your letter to:
  • Post opinions to the Carlynton blog. Anonymous posts are okay.
  • Share this information with your friends and neighbors. Click here for text to cut and paste into an e-mail that you can forward to all those you know.

Press CoverageEdit

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