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User : g picciri/Time: 04-25-2010 00:20/Color : C : U sed M: Used Y: Used K: Used/Prod: Democrat_and_Chronicle/Pub: 04-25-2010 /Ed: Metro/ A 1

04-25-2010 00:20/Color : C : U sed M: Used Y: Used K: Used/Prod: Democrat_and_Chronicle/Pub: 04-25-2010 /Ed:

SUNDAY , A PRIL 25 , 2010

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JA MIE GERMANO staff photographer Irondequoit Life Check out our 14 -page special section to
JA MIE GERMANO staff photographer
Irondequoit Life
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When the Rochester School Dis-
trict and the city undertook the
billion-dollar task of updating its
aging school buildings, School 22
was an obvious choice.
The old school on Zimbrich
Street in northeast Rochester was,
by some measures, the worst build-
ing in the district: cramped and
outdated, with a frame made of
century-old timber, asbestos behind
the walls, and a small green area
and dreary parking lot across the
street that passed for a playground.
District, state and city officials
trumpeted the Facilities Modern-
ization Prog ram at a news confer-
ence there in 2007.
But as the project moves closer
to putting shovels in the ground,
School 22 is no longer among the
first schools on the list. In the most
recent draft plan, many of the city’s
oldest and most dilapidated schools
have been removed from the pro-
ject’s first phase in favor of younger
buildings that require less work.
And as frustration with the pro-
ject’s pace grows, inflation is driv-
ing up costs.
The $325 million budgeted for
the first phase won’t stretch as far
as it would have a few years ago,
SCHOOLS, PAGE 6A
Vi
Copyright 2010
Gannett Ro chester News papers
Seve n Se ctions
◆◆◆
ABC
It’s been a year since Chili
teenager Brittanee Drexel
disappeared while on spring
break in South Carolina.
Her family has never given
up on the hope that the Gates
Chili High School student
would be found, but today’s
milestone is hitting them hard.
“It just makes us feel so
frustrated and upset that we
don’t have any answers,” said
Keri Drexel, Brittanee’s aunt.
And while South Carolina
police have said they’re now
investigating the case as a
homicide, experts say it’s im-
portant for the Drexel family
to hang on to hope.
“You can’t take hope from

SPE CIAL REPOR T ON REAL ES TAT E | PA GE S 1E -9E

Few duke it out with medical insurers on denials
Few duke
it out with
medical
insurers
on denials

Sizzling: Sa les climb fo r two straight quarters, 1E Going green: Energy efficiency is key to new builds, 1E Hear tache, then joy: Fi rs t- time buye r te lls her story, 2E Where to buy: Co mmunity profi les offe r some clues, 5E

But succe ss fo und by some of those wh o do.

CHRIS SW INGLE

STAFF WRITER

Alec Chierici was exhausted in March from a stressful hospit al st ay prompt ed by a life-threatening heart rhythm. Then he opened a let te r fr om his insur anc e co mp an y tha t denied the entir e

$84, 15 4. 02 claim fo r re co nnecting his ne w heart defibrilla to r

for not being medically necessary.” What are they trying to do, kill me off?” asked Chierici, 70, of Ro ches- te r. It thr ew me fo r a loop.” His insur er, Empir e BlueCr os s BlueShield,

ha d called him bef or e the surgery to warn that the planned re- attachment of the dislodged defibrillator wires was considered an outpatient pro- ce dur e re quiring les s than 24 hour s in the hospit al, so tha t’ s all the insur er would pay for. Th ey also to ld him not to be alarmed and that he wouldn’t have to pay any re- maining bill — but Chierici was still con- ce rned. Pr ob lems ha d ke pt him in the hospital four days. He called the insurer, wh o to ld him the y wo uld re quest more information from the hospital and that it would be worked out. Fe w pat ients seek re co nsider at ions from their insurers and eve n fewe r ta ke the appeal thr ough all the laye rs ava il- able. Pa tients either give up or lack the ability, the health or the necessary paper- wo rk from their phys ician to pur sue an

sary paper- wo rk from their ph ys ician to pur sue an Chierici DENIALS, PAGE

Chierici

DENIALS, PAGE 12 A

DEADLY STORMS SWEEP SOUTH

an Chierici DENIALS, PAGE 12 A DEADLY STORMS SWEEP SOUTH BRIAN ALBER T BROOM Th e

BRIAN ALBER T BROOM Th e Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger

Hillcrest Baptist Church Youth Pastor Jason Newell tries to salvage what he can from the church that was de-

stroyed by a killer tornado that ripped through Yazoo City, Miss., Saturday

In-depth look at our area’s housing marke t

ONLINE EXTRA What’s selling? Go to Ro cDocs at DemocratandChronicle.com .

JEN RY NDA staff photographer

Elisa Ruise’s third-grade class walks to lunch from a por table classroom at School 50 in Rochester. Proposed work at School 50 would eliminate the need for por table classrooms.

SCHOOL WO ES

Wo rk on Ro chester district’s wo rs t buildings shelved as inflation undercuts ambitious plan

t buildings shelved as inflation undercuts ambitious plan JEN RY NDA staff photographer Emanuel Flecha, 8,

JEN RY NDA staff photographer

Emanuel Flecha, 8, center, raises his hand while sitting between Carmen Jimenez, 9, lef t, and Ynejah Davis, 8, during Lisa Peers’ third-grade class at School 50.

8, during Lisa Peers’ third-grade class at School 50. JEN RY NDA staff photographer School 22

JEN RY NDA staff photographer

School 22 in Rochester was originally par t of the Fa- cilities Modernization Program, but it is not on the list for phase one, which doesn’t allow new construction.

INSIDE A map shows the 13 sc hools earmarked fo r the first phase of the dis- trict’s modernization plan, and two that we re on the original list, as we ll as some per tinent data about those sc hools, Pa ge 6A

gil fo r missing te en, one ye ar late r

the (families) because that is the only thing they have. It’s what they have when they wake up, and it’s what keeps people moving through the day,” said Monica Caison, founder for the Center for Missing Persons in North Carolina.

STORY: 1B af ternoon. STORY: 3A

Mo nica Caison, founder for the Center for Missing Pers ons in North Carolina. ❑ STORY:

User : w kuchman/Time: 04-24-2010 18 :01/ Color : C : U sed M: Used Y: Used K: Used/Prod: Democrat_and_Chronicle/Pub: 04-25-2010 /Ed: Region/ A 6

6A SUNDAY , APRIL 25 , 2 01 0

Democr atandChr onicle. com DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE

Schools

FROM PAGE 1A

com ■ DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE Schools FROM PAGE 1A JEN RY NDA staff photographer Th e

JEN RY NDA staff photographer

The entrance of School 33 shows off the $36.5 million project that was completed in September. Superin- tendent Jean-Claude Brizard says he would like all the schools in the district to look like School 33 some day.

Ro chester Sc hool District

Number of school build-

ings: 39 elementary; 15 secondary.

Enrollment**: 30,000+. Te achers: 3,700.

Budget: $700 million. Pove rty*: 84 percent. *Eligible for free or reduced lunch. **2010-11 estimate.

SOURCE: Staff research

to be maintained and used until at least the next phase of the project, which requires new legis- lation and could be sev- eral years off. That has left some questioning whether the hundreds of millions of dollars in state taxpayer money slated to be spent on Rochester ’s schools in the coming years will be put to good use. 22 School needs to be razed and rebuilt,” said school board member Va n White, who atte nded the school as a child. If the legislation doesn’t permit that, well, legislation can be re- written, he said. I don’t think those kids and those teachers and other staff people should be in an envi- ronment like that,” White said. We have some schools that are completely wood frame that we think should be on the list sooner or later,” Roch- ester School District Superintendent Jean- Claude Brizard said. But those schools — ranked among the very worst on the original master plan crafted by district offi- cials in 2006 — didn’t find their way onto the

list that will likely guide the project until at least

2016.

Parent Lisa Busby, whose daughter Cha- juandra Beaman is a fourth- grader at School 22, said the building is in bad shape. It needs a whole bunch of work done to it — there’s walls cracking and the bath- rooms need to be bigger. They have to stand in a

room.” It needs so much work, district officials said, that it’s not cost-effective to renovate it — tearing it down and building new is the only option, and that’s not covered in the first phase of the project. That legislation does not allow you to build a new school. It only allows you to modernize an existing facility,” Bell said. Frey Kassa, whose 5- year-old daughter, Hewot, started at the school a few months ago, said

schools. They need more cleanup” and play areas, she said. It looks like the school’s not ready.”

Th e legislation

Gantt, the veteran as- semblyman who spon- sored the legislation, said School 22 needs to be repaired or replaced soon. Given the school and the neighborhood … I

soon. “ Given the school and the neighborhood … I JEN RY NDA staff photographer Carmen

JEN RY NDA staff photographer

Carmen Jimenez, 9, draws during Lisa Peers’ third-grade class at School 50 in Rochester. Storage space for students is limited in the por table classroom.

Thirteen city schools proposed to be renovated

104 IRONDEQUOIT Thirteen Rochester School RIDGEWAY AVE. A District schools have been tentatively selected for
104
IRONDEQUOIT
Thirteen Rochester School
RIDGEWAY AVE.
A
District schools have been
tentatively selected for
D
104
renovation during the first
1 mile
E
phase of the billion-dollar
Facilities Modernization
NORTON ST.
E. MAIN ST.
B
Program. But the list does
D.
1
not include schools found
to be in the worst condition
R
LEXINGTON
C
AVE.
2
AVENUE D
EMERSON ST.
ST. PAUL ST.
in a 2006 study, such as 22
and 36. None of the eight
schools built before World
E.
RIDGE
CLIFFORD AVE.
F
War I is on the list.
LYELL AVE.
590
31
H
G
I
490
J
96
33
ATLANTIC AVE.
DEWEY AVE.
2010 renovation list
H.
No . 58
93 ,6 51
95
K No./name
Sq.-ft.*
Age
I. East H.S.
430,492
53
A.
Mar shall H.S.
27 3,99 6
76
J. No. 28
95,284
41
Rochester
L B No. 7
69,327
44
K. No . 2
88,8 29
50
C. 66
No . 34
,0 41
83
L. No. 19
97,232
39
383
BROOKS AVE.
D. No . 50
59 ,9 55
54
M. Congr ess Av e.
57,5 58
94
M
Genesee
E. Franklin H.S.
481,129
82
Not on list
LAKE AVE.
River
F. No. 6
71,586
48
1. No. 22
67,260
94
N. CLINTON AVE.
G. No . 17
94 ,5 48
43
2. No. 36
69,1 34
112
390
CARTER ST.
HUDSON AVE.
JOSEPH AVE.
PORTLAND
AVE.
.
CULVER RD.
D.
WINTON RD.
ONNNN
D.
E.AVONJEFFERS

SOURCE: Rochester School District

*Total sq. ft. (includes floor and additional community space)

KEVIN M. SMITH graphics editor

don’t know how you push that off to a later phase,” Gantt said. Why would they want to do schools over and not get to that school? Why would we get away from that?” But Gantt expressed surprise at the idea that the legislation he helped pass was partly to blame, and added that he’s been keeping his distance from the project. Do I wish that the process was much faster? You bet I do,” Gantt said. I don’t want to taint the process with politics.” The pace of the project has been a source of con- sternation on all sides. Our frustration, if we have any, is that we want to get the project going,” Bell said. We know one of the things that affects outcomes in the schools is the environment. The faster we improve the environment that they’re learning in, the better the results will be.” But the facilities mod- ernization board, which was required by the legis- lation authorizing the project, didn’t meet until a year after the law passed. Several months were spent ironing out the details of a memoran- dum of understanding among the new board, the city and the school dis- trict. That was approved

earlier this year, nearly three years after the legis- lation passed. Another critical hurdle — hiring a prog ram man- ager to oversee the first

phase — is expected to be work done to make tech-

finalized this month. In- terviews were held in early April.

Th e history

In 2006, the district, with the help of an archi- tect, prepared a detailed plan that made the case for modernizing the buildings. It identified the 13 schools that would have been part of the project’s first phase and described the work to be done. A model of sorts was the $36. 5 million in work done at School 33 on Webster Avenue. The project, which included a new community center, a new public library and a complete overhaul of the attached school, was completed in September after nearly a decade of planning and construc- tion. It was not paid for with FMP funds, but at its ribbon cutting in October, Brizard said that one day he would like all district schools to look like School 33. The FMP plan included buying land around some school sites, including two blocks around School

22. That school and School 36 were to be torn down and rebuilt. At School 36, principal Paul Montanarello said he’s pleased with the

nology improvements in the old building. Built in 1898, the school on St. Jacob Street in northeast Rochester is the oldest in the district. We have technology,

As with several of the schools on the updated list, School 50 is popular with district parents. Its kindergarten class is one of the first to fill. Adding a new wing to replace the portables would help the school meet demand, Mains said, and eliminate logistical and safety problems with the trailers. Because port- ables are not connected to the main building, students have to walk outdoors to go to lunch, gym or for other reasons, even in winter. My space problems would be solved,” Mains said. I wouldn’t have the danger that’s involved with having kids in a building that’s not at- tached.”

Avoiding ‘q uagmires’

Bell said the shift from rebuilding schools such as 22 and 36 to upg rading schools including 50 was largely due to legislative limitations, but not en- tirely. Things change as facts change,” Bell said. Most importantly, I suppose, is (that) the performance of each school … changes, so you’re investing your resources in the schools with the highest potential for success. I think that’s what the superintendent and his team are con- stantly doing.” In Syracuse, similar legislation authorizing the project there created

a similar sticking point. An aging school there, Blodgett Elementary, was slated to be rebuilt in the first phase of the project. As in Rochester, it’s been shelve d fo r now. And Rochester officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of some of the most troubling problems encountered in Syracuse, where critics say tens of millions of project dollars have been spent with very little to show for it. Syracuse is in a quag- mire,” Brizard said.

They’ve spent millions and gotten nowhere.” Former Syracuse school board President Kim Rohadfox-Ceaser said Rochester ’s project has already avoided one pitfall that has derailed Syracuse.

The biggest issue for

us has been the way our Joint School Construction Board has been struc-

tured,” she said. It’s actu- ally made up mostly of

politicians.”

Rochester ’s board in-

cludes experienced pri- vate sector leaders, peo-

ple with expertise in con- struction and contracting

and community — and no

elected officials. Political wrangling was, in part, what derailed the Blodgett project, though the Syracuse district’s current president, Laurie Menkin, noted there’s an

effort afoot to revive it for phase one. But even though the plan has been altered to fit the legisla- tion — Blodgett is now slated for a large-scale rehabilitation rather than

a new building — Menkin

said the political will doesn’t exist to get it done early in the cycle. They really weren’t

said Kenneth Bell, chair- man of the seven-member Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board, the independent board over- seeing the first phase of the three-phase, 15-year prog ram. Five years ago, that money would have bought X. Now, it’s one half of X,” Bell said. And with the state struggling to meet existing obliga- tions, if we delay this project much longer, we may lose some of the money.” In fact, while inflation since 2006 has totaled about 9 percent, the cost of new K-12 school con- struction has jumped about 32 percent, accord- ing to the Bureau of La- bor Statistics Producer Price Index. In the end, Bell said, there might not be enough money to work on 13 schools when con- struction starts some time next year. It sounds like a lot of money, when you say a billion and a half dollars,” said Bell, a retired HSBC executive appointed to the FMP board by Mayor Robert Duffy. But over 15 years, that’s really not a lot of money. So we have to be careful that we spend our money wisely.”

Le gislative questions

At the root of the prob- lems, some say, is the legislation that allowed the district to exceed the state-imposed maximums on borrowing. Th e law, sponsored by state Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, and signed by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, is similar to laws authorizing projects in Syracuse, where officials are wrestling with similar delays, and in Buffalo before that. The project, in those cities as in Rochester, was designed to exceed the city’s debt limit and take advantage of a high rate of reimbursement from the state in order to up- grade aging and outdated schools. More than a billion dollars would be borrowed through bond sales. But though the cities are in some ways similar, their needs can be very different. We spent money and effort really thinking through what were our unique needs,” said James Fenton, a Rochester dis- trict administrator who worked on the project until a recent promotion. We crafted a piece of legislation I thought was very good. It was unique to us. What we ended up with was exactly what Syracuse had passed with some provisions that David Gantt wanted. It was really just a heart- breaking thing.” In the end, the legisla- tion for the first phase of the project only allowed for rehabilitation and renovation — not new construction. So instead

of being able to tear down long line to use the bath-

and rebuild old schools such as 22 and 36 as the district had originally planned, the focus shifted to upg rades and expan- sions at newer buildings. The Rochester School District denied a Free- dom of Information Law request for the recently updated master construc- tion plan, but a list of the 13 school buildings in- cluded on the updated draft plan for phase one was obtained by the Dem- ocrat and Chronicle. Officials confirmed the list but stressed that it

was still a draft. They also she’s considering other

promised a robust public input process in the months ahead.

Sc hool 22 wo es

Under the latest pro- posal, several younger schools would see con- struction to eliminate the use of portable class- rooms, in addition to other work. Meanwhile, the district’s worst school buildings would continue

we’re not that far behind,” interested in investing

he said. They’re doing enough things that, obvi- ously, we would remain open.” But the gym is inadequate, he said. Dur- ing a recent kickball game, the ball bounced from foot to ceiling to floor to wall like an over- sized racquetball. Montanarello said he hopes the school finds its way into phase two of the three-phase project. School 50 principal

that kind of money,” she said of the city govern- ment there. It’s in one of the poorest sections of the entire United States.

Vo te r turnout is ve ry low.

… You can read between

the lines on that one.” There was widespread anger when the commu- nity found out that Blod- gett was left out, Menkin said. Rightly so. Prom- ises were made eight years ago that Blodgett

Tim Mains was less chari- would be renovated,” she

table. School 36, he said, needs to be abandoned.” School 50, on Seneca Avenue just south of East Ridge Road, is among those on the updated list of phase one schools, and Mains confirmed that the proposed work there includes eliminating the use of portable class- rooms. All four third- grade sections are held in converted trailers behind the school.

said. Rohadfox-Ceaser said the bureaucracy set up by the legislation was pri- marily to blame for the delays. Instead of saying, ‘each city is unique,’ ” Rohadfox-Ceaser said, we try to put this cookie- cutter legislation to- gether, and it doesn’t always serve the commu- nities’ needs best.”

NRAMOS@D emocratandChronicle.com