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Monday release set for Duquesne schools financial recovery plan

| Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, 6:58 a.m.

State-appointed chief recovery officer Paul B. Long is completing his plan for Duquesne City School District.

Long said on Friday that he was on schedule to release it Monday morning, then post it Monday afternoon on the www.dukecitysd.org website.

It will be a five-year plan for the district, which has been designated by state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis as being in “severe financial recovery.”

State law requires that the elected school board act on the plan within 10 days. That could happen at the board's second special meeting in February. No date has been set yet.

On Thursday the board met to approve the hiring of substitute teachers. Its next regular meeting is Feb. 26.

If the board rejects the plan, the state can ask Allegheny County Common Pleas Court to put the district into receivership. A Delaware County judge put Chester Upland into receivership after its board rejected chief recovery officer Joseph Watkins' plan.

At public forums, Long proposed four scenarios, including continued education of kindergarten and elementary students in Duquesne, while those in grades 7-12 are tuitioned out to West Mifflin Area and East Allegheny.

However, he called the status quo “academically and fiscally unacceptable,” though “it provides a baseline to compare” with other scenarios:

• Place K-6 students in nearby districts on the basis of voluntary agreements.

“The tuition would have to be affordable to Duquesne,” Long said.

• Place K-6 students in nearby districts based on state mandate. That is what is done now in East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area schools.

West Mifflin Area reserved as an option a lawsuit against the state education department because it only gets $10,500 per student while charter schools may get up to $28,500 per student.

“We have similar concerns,” East Allegheny director Frederick Miller said on Thursday. To date, his district hasn't discussed a lawsuit.

• Establish a charter school for grades K-6 in Duquesne Education Center.

While former Duquesne school director Connie Lucas is pressing that idea with support from a majority on the elected board, ultimately a charter school may depend on what happens to reforms Gov. Tom Corbett proposes.

“Under the existing law ... this scenario is not financially viable,” Long said.

Tomalis appointed Long on Nov. 16 and the city's elected board accepted him on Nov. 29.

Tomalis gave Long continuances in December and January. The last delay was until after Corbett's budget address to legislators last week.

Corbett's budget has $11.8 million for Duquesne, $8.56 million of that in a basic education subsidy that is $62,000 higher than the 2012-13 subsidy.

Also proposed are a continued $2.5 million in supplemental funding, no change in the district's accountability grant but a slight decrease in special education funding.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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