Recovery officer recommends all Duquesne students transfer voluntarily
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 4:56 a.m.
Duquesne City School District's state-appointed chief recovery officer has recommended that all remaining students voluntarily transfer from the city's public school to other nearby districts.
“Agreements between the receiving school district(s) and Duquesne City … would be voluntary and beneficial for both districts,” Paul B. Long said in the 112-page plan he issued on Monday morning.
Tuition would be $8,000 per student in kindergarten through grade 6, less than the $10,500 per student for grades 7-12.
Long said tuition for elementary students “is usually less than for secondary students.”
The plan has been posted on the school district's website, www.dukecitysd.org.
Long said the school board will meet in an executive session on Feb. 19, then vote on the plan at a Feb. 21 meeting in the Duquesne Education Center auditorium at 7 p.m.
Board members could not be reached at presstime.
If scbool directors reject the plan, the state Department of Education can seek an Allegheny County court order to put the district into receivership.
Long has been working with a council of volunteer advisors, which is scheduled to meet on Tuesday afternoon.
If Long pulls it off, Duquesne Education Center will close as a classroom facility.
“The district would have to remain as an entity,” Long said. “We will be looking for tenants and trying to find the best use for the building.”
The center is home to a branch of Carnegie Library of McKeesport, and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank uses the building for pantry distributions.
Long's preferred scenario goes beyond tuitioning students to East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area districts.
“I have had some discussions with some of my colleagues in the nearby school districts and I am optimistic,” Long said. “We're going to be looking at a larger array of school districts.”
Long said the district will have to consider other scenarios “if by April 16 we are not on our way” to an agreement.
“What if everyone says no?” Duquesne Mayor Phil Krivacek asked. “They will have to have legislation. I suspect it will come to that.”
East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area battled the state Department of Education in court over Act 45 of 2007, which mandated the transfer of Duquesne students in grades 9-12 to their schools.
State Supreme Court found Act 45 was unconstitutional but lawmakers corrected the problem with new legislation mandating the transfer.
Then-Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak said West Mifflin Area and East Allegheny were chosen for their sound academic track record and proximity to Duquesne.
“It's an educationally sound decision,” he said.
“We're going to educate those kids the best we can,” the late West Mifflin Area board president John Donis said at the time.
“You will not be Duquesne students simply going to East Allegheny,” then-East Allegheny assistant high school principal Raymond Morton said. “You will be East Allegheny students who live in Duquesne.”
Morton is overseeing Duquesne students as principal of seventh- and eighth-grade classes at East Allegheny's Logan Middle School.
The state Department of Education reinterpreted the mandate last summer, extending it to grades 7 and 8.
Under Long's plan, students would not go to any “low-achieving” school that qualifies for state Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits.
It rules out all but White Oak Elementary in McKeesport Area, three buildings in Woodland Hills, Barrett Elementary in Steel Valley and Clairton Elementary. Nonpublic and charter schools will not be considered.
Long considered other scenarios that included maintaining an existing kindergarten-grade 6 school. He said that is “academically undesirable and fiscally unsustainable.”
He said existing state law would have to be changed to mandate a transfer of elementary students to other districts.
Long ruled out a charter school at Duquesne Education Center as “clearly not financially viable.”
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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