McKeesport Area School District building rapport with local officials

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 7:04 a.m.

McKeesport Area School District is opening lines of communication with the communities it serves.

Comprised of McKeesport, White Oak, Dravosburg, Versailles and South Versailles Township, the district is engaging with government officials from those municipalities to speak openly about school-community issues.

“For too long, it's been so disconnected,” assistant superintendent Rula Skezas said. “People who live within our communities don't know what the school district is doing. We're trying to give them information firsthand, so they're not hearing about things at the grocery store or gas station.”

In a series of quarterly sessions that began in the 2011-12 school year, McKeesport Area administrators met on Tuesday with representatives from McKeesport, White Oak and Dravosburg to address topics including school construction updates, realignment of grade levels and redistricting. The meeting was a preview of what will be discussed publicly on Feb. 20, with an Act 34 hearing at 7 p.m. and a workshop at 7:30.

“We've covered a variety of topics,” superintendent Timothy Gabauer said. “There might be questions that come up during their meetings, and they bring their concerns to us. We want to communicate openly for the betterment of the district and each of these communities, and this forum provides that.”

School board president Patricia Maksin said addressing local officials directly helps to alleviate confusion that area residents may have regarding school issues.

“Before anyone else can tell people what's happening here, these leaders can take what they learn back to their communities,” Maksin said.

White Oak borough manager Jack Petro Jr. reflected on an invitation that council offered to district officials.

“White Oak was pushing for this for years,” he recalled. “It opened the eyes of many of our council members with regard to the positive things McKeesport Area School District is doing.”

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said positivity and open communication can lead only to good things.

“All too often, school districts and municipalities have a tendency to operate separately, which is counter-productive,” Cherepko said. “The more we communicate as a whole, the better chance we have to be successful in moving this district forward.”

The process brings hope, Petro agreed. Continuing to meet on a quarterly basis always will be important because it promotes awareness among elected officials, he said.

As long as community leaders want to be involved, the district is committed to keeping them informed and involved, Gabauer said.

McKeesport Area schools are sharing their “good news” with area service clubs and business owners, he said. District officials have met with local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs and the White Oak Business Professionals Association to discuss updates and activities.

While the district is sending out information, it also welcomes feedback.

Through comment boxes in each of the McKeesport Area schools, the district is seeking suggestions from parents and other visitors. From a customer service perspective, administrators want to know how their buildings can better serve the public.

“We hear all the time that it takes a village to raise a child,” Maksin said. “This is a perfect example of the entire village coming together to raise its children.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or

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