Duquesne board rejects transfer plan
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, 5:46 a.m.
Duquesne City School District's board of directors voted 8-0 with one abstention on Thursday to reject a financial recovery plan presented by state-appointed chief recovery officer Paul B. Long.
“We did not get a chance to digest that plan,” board president Dewayne Tucker said.
No one in an audience of approximately 50 in attendance spoke in favor of the plan.
Now Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas will appoint a receiver to implement Long's scenario of voluntary transfers of elementary students to other districts.
The court is expected to take the case on Tuesday.
Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said state education secretary Ronald Tomalis will petition the county court within five days, as required by the School District Financial Recovery Act 141.
The Duquesne board's next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Voting no were Tucker, board vice president Calvina Harris and Sonya Chambers, Laura Elmore, Rosia Reid, Cedric Robertson, Maxine Thomas and Theresa Thomas. Reid voted by telephone.
Director Burton Comensky abstained.
“I didn't particularly want to vote it down,” Comensky said, “and I didn't want to vote against the board.”
Long proposed sending Duquesne students to a district where schools meet Adequate Yearly Progress on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests and accept a tuition of $8,000 each.
He had 11 districts in mind:
• East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area.
• Elizabeth Forward and South Allegheny, both of which have rejected the plan.
• Pittsburgh, whose administrators ran Duquesne's operations during 2006-07.
• West Jefferson Hills, where Allegheny Intermediate Unit director Linda Hippert is interim superintendent. AIU ran Duquesne operations from 2007 to 2011.
• Baldwin-Whitehall, Brentwood, Gateway, Norwin and South Park Township.
“This is not in our children's best interest to send (them) that far,” resident Lina Washington said.
“East Allegheny is far enough,” Whitmore said. “And every road going out to South Park is screwed up.”
“Why don't we send them to a private school?” asked parent Keith Whitmore. He suggested that Serra Catholic High School in McKeesport might be a cheaper option.
“I would rather my daughter go to (a) charter school,” parent Keith Thomas said.
“They have done no research on the effects this will have on our children,” charter school advocate Connie Lucas said. “We refuse to have our children exported miles and miles from their parents, where they can't get to them if there is an emergency.”
If the Duquesne receiver can't get other districts to accept the city's students by fall, Long said, “then we will need to continue to plan to have (kindergarten through sixth grade) here.”
The Rev. Carolyn Perrin reiterated arguments she and her husband, the Rev. Archie Perrin, made at public forums and before the board on Tuesday.
She decried “gross negligence” in “this so-called recovery plan.” She pointed again to how Duquesne scores are not counted in the PSSA ratings of East Allegheny or West Mifflin Area high schools. Duquesne youngsters have been sent to those schools by state mandate since 2007.
“You could have educated them better yourself here for less money,” Carolyn Perrin said.
Her husband Archie Perrin, the outgoing Wilkinsburg superintendent, a former Duquesne administrator and pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, was unable to attend the meeting.
“We are talking about people's lives here and their children's lives and their future,” Archie Perrin said on Wednesday. “They have not considered the short-term or the long-term effect.”
Robert Stump, a retired AIU consultant who raised seven children in Duquesne, suggested that the board “take a little more time before you vote.”
Solicitor Andrew Evankovich said there was no time, because under the financial recovery act the board was at the end of a 10-day period for considering Long's plan.
Eller also said Act 141 “states that the district shall not be eligible for a financial recovery transitional loan and technical assistance from the department.”
Before the vote, however, Long said the district would not get a $6,785,000 transitional loan that was in his plan because the department told him the money was not available. Eller did not have an response at presstime.
Had the board voted yes, Long said he also would have pursued $1 million in state funds for technical assistance.
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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