South Allegheny won't take Duquesne transfers
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 5:26 a.m.
Within 48 hours of Thursday's scheduled Duquesne school board's vote on a five-year financial recovery plan, more shots were taken at it.
On Wednesday, South Allegheny joined Elizabeth Forward in rejecting state-appointed chief recovery officer Paul B. Long's scenario of voluntary transfers of Duquesne students.
State Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, who was making a presentation at South Allegheny's board meeting, also reiterated his criticism of state policy toward Duquesne.
“I think it is a disgrace what they did,” Brewster said.
Long could not be reached for comment at presstime. Previously he said he would not answer responding districts “through the newspaper.”
On Tuesday, a letter presented by city residents to Duquesne's elected school board claimed that Long's plan “will impact our children in a negative matter.”
Joined by a group that included members of her Macedonia Baptist Church, the Rev. Carolyn Perrin criticized “an effort to rush a proposal through the system to meet an unrealistic timeline.”
Perrin's husband, the Rev. Archie Perrin, is Macedonia's senior pastor, a former Duquesne administrator and the outgoing Wilkinsburg superintendent.
He has criticized the financial recovery process as outlined in state Act 141 and called Long's plan a farce.
The fate of Long's plan was not clear as a 7 p.m. meeting approached at Duquesne Education Center.
“I don't know which way this is going to go,” board president Dewayne Tucker said. “We are still digesting it.”
Tucker said Long requested a straw vote during an executive session on Tuesday but the board declined.
“If we vote it down, then it is going (to the Allegheny County) Court of Common Pleas, where a judge will name a receiver (to run the district),” Tucker said.
While his plan has been criticized, Long has been credited with making a sincere effort.
“I think he has the children's future in mind,” state Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, said last week.
Allegheny Intermediate Unit executive director Dr. Linda Hippert, a Duquesne superintendent when AIU ran operations there, said problems weren't resolved there by Democratic or Republican administrations.
If the board votes yes, Long would seek agreements to tuition out elementary students to public schools within a 10-mile radius.
It is one of four scenarios in Long's plan, but the only one Long considered feasible.
Other scenarios include maintaining the status quo at Duquesne Education Center, seeking a state mandate for transfers to other districts or establishing a charter school.
City residents speaking to the Duquesne board on Tuesday included former board member Connie Lucas, who has an appeal pending in Harrisburg because her charter school applications twice were refused consideration by Duquesne's former Board of Control.
Long is seeking schools that achieved “Adequate Yearly Progress” on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests and will accept $8,000 tuition per student.
South Allegheny directors called that inadequate and said their elementary school “is geographically too far removed” from Duquesne.
They said it would be more practical to send students in kindergarten through grade 6 to West Mifflin Area and East Allegheny, which now receive Duquesne's high schoolers under a state mandate.
Brewster said he hopes to introduce a package of educational reforms in the General Assembly in the next several weeks.
“We're going to make sure everyone wins,” Brewster told the South Allegheny board.
He said as many as 50 of the state's 500 school districts may face the same difficulty that has put Duquesne and Chester Upland in the “severe financial recovery” category, and Harrisburg City and York City in the “moderate financial recovery” category under Act 141.
The senator said his plan would cover all schools and include improvements to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program that encourages business donations to nonpublic schools.
In Duquesne, Perrin contended that “the intent of (Act 141) was willfully disregarded and set aside at the expense of the students' rights to a fair and appropriate education.”
Long's would-be recipients for Duquesne youngsters also include Baldwin-Whitehall, Brentwood, Gateway, Norwin, South Allegheny, South Park Township, West Jefferson Hills and Pittsburgh, which had a contract for day-to-day operations during the state's control in Duquesne.
There was confusion on Tuesday about whether the Duquesne board was going to have a public workshop along with an executive session.
Tucker said Perrin's group was refused entry to Duquesne Education Center, then allowed in by superintendent Paul Rach and solicitor William Andrews.
“The superintendent didn't put it in in time enough for it to be a workshop,” Tucker said, “but they did let the people from the community present the letter to us.”
A district spokeswoman said Duquesne administrators understood that executive sessions would be Tuesday and prior to Thursday's public meeting and that those were the only scheduled meetings for this week.
“The administration takes full responsibility and has already apologized to the board for any inconvenience and misunderstanding,” Sarah McCluan said.
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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