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Duquesne board rejects financial recovery plan

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 10:30 p.m.

Duquesne City School District's board of directors voted 8-0 with one abstention on Thursday night to reject a financial recovery plan presented by a state-appointed officer.

“We did not get a chance to digest that plan,” board president Dewayne Tucker said after a meeting in which no support was shown for the state plan.

Recovery officer Paul B. Long's plan calls for the voluntary transfer of all elementary students to other districts at a tuition of about $8,000 each. Students in grades 7-12 already are going to East Allegheny and West Mifflin Area.

“I didn't particularly want to vote it down,” director Burton Comensky said in explaining his abstention. “And I didn't want to vote against the board.”

Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said: “As a result of the board's action, as required the School District Financial Recovery law, the (Education) Secretary will petition to the county court of common pleas for the appointment of a receiver over the district.

“... The law states that the district shall not be eligible for a financial recovery transitional loan and technical assistance from the department,” Eller said.

Long said state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis “hasn't asked me” to become the receiver. “I don't want to speculate on what the receiver's options would be.”

Long had a list of 11 school districts — including Brentwood, Norwin and South Park Township — where Duquesne high school students could be sent. Two of the 11, Elizabeth Forward and South Allegheny, have rejected Long's proposal.

“This is not in our children's best interest to send (them) that far,” Duquesne resident Lina Washington told the board. “Brentwood? South Park Township? Don't let this go through.”

Districts under consideration include: East Allegheny and West Mifflin, Baldwin-Whitehall, Gateway, Pittsburgh Public Schools and West Jefferson Hills.

Robert Stump, a retired educational consultant from Duquesne, suggested that the board “take a little more time before you vote.”

However, solicitor Andrew Evankovich said there was no more time because under state Act 141 the board was at the end of a 10-day period for considering Long's plan.

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.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.