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No district steps up to accept Duquesne students

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 7:17 a.m.

Scratch a tenth district — and perhaps an 11th — from a list of 11 sought for Duquesne City elementary students.

Pittsburgh still is mulling over a plan by Duquesne chief recovery officer Paul B. Long to accept some or all of the approximately 400 Duquesne Education Center students at a tuition of $8,000 apiece.

“No decision has been made yet,” Pittsburgh spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said Monday.

The topic was not on the agenda reviewed by the Pittsburgh school board for its voting meeting on Wednesday. There was no word at presstime about amending the agenda to include Duquesne, a district administered by Pittsburgh Public Schools in 2006-07.

Despite its rejection by the Duquesne school board last month, Long is pursuing his plan for financial recovery for the distressed district.

Meanwhile, South Park Township's school board did discuss Long's plan last week.

“The board decided not to take any action at this time,” said Edward J. Gannis Jr., South Park business manager.

The reason is the district's discussion of renovating or rebuilding its middle school. Gannis said a decision on that is not expected for four to five months.

South Park and Pittsburgh were Long's last hopes after rejections from Baldwin-Whitehall, Brentwood, East Allegheny, Elizabeth Forward, Gateway, Norwin, South Allegheny, West Jefferson Hills and West Mifflin Area.

Still, “I have not ruled out further discussion,” Long said on March 4 after the Pennsylvania Department of Education asked Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Judith L.A. Friedman to place Duquesne City School District in receivership with Long in charge.

Friedman delayed a ruling.

“The department will attend the April 2 continuation of the hearing, with an expectation the judge will appoint a receiver,” PDE spokesman Tim Eller said.

A voluntary transfer was Long's preferred scenario out of four. The others are to keep DEC open or seek legislation to force transfers or authorize a Duquesne charter school.

“Should the plan's preferred option not be implemented, the department will work with the General Assembly to find an appropriate solution,” Eller said.

Long did not seek out Mon-Yough districts with schools on the state's “low-achieving” list, those on the bottom 15 percent in annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests used to measure proficiency under federal No Child Left Behind standards.

Students living in the coverage areas of “low-achieving” schools qualify for opportunity scholarships to other schools, mostly private ones in the Pittsburgh area. Those scholarships are funded by donations made by businesses in exchange for a tax credit.

Unlike other districts Long contacted, Pittsburgh has 13 elementary schools on that list, down from 22 on the first list issued by the Department of Education last year.

If Pittsburgh accepted Duquesne students, at least three schools within 10 miles of DEC could be considered, none of which were low-achieving in 2010-11 or 2011-12.

Mifflin in Lincoln Place is the closest, 4.9 miles from DEC with students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It earned a “warning” on 2011-12 PSSAs after three years of Adequate Yearly Progress. Across the Glenwood Bridge and 7.6 miles from DEC is Greenfield Elementary, which also admits K-8 students. It's made AYP since 2010-11. Minadeo Elementary School in Squirrel Hill is about a mile closer to DEC via the Homestead Grays Bridge, but only admits K-5 students and was listed in the “School Improvement 1” category after getting “Warning” status in 2010-11.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or