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Duquesne reports 'productive' school talks

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 2:23 a.m.

Duquesne City School District may yet have an outlet for voluntary transfers of its elementary students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“Meaningful and productive discussions took place,” Duquesne state-appointed chief recovery officer Paul B. Long said after a Wednesday meeting with the Pittsburgh district's chief financial and operating officer Pete Camarda, solicitor Ira Weiss and financial analyst Ron Jones. “Although all issues were not resolved at this administrative meeting, progress was made in that direction.”

“It was a good discussion,” Pittsburgh district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said. “There are still some outstanding questions that need to be answered.”

Pittsburgh is the last of 11 school districts Long approached to take approximately 400 Duquesne students at a tuition of $8,000 apiece.

After Tuesday's meeting of Duquesne's elected school board, Long said he hoped to have something to tell Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Judith L.A. Friedman when a hearing resumes Tuesday on the Pennsylvania Department of Education's bid to put Duquesne into receivership.

When it resumes, attorney Burrell Brown will represent the school board. He was hired by the board after the district's law firm Andrews & Price advised the board to hire independent counsel.

Brown also represented a group of Duquesne citizens unhappy with the receivership bid at the March 4 hearing before Friedman, but said he did not believe he had a conflict of interest.

However, he said in Pittsburgh Wednesday, “I would assist (the citizens) in finding counsel.”

Brown said there are two options Friedman could take.

“One is to deny the (PDE) petition and allow (Long) to come up with a revised plan,” Brown said. “(Or) she could clearly grant a continuance on the matter and allow the board and the current chief recovery officer to work out a plan that is acceptable.”

Brown said that would give the school board a chance to review Long's findings, something the board said it did not have prior to its vote last month rejecting Long's current plan.

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

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