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Duquesne cancels all school board meetings

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 8:00 a.m.

Duquesne City has become one of two school districts in the state where receiver agendas have replaced meetings of the elected school board.

In a legal notice submitted on Wednesday to The Daily News, the Duquesne City district said remaining board meetings for 2012-13 are canceled, and in their place will be business meetings run by court-appointed receiver Paul B. Long.

“The receiver assumes all powers and duties of the elected board,” state Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said. “How those powers and duties are carried out is a decision for the receiver and his solicitor to make.”

The first receiver business meeting will be on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Duquesne Education Center auditorium. Meetings also are scheduled for May 28 and June 25.

“We still are going to have to have public meetings,” Long said. “As receiver, I'm really only acting on behalf of the school board.”

In Chester Upland, the other district in the state deemed to be in severe financial recovery under Act 141, resolutions indicate that court-ordered receiver Joseph Watkins acting as the board of directors.

“I think you will see similar language in our agenda,” Long said.

“We got a packet from (Long),” Duquesne elected board president DeWayne Tucker said. “We are supposed to have an executive session at 6.”

Tucker plans to recognize an outstanding student-athlete at Tuesday's meeting, an award he presents annually.

“As it stands right now, (Long) will be in total control, until they can merge with Pittsburgh,” Tucker said.

Tucker was referring to talks between Long and Pittsburgh Public Schools about a transfer of elementary students at a tuition of $8,000 each.

It is the preferred scenario in Long's plan for financial recovery. He wants an agreement with a district that meets Adequate Yearly Progress under federal No Child Left Behind guidelines.

Ten districts rejected the idea. Sources close to the talks said four Pittsburgh schools are being considered, all within 10 miles of Duquesne.

They are Mifflin in Lincoln Place, Colfax in Squirrel Hill and Greenfield in Greenfield, all with kindergarten through eighth grade, and Minadeo in Hazelwood, covering kindergarten through fifth grade.

Long said he expects to have something to say about the Pittsburgh talks on Tuesday night.

Even if all Duquesne students go elsewhere, Long said, “Duquesne City School District will remain as the legal entity responsible for public education in Duquesne.”

Tuesday's meeting is Long's first public session since Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Judith L.A. Friedman placed Duquesne City schools into his receivership.

“I want to involve the school board as much as possible, as much as they are willing to be involved,” Long said. “They are a vital link to the community.”

Long and Watkins first were named as chief recovery officers in their respective districts by state education secretary Ron Tomalis.

Watkins was associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison during President George W. Bush's administration. He also has backgrounds in business and as a Lutheran minister.

McKees Rocks native Long spent 20 years in the Navy, then 20 as an administrator in the North Allegheny and Pennsbury school districts, the latter in Bucks County.

Watkins said he wants community input. He provides weekly updates on progress toward implementing a plan he released on Nov. 13.

It is termed “a framework for improving the Chester Upland School District both financially and academically in order to enhance the school district and draw students back to the district's schools.”

Duquesne and Chester Upland are among four districts affected by Act 141. Harrisburg City and York City are deemed to be in “moderate financial recovery.”

Duquesne's and Chester Upland's boards rejected recovery plans developed with help from Public Financial Management Inc., a PDE Philadelphia-based contractor.

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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