Report reiterates restoring Duquesne school system
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Saturday, July 6, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
In a quarterly report made public on Friday, Duquesne City School District's court-appointed receiver repeated a desire “to re-establish high-quality public education for the students of Duquesne while achieving stable and sustainable finances” there.
Receiver Paul B. Long called “prospective and constructive” his plan for a district the Pennsylvania Department of Education regards as being in “severe financial recovery.”
The report, required by law, confirmed that a tentative agreement was reached on June 26 with the Duquesne Educational Support Personnel Association, but not with the Duquesne Education Association, representing teachers who have worked without a contract since June 30, 2012.
“Three negotiating sessions have recently been held with the DEA,” he wrote. “Progress has been made, and talks are scheduled to continue.”
Long detailed his effort to fulfill a preferred scenario for Duquesne elementary youngsters to have another district voluntarily accept them. The district, under a 2007 state law, sends students in seventh through 12th grades to either East Allegheny or West Mifflin Area schools.
“Discussions ensued (with) the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the West Mifflin Area School District,” Long wrote. “In both cases, there were several meetings, and placement agreements were drafted. However, neither of the agreements was made final.”
Instead, a budget and plan for 2013-14 classes for students in kindergarten through sixth grade at Duquesne Education Center were approved by Long at his June 25 receiver business meeting.
Long approved both, “acting as the board of school directors,” the June 25 agenda said.
As of Monday, Duquesne City School District community educational liaison Barbara E. McDonnell began her job as acting superintendent. Long wrote that McDonnell will serve for a year in the post formerly held by Paul Rach.
There were numerous discussions with residents, Long wrote, but a large part of the plan came from “consultative educational evaluation, financial analysis, other research and clerical work” by state contractor Public Financial Management Inc.
There are plans for a new advisory council, approved by Long in June.
“I expect that there will soon be an invitation made to prospective applicants for membership,” Long said. “The council will normally meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m.”
He said the council “will be a forum for the exchange of information” but have “no legislative or executive authority, nor will it replace in any way the roles and responsibilities of the school board.”
Long's plan was rejected by Duquesne's elected board but implemented after Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Judith L.A. Friedman placed the district into receivership.
Long was named Duquesne's chief recovery officer by former Education Secretary Ron Tomalis. At the request of the education department, Friedman made Long the receiver.
On May 22, Gov. Tom Corbett named Cumberland Valley Superintendent William E. Harner as acting secretary and sent his name for the state Senate to confirm as permanent successor to Tomalis.
A spokesman for the department indicated that there would be no change in the policy established for Duquesne and other distressed school districts in Act 141 of 2012.
“The law specifies the requirements of financial recovery, and the department does not have the authority to alter the requirements of the law,” the department of education's Tim Eller said.
Long said his report would be posted on the www.dukecitysd.org district website and his next report would be filed with the court on Sept. 30.
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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