ShareThis Page

Duquesne schools, community leaders look for student connection

| Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, 7:09 a.m.
The Rev. David Queen, police Sgt. Ozie Sparks, Duquesne principal Sharon McIntosh, city controller Beth Kracinovsky, parent council president Joan Hozier and Duquesne/West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club director Pat Bluett met Thursday to discuss ways to better connect students with the community.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
The Rev. David Queen, police Sgt. Ozie Sparks, Duquesne principal Sharon McIntosh, city controller Beth Kracinovsky, parent council president Joan Hozier and Duquesne/West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club director Pat Bluett met Thursday to discuss ways to better connect students with the community.

Local leaders are rallying behind Duquesne students through an evolving program that links the city school district to the community.

With court-appointed receiver Paul Long charged with monitoring the academic and financial recovery of Duquesne City School District, school administrators and community leaders are doing their part to make sure students want to learn.

Community Connections, formed at the start of the school year to build a city-wide network of student support, met Thursday afternoon to strengthen ties and develop strategies.

Elementary school principal Sharon McIntosh shared the student body's demographic and academic statistics and encouraged those in attendance to use the online performance profile at to research the district.

McIntosh said the district wants the community to help turn around the school's score of 49.3 and rid itself of the red arrow that indicates Duquesne Elementary is a “priority” for the state Department of Education.

“Anytime someone sees red, it's an indication that we have some work to do,” McIntosh said. “That's why you're here. We need your input on what we can do to improve.”

Administrators attended a seminar on school improvement processes, where they learned about another district that was able to overcome its challenges, McIntosh said.

“What they had in their favor is what we have around this table — a community connection,” she said. “They made sure that every child, every day, was learning. We can do that.”

Attendees shared what they believe their roles can be as they push students toward improved academic achievement.

Acting Superintendent Barbara McDonnell and assistant to the superintendent Stan Whiteman spoke about sharing good news about Duquesne schools with the community by using social media technology that parents and others have at their fingertips.

“We need to continue to improve our communication and let parents and the community know about the positive things going on in our schools,” Whiteman said.

Student services coordinator Martina Vitalbo explained the district's mission to overcome students' social, emotional and mental health barriers. Students have individual learning plans that address all of their classroom needs.

School nurse Maureen Callas presented information on decreasing the spread of germs, which is being communicated to students as well as adults.

“A big issue in school is how to keep students healthy enough to have them in school and able to achieve,” Callas said. “One reason for kids not being here is the common cold and related illnesses.”

She encouraged community leaders to model good hygiene practices such as washing hands after using the bathroom or touching garbage. She encouraged folks to cough or sneeze into their elbows rather than hands to cut down on the transfer of germs.

“Hopefully the district's data will show in March that we're improving attendance with a few simple lessons,” Callas said.

Duquesne-West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club board member Beth Kracinovsky and director Pat Bluett described after-school programs that support rather than duplicate what students learn in class. They said it's important for children to understand that they are a part of their community.

“I am a proud Duquesne graduate, and I always try to give back on a personal level,” Kracinovsky, the city controller, said. “Children need to understand that they're not just Duquesne students. They are Duquesne community members.”

Community Connections members are expected to attend the next receiver's meeting on Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Duquesne Education Center auditorium, when city officials will present awards to two honor students.

The organization is open to any who believe they can contribute to the success of Duquesne students. For more information or to attend a meeting, call 412-466-9600.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.