Duquesne charter school plan considered
Duquesne Charter School is unprepared to take on the education of city children, according to the district's chief recovery officer, Paul Rach.
“A charter school is not feasible under current law,” Rach testified on Friday during Duquesne City School District's public hearing to review Duquesne Charter School Founding Group's application to operate a kindergarten through sixth-grade facility for approximately 200 students, either within Duquesne Education Center or the former Duquesne Catholic School.
Duquesne City School District is working through a financial and educational recovery plan, mandated by the state Department of Education and Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. Students in kindergarten through sixth grade attend Duquesne Education Center, while the education of students in seventh through 12th grades is outsourced to West Mifflin Area and East Allegheny schools.
Facilitated by court-appointed receiver Paul B. Long, Friday's hearing allowed time for testimony by Duquesne Charter School founders, district personnel and the public.
“This is a formal hearing for the purpose of gathering facts so as to reach a decision as to whether to grant approval of the Duquesne Charter School,” Long explained. “No decision will be issued today.”
By state law, Long's decision can be made no sooner than Feb. 10 and no later than March 12. As a supplement to Friday's proceedings, public comment may be submitted in writing, along with any responses to questions raised by the applicant or district, by Jan. 10 at 5 p.m.
“We are not here to replace Duquesne City or any other district,” Duquesne Charter School Founding Group president Connie Lucas said. “Our goal is to provide a high standard of education for children right here in their community.”
Rach and acting Superintendent Barbara McDonnell flipped through the Duquesne Charter School application page by page, adding footnotes on each section listing what they described as inconsistencies, contradictions and references to out-of-date law.
“This proposal is inappropriate,” McDonnell said several times. “There is no comprehensive model of operations in this document.”
McDonnell and Rach did not highlight some sections of the application, but clarified that their lack of comment did not imply approval. They said it seemed many pages were copied directly from other sources, but the sources were not revealed.
“Without source materials referenced, we cannot research some of these materials,” Rach said.
After the hearing, Lucas said she thought many of the questions raised on Friday had been addressed in the current application, which essentially is a revision of an application that was denied earlier this month by the state Charter School Appeal Board.
Lucas said the current application was developed “just in case” the original plan was denied. She said curriculum issues prompted the appeal board to deny the first application.
When asked why a full curriculum was not provided on Friday — knowing that had been the cause for denial in the first round of application — Lucas said it will be submitted by the Jan. 10 deadline. During testimony, co-founder Carolyn Perrin said the application does not include a math curriculum, but it has been prepared and is ready to be submitted.
“This is a tremendous pioneering effort, here,” co-founder Larry Hasan said. “You have to take time to see the vision.”
District officials argued that there is no vision in place and that so-called innovative concepts listed in the application are educational practices that have been used for years in Pennsylvania, some since the 1980s.
Elected school board member Burton Comensky spoke of the school's limited resources and said he has faith in the new administration's effort to give each student the education he or she needs.
“The amount of money that a charter school will take out of the district is unfeasible for our district to lose,” he said. “Half the amount of students also is unfeasible to lose.”
Comensky said Duquesne schools are improving slowly, reiterating points made by administrators since the start of the 2013-14 school year with the development of individual learning plans for all students.
According to Pennsylvania's School Performance Profile data, made available to the public online at www.paschoolperformance.org, Duquesne Elementary has a low score of 49.3. Comensky mentioned the performance of Wilkinsburg Borough schools — both elementary buildings performing in the mid-50s — from where Duquesne Charter School co-founder Archie Perrin recently retired. That district has made headlines in recent months for educational and financial management issues.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.
- Munhall mayor seeks to remedy flyover bridge hazards
- Jefferson Hospital doctor serves as panelist for mental health legislation
- EPA brings Clean Power Plan hearings to Pittsburgh
- Driver escapes serious injury in McKeesport heavy-equipment accident
- UPMC Women’s Committee votes to disband
- UPMC McKeesport president reiterates hospital will remain open
- White Oak no-kill shelter attorney appeals civil decision
- Lincoln council passes ordinances to help ‘protect residents’