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Penn-Trafford School District asks for dismissal of lawsuit

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Attorneys for the Penn-Trafford School District have asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit saying that some math teachers furloughed by the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in 2010 should be hired by the district before officials there consider “external” candidates.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Richard McCormick Jr. has scheduled an Oct. 29 hearing in the case, which the vo-tech teachers union filed in 2011.

Three of the original five plaintiffs still are pursuing the litigation against Penn-Trafford through their union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Those three — Colleen Conko of Mt. Pleasant, Sabine Lynn of Belle Vernon and Daniel Lusk of Bentleyville — also are among the plaintiffs in a similar case against the Jeannette City School District.

Penn-Trafford was among nine school districts that decided in 2010 to require its vo-tech students to receive math instruction at their high schools instead of at the vo-tech. Subsequently, the center furloughed the math teachers who filed the suit.

The teachers say the state Transfer of Entities Act requires Penn-Trafford to hire them for vacant positions, but district officials say they have no such obligation to hire from the vo-tech's furlough pool.

In an Aug. 30 motion asking McCormick to dismiss the case, Penn-Trafford's attorneys said the teachers have not presented any evidence backing their statement that the district must give them priority in hirings.

Penn-Trafford officials also noted that they stopped sending its students to the vo-tech for math courses because of the poor scores those students were achieving on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, test.

“Therefore, hiring the teachers from the CWCTC (vo-tech) would defeat the purpose of requiring PTSD students to receive mathematics instruction in its own high school, rather than at the CWCTC,” attorney Brian B. Benestad wrote in the motion.

“While various factors may contribute to poor PSSA scores, one of the factors is undoubtedly the quality of the instruction, and PTSD should not be required to subject its students to poor instruction.”

Brad Elwood, director of the vo-tech, did not respond to a request for comment about the center's math instruction.

Union officials did not immediately offer a comment about the case.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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