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Plum, Gateway, Penn Hills consider creating a charter school

| Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, 9:30 a.m.

Superintendents in three school districts in the east are looking at forming a charter school.

Plum Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said he has had discussions with officials in the Gateway and Penn Hills school districts about converting the Boyce Campus Middle College High School into a charter school that enable students to earn an associate's degree while they receive their high school diploma.

The program is proposed to be called High School and Beyond Charter School.

“It would be a high-quality option for kids in the east,” Glasspool told Plum School Board members during an education committee meeting last week.

The superintendent said the discussion about a charter school began a few months ago and was prompted by questions about the future of the middle college high school.

The middle college high school — which is at Community College of Allegheny County's Boyce Campus in Monroeville — is in its 17th year.

It operates as an alternative school for sophomores, juniors and seniors from Gateway, Penn Hills and Plum.

A fourth district — Woodland Hills — pulled out of the program last year. The Gateway School Board last year considered withdrawing as well but voted to keep the program this year.

The criteria for admission to the middle college high school is evidence of academic potential, high rate of absenteeism, school phobia and being strongly disengaged with school.

The school has 104 students this year — 47 from Penn Hills, 27 each from Gateway and Plum and three students from other districts.

The Penn Hills School Board last week gave Superintendent Thomas K. Washington the nod to discuss the proposal with Plum and Gateway.

Glasspool said under the proposal, Gateway would make application for the charter because the school would be in Monroeville.

Glasspool said the Gateway School Board is expected to vote on the proposal during its Nov. 28 meeting.

He said Plum School District's three teachers would remain at the charter school.

“Part of the benefit is that we would be one of three on the governing board,” Glasspool said.

“We would have a say in the direction of the charter.”

Plum's projected cost to send students to the proposed charter school next year is $262,557.

The district's cost this year for the middle college high school program is $238,298.

Gateway's cost this school year is about $300,000, and the cost for Penn Hills is $365,000.

Glasspool said major differences between the current program and the proposed charter is ninth grade would be included in the charter school.

Also, juniors and seniors would be able to take college courses at CCAC and earn an associate's degree along with their diploma.

The majority of the seven Plum School Board members were lukewarm on the charter school proposal.

“I'm not sure what makes Gateway and Penn Hills (school districts) good partners right now,” said board member Sal Colella.

“I'm not sure if it's the right move for us now.”

Board member Joe Tommarello, though, embraces the option.

“It's a no-brainer,” Tommarello said.

“Why would we not want to be a part of it?”

The Plum Borough Education Association that represents Plum's teachers, had no comment on the proposal.

Plum's education committee will have more discussion on the proposal during the Nov. 5 education committee meeting.

The Plum School Board is expected to vote on the charter school proposal during a special meeting Nov. 13.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or

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