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Pa. might lend Wilkinsburg district a hand, but not necessarily money

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 11:15 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq speaks to the Tribune-Review on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq speaks to the Tribune-Review Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq speaks to the Tribune-Review Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

State-sponsored support could be one facet to improving Wilkinsburg schools, Carolyn Dumaresq, acting secretary of education for Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday.

In a meeting with reporters and editors of the Tribune-Review, Dumaresq said district administrators will meet with students, parents and teachers to craft a curriculum that better promotes fiscal and academic health.

Recent Wilkinsburg woes run the gamut from poor tax collection rates and terminations to criminal charges levied by and against district employees.

Dumaresq made no pledge of money, but she said the state could help in an advisory capacity.

The school board unanimously agreed March 28 to replace Superintendent Lee McFerren with Donna Micheaux, assistant executive director for organizational leadership at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. McFerren will remain on administrative leave until June 26, when the board will buy out his contract for one year's salary of $115,000.

The board said that McFerren's removal was necessary to fix the troubled district.

The district's high school had the highest truancy rate in the region last year at 76.21 percent, an almost 20 percentage point increase from 2011-12.

Officials routinely collect only 75 to 78 percent of available property tax revenue, worth about $13.1 million from 5,000 parcels.

“We went by Tuesday night at their request,” Dumaresq said, “not to enforce anything, but to support the new board and let them know we're ready to help in any way we can.”

True revitalization takes a team, she said, and will be a long process.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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