ShareThis Page

Pennsylvania to audit Woodland Hills in response to 'unprecedented' concern

Megan Guza
| Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, 3:10 p.m.
Woodland Hills High School on August 23, 2017.
Ben Schmitt | Tribune-Review
Woodland Hills High School on August 23, 2017.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday that his office will audit the troubled Woodland Hills School District a year earlier than scheduled in response to concerns raised by government officials in the district's communities.

At a news conference announcing the audit, one of those leaders, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, called for Woodland Hills Superintendent Alan Johnson to resign.

Johnson declined to comment on Fetterman's call for his resignation.

“They were all shoulder to shoulder on wanting me to do this audit so there could be an independent accountability measure of the Woodland Hill School District,” DePasquale said during the news conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse. “I want to be clear, that type of unanimous support … is unprecedented.”

Woodland Hills has been plagued by controversies over the past year, including altercations between white administrators and police and black students that gained national attention after videos capturing the incidents went public.

DePasquale said that a letter calling for an audit by his office was endorsed by representatives from all 12 municipalities covered by the school district.

The audit will be broad, examining everything from the district's financial stability and hiring practices to school safety and academic performance. It will cover July 2012 to June 2016.

Johnson said the district has been audited twice during his tenure, and neither audit uncovered any major concerns. He said the district is due for another.

“Our books are open, and we have nothing that we want or need to hide,” Johnson said.

While DePasquale's office can only make recommendations, DePasquale said it is not out of the realm of possibility that those recommendations could include suggesting the removal of administrators.

DePasquale said any findings of a criminal nature would be turned over to law enforcement.

Fetterman minced no words during the news conference.

“Superintendent Johnson should take the hint and move on,” Fetterman said.

Fetterman said a cloud remains over the district, which he said can't move forward until the audit is performed and the district has “completely new leadership at the top.”

DePasquale said he has seen footage of altercations between administrators, police and students. Some of the incidents are being investigated by the FBI and the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office. He called the videos shocking.

“When we do our audit, we have to play it down the middle, but I've seen those videos,” DePasquale said.

DePasquale said his audits of schools generally examine school safety on some level, but what he has seen out of Woodland Hills has demanded a higher level of scrutiny.

Fetterman agreed.

“It's not the ‘Shawshank Redemption,'” he said. “This is high school.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib. Staff writer Jamie Martines contributed.

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.

click me