Penn Hills sent 35 furlough letters but none announced so far
Penn Hills School District officials said rumors about teacher furloughs and program cuts have been greatly exaggerated.
However, state financial recovery officer Daniel Matsook confirmed April 29 that 35 teachers received a letter of possible furlough on April. 8.
“We overextended the number to cover all educational operations as we plan,” Matsook said. He said the notices were sent out at that time because of clauses in the district’s contract with teachers.
Superintendent Nancy Hines and several board members at the meeting said no formal decisions have been made as far as any staffing or program cuts.
“There’s just a list of who might get furloughed,” board President Erin Vecchio said. “Nothing is set in stone. We’re doing the recovery thing and we’re looking at everything. We don’t have to agree to it either. This is just negotiations on it.”
The district was placed in financial recovery status by the state Department of Education in January. Matsook was appointed to Penn Hills in February.
He and a special advisory committee have been working on a recovery plan for the financially struggling district for more than a month. It is expected to be revealed May 20 and posted for public review.
The plan will feature demographic information, student enrollment, academic data and related statistics as well as student achievements and financial reports.
The board is expected to adopt the plan June 24, at the same meeting the district plans to adopt next school year’s budget.
Hines said she and a board member saw information on local TV news outlets about its financial recovery plan being revealed and furloughs being made Monday.
The district posted on its website, phsd.k12.pa.us, that neither were going to happen at Monday’s meeting.
“We wanted to be very clear with the residents who were interested in engaging in the conversation (and) we welcome that, but there weren’t any furloughs on tonight’s agenda,” Hines said. “What is released individually in April may not match exactly what’s going to happen as of July 1.”
Matsook said the state Department of Education could petition the courts to start the receivership process if the school board rejects the plan. Receivership is when the state formally takes over a district and appoints a receiver, who has the final say on nearly all decisions regardless of the school board’s opinion.
The district is more than $172 million in debt largely due to the construction of the high school and elementary school.
A link to the district’s proposed preliminary budget is posted on the front page of the district’s site.
It shows a projected $8.1 million shortfall even with a maximum real estate tax hike allowed by the state without a voter referendum.
Students at Monday night’s meeting inquired about history teachers possibly teaching English as potential changes with the anticipated furloughs.
“Part of that gossip could be accurate,” Hines replied. She said some teachers have dual certification and can teach other subjects if necessary.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .