Paul B. Long, a McKees Rocks native, graduate of Shaler High School and the U.S. Naval Academy and a former administrator in the North Allegheny School District, has been appointed by state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis as the chief recovery officer for the Duquesne School District.
Mr. Tomalis made that announcement Friday in conjunction with making final his declaration of the Duquesne district being in financial recovery status as per the requirements of financial distress legislation for schools that was approved by the state Legislature in June.
Mr. Long, 63, will be paid $12,000 per month and is tasked with creating a financial recovery plan for the financially and academically ailing Duquesne district, which has been under the management of a state board of control since October 2000. First, however, the elected Duquesne board must meet to decide if its members want to work with Mr. Long.
His appointment means that the state board of control dissolves and management of the district returns to the hands of the elected board.
Elected board president DeWayne Tucker said he spoke with Mr. Long Friday and found him to be gracious and sincere.
"He called me and introduced himself and he gave me his cell phone. From his initial talk, he seems that he is willing to come in and try to do what he can," Mr. Tucker said.
Under the new state legislation regarding distressed schools, chief recovery officers can take drastic measures to reorganize a school or district, including converting schools to charter schools, bringing in charter or private management or sending students to neighboring districts on a tuition basis.
Duquesne students in grades 7-12 already attend West Mifflin and East Allegheny schools on a tuition basis.
Duquesne was placed in preliminary financial recovery status in August. The Duquesne board did not contest the declaration, which cleared the way for Mr. Tomalis to make the declaration final and appoint Mr. Long.
In making the final declaration, Mr. Tomalis noted that the district eliminated its high school in 2007 to reduce expenses but continues to struggle financially.
The junior high -- seventh and eighth grades -- was eliminated this year, yet the district still continues to require "substantial supplemental funding from the commonwealth to continue operating." This year it received an additional $2.5 million in a budget of about $16.5 million.
Mr. Tomalis also noted that Duquesne's annual debt service payment exceeds what the district collects in property and earned income taxes and the district lacks a long-term plan to address its financial difficulties and become self-sufficient. He also pointed out that the district has received numerous advances on its state subsidies over the past dozen years.
If the board accepts the chief recovery officer, Mr. Long has 30 days to develop a financial recovery plan for the district. Once that plan is formulated, the board must decide if it will accept it. If so, it goes into effect immediately. If not, the issue heads to Common Pleas Court.
According to a release from the Department of Education, Mr. Long is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a master's degree in business administration and a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. After serving 20 years in the Navy, where he earned the rank of commander, Mr. Long began an education career at North Allegheny, where he served as director of finance and administration, and later served as business administrator, acting superintendent and chief executive officer for the Pennsbury School District in Bucks County, from which he retired in 2011.
He is also chairman of the board of the Verland Foundation, which provides education, support and residential care to 230 intellectually disabled individuals in the Pittsburgh area.
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1590.