Common Pleas Court Senior Judge Judith L.A. Friedman today postponed appointing a receiver to carry out a financial recovery plan for the Duquesne City School District after questioning whether the financial recovery plan for the K-6 students was feasible.
The hearing was continued to April 2.
"The question has been properly raised: Is this really a plan?" Ms. Friedman said after attorney Burrell Brown, who represents residents, questioned it.
The case went to court after the elected school board rejected a proposal last month by chief recovery officer Paul B. Long. As a first option, Mr. Long is asking 11 school districts to voluntarily take the 350 students as early as the 2013-14 school year. The plan provided for paying the districts $8,000 per student in tuition.
The state Department of Education wants Mr. Long to become the receiver, effectively giving him the powers of the school board to run the district.
Samantha Snyder, assistant counsel for the state Department of Education, argued that the contents of the financial recovery plan were not relevant to whether a receiver is named.
Mr. Brown argued, however, that all four options in the plan were not feasible.
The one Mr. Long is pursuing calls for other school districts to voluntarily accept the K-6 students.
Most districts have already said no. After a conversation with Mr. Long, Ms. Snyder said three districts had not yet ruled it out: Brentwood, Pittsburgh and South Allegheny.
After checking his records following the hearing, Mr. Long said that only two districts have not formally rejected taking the students, Pittsburgh and South Park, for which he said "an affirmative reply is not likely."
The 11 districts are Baldwin-Whitehall, Brentwood, East Allegheny, Elizabeth Forward, Gateway, Norwin, South Allegheny, South Park, West Jefferson Hills, West Mifflin and Pittsburgh.
Since fall 2007, Duquesne high school students have gone to East Allegheny or West Mifflin Area high schools as a result of state legislation. This school year, seventh- and eight-graders were transferred there as well.
The other three options in the plan are to continue the district as it is, despite deficits; using a charter school; and requiring districts to accept Duquesne students, a move that would need state legislation.
Ms. Friedman also had harsh words for the state for inadequately funded education, saying legislators "should be ashamed of themselves."
Mr. Long was appointed chief recovery officer by state Secretary Education Ron Tomalis in November under the state Financial Recovery Act.
Education writer Eleanor Chute: email@example.com or 412-263-1955.