Duquesne, Pittsburgh to discuss transferring K-6 pupils

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The chief recovery officer for the Duquesne School District will meet with Pittsburgh Public Schools officials today to discuss the possibility of transferring Duquesne students in grades K-6 to Pittsburgh schools.

Recovery officer Paul Long said at the conclusion of the Duquesne school board meeting Tuesday that he would be meeting with Pete Camarda, chief financial and operations officer for the Pittsburgh schools, and Ira Weiss, the Pittsburgh district solicitor. Mr. Long said he has met previously with district administrators, though he did not name them.

Pittsburgh is the only district out of 11 approached by Mr. Long that has been willing to discuss the idea of taking the Duquesne elementary students as part of his financial recovery plan for the district. The other 10 districts declined the request.

The Pittsburgh school board would have to give final approval to any plan to transfer Duquesne students to city schools.

Mr. Long said he could not say if today's meeting would affect proceedings scheduled in Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, where Judge Judith L.A. Friedman is expected to resume a hearing on whether to appoint Mr. Long as the receiver for the district.

Appointing a receiver is an action prescribed by the state Financial Recovery Act for school districts. Duquesne was declared in financial recovery under the act last fall. Mr. Long was initially appointed the district's chief recovery officer by state Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis in November and charged with developing a financial recovery plan for the district.

The Duquesne board voted to accept Mr. Long as its receiver but rejected the recovery plan he presented on Feb. 11 because it called for sending the district's 350 elementary students to one or more of 11 districts within a 10-mile radius on a tuition basis, offering $8,000 per student.

Duquesne students in grades 7-12 attend either West Mifflin or East Allegheny school districts under legislation created in 2007 when Duquesne High School was closed.

According to the state act, if the school board rejects the financial recovery plan, Common Pleas Court is asked by the state to appoint a receiver. But when the matter went to court earlier this month, Judge Friedman declined to comply with the state's request to appoint Mr. Long as receiver because his plan failed to specify where the Duquesne elementary students would go to school next year. She continued the hearing for a month.

Mr. Long said his recovery plan calls for him to have an "administrative agreement" with a district by March 31 to take the Duquesne students for the fall of 2013. He declined to say what would constitute an administrative agreement with Pittsburgh and whether he expected to reach one by that deadline.

If he does not, Mr. Long said, it's likely he will tell Judge Friedman the K-6 students will remain in Duquesne for the 2013-14 school year. The school board approved several actions that prepared for that Tuesday, including renewing an agreement for a tutoring program and paying its portion of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's annual 2013-14 budget.

"If there is no commitment, then we will have school here next year," Mr. Long said.

But, he added, discussions could continue with Pittsburgh about the possibility of transferring the Duquesne students for the 2013-14 school year.

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Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590.


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