Paul B. Long has been named the receiver for the Duquesne School District, a position that gives him the authority to make essentially all decisions for the district and paves the way for him to carry out his plan to send K-6 students to another district, possibly Pittsburgh.
The appointment, which lasts for three years, was made Tuesday by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Judith L.A. Friedman in response to a petition filed by the state Department of Education under the provisions of the state Financial Recovery Act for school districts. Mr. Long was already the district's chief recovery officer, appointed by the state to develop a financial recovery plan for the district.
The state's petition was filed after the Duquesne school board rejected the recovery plan Mr. Long presented in February. It called for asking 11 neighboring districts to voluntarily take all or some of Duquesne's 350 students in grades K-6 at a tuition rate of $8,000 per student.
Duquesne's students in grades 7-12 attend either West Mifflin Area or East Allegheny school districts.
At a hearing March 4, Judge Friedman did not make the appointment because she said Mr. Long's recovery plan was not specific in that it did not indicate where Duquesne students would attend school in the fall.
Ten of the 11 districts have declined to take the Duquesne elementary students. Mr. Long has met with administrators from the Pittsburgh Public Schools about the possibility of accepting them.
After Tuesday's hearing, Mr. Long said he is working with Pittsburgh administrators to come up with a "draft contract."
It's still unclear if an agreement could be reached to transfer the students for fall 2013. The recovery plan calls for the students to remain in Duquesne for 2013-14 if no other district volunteers to take them.
Mr. Long's plan calls for sending the students to schools within a 10-mile radius of Duquesne. Pittsburgh schools that fall into that radius are Pittsburgh Mifflin, Greenfield and Colfax, which are all K-8 schools, and Pittsburgh Minadeo K-5.
After a nearly two-hour hearing during which Judge Friedman analyzed the financial recovery act, Mr. Long's recovery plan and the actions of the elected school board, she said she believed she had no choice but to name Mr. Long as receiver.
In that position, Mr. Long has full power to operate the district. The elected board will still vote on financial matters such as the budget, tax rate and debt payments, but must follow the direction of Mr. Long on those matters.
The judge heard testimony from Mr. Long and listened to arguments from attorney Samantha Snyder, who represented the state Department of Education, and attorney Burrell Brown, who represented the Duquesne school board and a concerned citizens group.
But she did not allow testimony from school directors, which angered the group.
"It's not fair that she did not even let us speak," Duquesne school board vice president Calvina Harris said. "We would have told her that we were not given all of the information about the (recovery) plan that we requested and that's why we voted against it."
Mary Niederberger: email@example.com or 412-263-1590. First Published April 2, 2013 4:15 PM