City schools still considering accepting Duquesne students

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Though 10 suburban school districts declined a request in recent weeks to take some or all of the 350 elementary students from the Duquesne School District, Pittsburgh Public Schools officials remain in conversation with Duquesne chief recovery officer Paul Long.

The request to the districts was made as part of Mr. Long's financial recovery plan for the Duquesne district, a plan released Feb. 11 and later rejected by the Duquesne school board.

Both Mr. Long and Pittsburgh schools solicitor Ira Weiss said a lengthy discussion was held this week among Mr. Long, Mr. Weiss and district financial administrators about the possible transfer of K-6 students from the Duquesne district. While Mr. Long's plan calls for the transfer to take place for the 2013-14 school year, both sides acknowledge that timetable may not be met.

Mr. Weiss said the discussions among administrators included the topic of the $8,000 in tuition being offered for each Duquesne student -- an amount that other districts said was too low -- and a "host of educational issues." He said he anticipated future discussions and that at some point the Pittsburgh administrative team likely would make a recommendation to the school board on the matter. The final decision would be made by vote of the Pittsburgh school board.

"There is still a process under way. The Pittsburgh school district has not said no to Duquesne," Mr. Weiss said.

Mr. Long described his discussion with Pittsburgh officials, held Wednesday, as "meaningful and productive."

"Although all issues were not resolved at this administrative meeting, progress was made in that direction," Mr. Long wrote in an email.

Neither official named which Pittsburgh school or schools might be considered for accepting Duquesne students.

Duquesne students in grades 7-12 attend either the West Mifflin Area or East Allegheny school districts on a tuition basis through state legislation that was created after Duquesne High School was closed in 2007. Because there is no state legislation mandating that elementary students be transferred, Mr. Long asked districts within a 10-mile radius to take the students on a voluntary basis.

West Mifflin Area and East Allegheny rejected the request to take more Duquesne students, and the Baldwin-Whitehall, Brentwood, Elizabeth Forward, Gateway, Norwin, South Allegheny, South Park and West Jefferson districts also have declined Mr. Long's request.

In a related matter, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Judith L.A. Friedman will resume a hearing Tuesday to determine if Mr. Long should be appointed receiver for the Duquesne district. The state Department of Education, under the provisions of the state Financial Recovery Act for school districts, earlier this month petitioned the court to name Mr. Long receiver after the Duquesne board rejected his recovery plan. As receiver, Mr. Long would run the district.

At a March 4 hearing, Judge Friedman declined to act on the matter because she said Mr. Long's plan did not specify where the Duquesne students would attend school next year. She continued the hearing until Tuesday.

On March 12, the Duquesne board hired attorney Burrell Brown to represent it in fighting the receivership.

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


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