Wilkinsburg school board to resume meeting

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The Wilkinsburg school board will resume its March legislative meeting tonight after recessing it Tuesday following an executive session to discuss personnel matters.

School directors were mum on the reason for recessing and then resuming the meeting three days later. Solicitor Matt Hoffman said only that the meeting would be resumed "for general business purposes."

Significant issues, some involving personnel, were discussed at Tuesday's meeting before it was recessed.

Two secretaries told the board that working for the district was so stressful that they are now on medication.

Their comments followed the stress-related medical leave started last month by Velma Parker, the district's Pennsylvania Information Management System administrator. She took the leave after the board, on superintendent Lee McFerren's recommendation, voted Feb. 25 to reassign her the duties of attendance officer through June 30. The district has been without an attendance officer since October 2012, despite a state mandate to fill the position, when Ms. Parker was assigned new duties by former superintendent Archie Perrin.

Since then, the chronic truancy rate has increased from 57.4 percent to 76.2 percent, the highest in Allegheny County. Chronic truancy pertains to students who have six or more unexcused absences.

In a related matter Tuesday, the Rev. Oliver Dent, who operates the Rise Out of Truancy program the district contracted with in December to help work with truant students and their families, reported that the district had not referred any students to it.

"You have reached a very grave point. ... It's very important that we address this issue. Kids skipping school cannot see their future and the families can't get help," he said.

Mr. McFerren said after the meeting that when Ms. Parker returns to work, he expects her to file truancy citations with Homewood District Judge Kim Hoots and that those families will be referred to Rev. Dent's program.

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

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