Wilkinsburg school officials say the board will vote Tuesday night on a replacement for acting superintendent Archie Perrin Jr. -- after months of silence from district officials about the selection process.
"I'm not sure there's been any legitimate community process in hiring the new superintendent," said state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park.
"As an elected state senator I can't get a straight answer," he said, referring to requests he made to school board president Karen Payne for information about the search.
The district has had a challenging year. It was placed on the state's financial watch list after the board voted to take out a $3 million loan for general operating expenses; a student was viciously beaten in a middle school bathroom; and a white powdery substance was found in an elementary school student's desk.
Mr. Ferlo said district officials told him the board will vote on whether to hire Lee McFerren, who is an assistant to Farrell Area School District superintendent the Rev. Lora Adams-King. Ms. King declined to comment on Mr. McFerren's performance.
In July 2008, the Farrell school board voted 7-2 to fire Mr. McFerren, arguing that he "had acted immorally; had persistently failed to comply with school laws and acted with persistent negligence; had willfully neglected his duties; and had acted with intemperance and incompetence," according to a lawsuit Mr. McFerren filed against the district, which he eventually won.
Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Leavitt wrote in her opinion reversing the decision to fire Mr. McFerren that, "the district's evidence did not prove that it had a 'valid cause' to discharge McFerren."
Nevertheless, "The relationship between the district's school board and McFerren was an unhappy one," Judge Leavitt wrote.
Mr. McFerren could not be reached for comment.
Richard Bradford, a Wilkinsburg school board member, would not confirm that Mr. McFerren is a finalist, though he did say there were two finalists out of about 10 candidates.
When asked about the process for selecting a new superintendent, he said "The process was completely open," adding that a survey was conducted through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit soliciting input from community members and that there were focus groups.
He said he couldn't remember how many people participated or what feedback was given.
Mr. Bradford declined to comment on why he and other school board members did not return multiple calls for comment over several weeks about the process.
"The candidate exhibits the qualities that we as a board are looking for in a superintendent," Mr. Bradford said. "Everything about all candidates was taken into consideration by the board."
Meanwhile, a community meeting to discuss the future of the school district, hosted by Mr. Ferlo, is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Hosanna House Event Center in Wilkinsburg.
Alex Zimmerman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman