Pa. education secretary petitions Court of Common Pleas to appoint Duquesne schools receiver

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Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis has petitioned the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to appoint Paul B. Long as the receiver for the Duquesne City School District.

Mr. Long already serves as chief recovery officer for the district and as such drafted a financial recovery plan that calls for asking 11 surrounding school districts to voluntarily take Duquesne students in grades K-6 on a tuition basis.

If appointed receiver he and not the elected school board will operate the district and move forward with his recovery plan.

The Duquesne school board voted that plan down Thursday, an action that requires Mr. Tomalis to petition the court to appoint a receiver under the guidelines of new state legislation created to deal with the academic and financial problems of the state's poorest school districts.

Filed today, the petition asks that a hearing be held on the matter with seven days and action taken within 10 days to issue an order declaring the district in receivership.

Mr. Tomalis, following the state legislation, declared Duquesne to be in financial recovery status on Nov. 16 because the district several times in recent years received an advance on its basic education subsidy and was subject to a declaration of financial distress under the definition provided in the state School Code.

The same day, Mr. Long was appointed as the chief recovery officer. He is a former business administrator and CEO of the Pennsbury School District, who holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The school board voted in November to accept Mr. Long as the recovery officer. He held a series of community meetings and information-gathering sessions. He used that information along with financial and academic history from the district to make his recommendation on Feb. 11 that the K-6 students be sent to neighboring districts.

Duquesne students in grades 7-12 already attend either East Allegheny or West Mifflin Area school districts under state legislation approved in 2007.

Because there is no legislation that allows elementary students to be sent to other districts, Mr. Long has decided to try to make it happen on a voluntary basis.

One recommendation in his recovery plan, however, is to seek a state mandate for the transfer if the voluntary transfers aren't possible.

Several districts have already indicated they won't take the Duquesne students.

Other considerations are keeping the elementary program in Duquesne or setting up a charter school.

Mr. Long said those two options aren't financially viable given Duquesne's funding.

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


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