Pittsburgh school board ends quest to acquire August Wilson Center

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The attempt to see whether Pittsburgh Public Schools could acquire the financially troubled August Wilson Center for African American Culture appears to have died tonight.

"We're done," said board member Mark Brentley Sr. at a board meeting tonight.

Mr. Brentley, who was the main proponent, had been trying to come up with a plan for the district to take over the center.

The board authorized a committee -- made up of Mr. Brentley and board members Sylvia Wilson and Terry Kennedy -- to discuss it. The committee met once in January.

In order to get the figures needed to develop a plan, a nondisclosure agreement had to be signed. Solicitor Ira Weiss viewed this as a contract that had to be approved by the board, not a single member. He sent a letter saying Mr. Brentley would be acting as an individual if he signed it. Mr. Brentley did not sign it.

Mr. Brentley said, "I have yet to even submit our recommendation and already they're almost told not to even deal with me."

He said, "Mr. Weiss, you won this one. I am officially resigning from the committee," adding he is "done" with August Wilson.

With that letter, Mr. Brentley said, "Who's going to talk to me?"

Ms. Wilson said she hears Mr. Brentley refer to "our plan" in the media, but the committee hasn't had any more meetings or discussions. She said Mr. Brentley should have included the committee in more discussions.

The center, which opened Downtown in 2009, carries about $9.5 million to $10 million in debt.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

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