Wilkinsburg school board 'disappointed' after superintendent's departure

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On the same night the Pittsburgh Public Schools board voted to hire Donna Micheaux as its deputy superintendent effective July 1, the school board in Wilkinsburg, where Ms. Micheaux is currently substitute superintendent, was reviewing a contract to hire her as its acting superintendent.

The Pittsburgh hiring Wednesday stunned the Wilkinsburg board, which hired Ms. Micheaux in late March anticipating she would sign a year-long contract to serve as the district's acting superintendent for 2014-15 and be among the contenders for the permanent superintendency of the academically and financially troubled district.

She was hired in Wilkinsburg to replace former superintendent Lee McFerren, whose contract was terminated in March.

"I am disappointed but not discouraged," said Ed Donovan, president of the Wilkinsburg school board. "We expected her to stay at least through next school year."

Pittsburgh superintendent Linda Lane, who courted Ms. Micheaux, said this of hiring her away from Wilkinsburg: "Clearly my primary concerns are the children of the city of Pittsburgh although I know Wilkinsburg will certainly feel her loss. But we're excited to have her here. I think she'll be a great add for our team."

Mr. Donovan called Ms. Lane's comment insensitive. "We are neighbor districts. We need to have more collaboration, not less," Mr. Donovan said.

He said he will ask the Allegheny Intermediate Unit to help the district get an acting superintendent in place by July 1 and the board will start a search for a new permanent superintendent.

Both Mr. Donovan and Ms. Micheaux, 60, of Franklin Park, said she is leaving Wilkinsburg as the district is about to embark on a plan to increase course offerings for students at the middle and high schools.

Mr. Donovan said the district will move forward without Ms. Micheaux. He met with the district's principals and administrators Thursday morning to reassure them.

While substitute superintendent, Ms. Micheaux has remained employed by the AIU as assistant executive director for organization leadership and development, with Wilkinsburg reimbursing the AIU for her $128,795 salary and benefits.

In Pittsburgh, Ms. Micheaux received a two-year contract with a starting salary of $158,400. She will be eligible for an annual performance increment of up to $2,000 and an annual achievement bonus of up to $15,000. She will not be required to move to the city.

Pittsburgh Public Schools spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said the deputy superintendent job was not posted. But she said that Ms. Lane developed a short list of candidates and chose Ms. Micheaux from that list. "The superintendent felt it was important to move quickly and wanted someone in place before the start of school," Ms. Pugh said.

Ms. Micheaux previously worked for the Pittsburgh district from 1977 to 2003, starting as a special education teacher and later serving in various administrative posts.

Ms. Micheaux said she did not seek out the Pittsburgh position. "I was approached by Pittsburgh," she said.

"I want the students and families in Wilkinsburg to know that people do care about them and the future of the school district and that although I am leaving I will continue to assist the school district in any way that I can."

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

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