Frustrated Duquesne residents, teachers get few answers on schools
Share with others:
Frustration continues to fester in the Duquesne City School District as elected school board members, staff and residents peppered the state board of control Tuesday with questions seeking information about future plans for the district, but continued to receive little information.
Throughout the meeting, board of control chairman Francis Barnes repeatedly told audience members that he did not have the answers to questions they were asking about plans to transfer students in grades 7 and 8, items on the meeting agenda and the $14.7 million 2012-13 preliminary budget the board approved without a word of discussion.
The budget holds taxes at 21.1 mills, but has a $988,767 deficit that district officials are hoping is filled by an additional appropriation by the state Legislature. It also calls for an unspecified number of teacher and staff layoffs, but those details were not shared at the public meeting either.
Audience members who asked about the budget were told they could get answers by examining it at the business manager's office, where it will be available for viewing for the next 30 days.
Elected board President DeWayne Tucker lost his temper with the board of control during a presentation by an Allegheny Intermediate Unit staff member about an anti-violence program. Mr. Tucker was upset that elected school directors were not given a copy of the written report that accompanied the oral presentation.
"This was our community the last time I checked," Mr. Tucker said. "This is our community. These are our kids."
Before Mr. Barnes could point out that Mr. Tucker was acting out of order -- as he had with other speakers -- Mr. Tucker said:
"Yes, I am out of order, because I love this community."
Mr. Tucker's outburst followed comments from Duquesne resident Theresa Thomas, who pressed Mr. Barnes on why he wasn't offering more answers to questions teachers were asking about the transfer of seventh- and eighth-grade students to East Allegheny and West Mifflin schools. That effort was announced Monday even though it still requires the state Legislature to lift the caps on the number of students who can attend those schools and to approve additional funding to Duquesne.
Mr. Barnes said the district's efforts were "preparatory" to legislation being approved.
"There are no answers here," Ms. Thomas said. "There have to be some more answers to the questions we are asking. It's like nobody wants to be accountable for anything that is said."
Mr. Barnes asked Ms. Thomas to "kindly refrain." She left the meeting shortly afterward.
Teachers union president Stan Whiteman asked Mr. Barnes who at the state education department could provide answers if Mr. Barnes did not have them. Mr. Whiteman also asked for a meeting of the transition committee made up of representatives from East Allegheny, West Mifflin and Duquesne, which was created after Duquesne high school students were sent to the neighboring districts.
But Mr. Barnes said there was no point in holding a meeting when answers don't currently exist.
"When you don't have answers for people, you only end up frustrating them," Mr. Barnes said, referencing the frustration of those who attended the board meeting.
First Published May 24, 2012 5:21 am