West Mifflin frustrated with information on Duquesne transfer
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West Mifflin Area school directors expressed frustration Thursday at the lack on information from from the state Education Department regarding the proposed transfer of seventh and eighth grade students from the Duquesne City School District.
They also stood resolute in their demand that the state provide more tuition money for the Duquesne students than the $9,800 per student that the district has received since accepting Duquesne high school students in 2007 when their school closed.
Earlier this year, the state board of control that oversees the financially and academically failing Duquesne district approved a resolution designating grades seven and eight as "junior high" so that the state could use legislation created in 2007 to tuition-out the high school students to the East Allegheny and West Mifflin districts to do the same with the seventh and eighth grade students.
In May, state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis accepted that resolution and directed Duquesne officials to make preparations for the transfer of the approximately 85 students who are expected to be in grades seven and eight next year to either East Allegheny or West Mifflin Area middle schools.
The plan cannot become a reality until the state legislature lifts the caps on the number of Duquesne students who can attend the neighboring districts and appropriates additional funds to Duquesne so that it can afford to pay tuition for the students who attend East Allegheny and West Mifflin.
West Mifflin school director Phil Shar said on Thursday, as he has as other recent board meetings, that his district has been subsidizing the education of the Duquesne high school students who attend there. West Mifflin receives about $9,800 per Duquesne student, while West Miffln's per pupil cost is between $13,000 and $14,000. He said there has been an average of 160 Duquesne students at West Mifflin each year for the past five years.
"This is strictly a financial problem, " Mr. Shar said. "There is probably no school district in the state that has such a burden."
The Duquesne board has threatened legal action against the state if the tuition rate for the Duquesne students is not increased.
School board president Ted Cale and directors Nick Alexandroff and Judy Anzelik said at the Thursday workshop meeting they were disgusted with the fact that state education officials have not included West Mifflin in any discussions about the transfer of the additional Duquesne students. "It would be nice if they could stop in here for an hour or two," Mr. Alexandroff said, noting that state officials have come to town to visit Duquesne but bypassed West Mifflin.
The West Mifflin board has refused to allow district administrators to participate in any transitional activities for the Duquesne seventh and eighth grade students including school tours and a parent information meeting held late last month.
Superintendent Dan Castagna said he wrote a letter to Deputy Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq on May 23 explaining the funding issue and the fact that his board wanted to meet with state officials for some assurances before embarking on transition activities. But, he said, Ms. Dumaresq responded that the board must agree to the transition activities before she would come for a meeting. The two sides have been at a standoff since then.
In addition, solicitor Russell Lucas said he sent a letter to Mr. Tomalis on the district's behalf asking for a meeting, but so far has gotten no response.
First Published June 14, 2012 9:59 pm