Duquesne City schools won't fight state
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The state board of control overseeing the Duquesne City School District has decided not to contest the state Department of Education's preliminary decision to place the district in financial recovery status.
That move likely will lead to the disbanding of the state board that essentially has been running the district since October 2000.
Using the provisions of new state legislation targeted for distressed school districts, Education Secretary Ron Tomalis can now make the decision final and within five days of doing so must appoint a chief recovery officer for the district.
When that action will take place is unclear. Education Department spokesman Tim Eller could not give a timeline, saying only that, "The final declaration is on the secretary's desk for review."
If the declaration is made final and a chief recovery officer named, the elected board of the Duquesne district would return to power. But it's debatable how much power the elected board would hold, said DeWayne Tucker, president of the elected board and a Duquesne school director for 28 years.
"If it doesn't work out with us they will take it to Common Pleas Court," Mr. Tucker said.
He is referring to the process outlined in the fiscal distress legislation that calls on the elected board to decide within 14 days of the chief recovery officer's appointment whether the board will cooperate with the officer. If not, the matter will go to Common Pleas Court, where a receiver will be named for the district.
If the board accepts the chief recovery officer, the officer has 30 days to develop a financial recovery plan for the district. An advisory board of local representatives can be formed to help with the plan.
Once a plan is formulated, the elected school board must decide if it will accept it. If so, it goes into effect immediately. If not, the issue heads to Common Pleas Court, where a receiver would be appointed to carry it out.
Mr. Tucker said he won't be surprised if the recovery officer comes up with a plan to send the K-6 students to East Allegheny and West Mifflin on a tuition basis, matching the arrangement already in place for the district's students in grades 7-12.
He said he's not certain the elected board would protest such a move, even though some parents in the community have protested plans to bus the younger children out of the district.
"I just don't think we have a whole lot to work with the way Duquesne is now. You are only talking K-6. There are not that many kids and the building is too big," Mr. Tucker said.
He said the district's about 300 students are in a building that once housed about 1,000 in grades K-12.
Mr. Tucker said the elected board plans to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday to fill a seat left vacant by the resignation of Connie Lucas. Ms. Lucas, who resigned Sept. 18, has a pending application with the district to open a charter school there next fall.
First Published September 28, 2012 12:00 am