Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wilkinsburg Gets Negative Marks Study: School District Has Lost the Community's Confidence

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wilkinsburg Gets Negative Marks Study: School District Has Lost the Community's Confidence

Article excerpt

There's at least one aspect of the Wilkinsburg School District that parents consistently like, and it's something administrators don't have much influence over.

Their kids can walk to school.

And even though many of the 560 respondents praised teachers in the district, the findings of a report released Wednesday by the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation bring into sharper definition the picture of a school district that has lost the confidence of its community.

On measures ranging from whether students are being prepared for the future, school safety and leadership of the district by administrators and school board members, community members consistently demonstrated their unhappiness:

* Just 7 percent said they are proud to have students in their community attend district schools.

* Five percent would recommend the district to friends and family.

* On more open-ended responses, a significant number of respondents "prefer a merger with another school district, are dissatisfied with academic performance and student outcomes, and perceive a lack of leadership among administration and the board," according the report. "In fact, in no category measured did WSD exceed the public's expectations."

* Seventy percent of respondents said the district rated "low" or "very low" in terms of creating a safe and secure environment for students.

* Seventy-nine percent marked "low" or "very low" on preparing students for the future.

* Sixty-eight percent marked the bottom two indicators when asked whether the school board exhibits strength in leadership and strategic planning.

School board president Karen Payne could not be reached for comment.

Local leaders, including newly hired superintendent Lee McFerren, weren't surprised by the results. But he played down the negative survey results as mostly due to misconceptions about the district.

"I just don't think the community has a lot of confidence in the school district right now," Mr. McFerren said, adding he hopes the district's parent-community liaison can help change that. …

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