Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Confusion Abounds on Future

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Confusion Abounds on Future

Article excerpt

School officials and state legislators appear to be confused about whether discussions are taking place on the future of the Duquesne City School District in the wake of a letter from the chairman of the Duquesne state board of control last month announcing that 2011-12 is expected to be the district's final year.

Board chairman Juan Baughn said in the October letter to parents it appeared unlikely the district would be able to function in its current form beyond the current school year and, as a result, school district leaders and officials of the state Department of Education were "actively engaged in discussions with surrounding school districts and the state Legislature about the future of Duquesne students."

But officials in the surrounding school districts, including West Mifflin Area, East Allegheny, South Allegheny, McKeesport Area and Steel Valley, said this week they have had no contact from the education department concerning the Duquesne students, and state legislators who represent the area said they have not been included in discussions about the legislation needed to close the district and send students in grades K-8 to nearby districts.

Duquesne High School was closed in June 2007 because of financial and academic constraints, and students were reassigned via state legislation either to West Mifflin Area or East Allegheny high schools.

In April, state education department officials outlined a plan that called for sending Duquesne students in grades K-8 to other districts within a 10-mile radius but noted it would require legislation. They said that legislation would apply to all districts in the same financial and academic distress as Duquesne.

West Mifflin Area superintendent Daniel Castagna said he contacted the education department shortly after Mr. Baughn's letter was issued and asked to be included in discussions and to be able to get information about whether his district is being considered to educate some or all of the Duquesne students in grades K-8. His district already educates two-thirds of the former Duquesne high school students, with the other one-third attending East Allegheny.

"I need some facts to be able to take to my board," Mr. Castagna said. "I have all kinds of questions about things like debt, and [adequate yearly progress] issues, building issues and teacher contract issues. I need answers."

Mr. Castagna said no one from the department has returned his phone calls.

An email response to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from education department spokesman Tim Eller sheds little light on the matter.

Mr. Eller wrote: "The department, lawmakers, the school district and the community have been engaged in discussions regarding options for the future of the Duquesne City School District.

"There have been ongoing discussions between the department and lawmakers regarding districts facing financial difficulty. …

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