Two local school districts are partnering with Literacy Pittsburgh to bring volunteers age 50 and older into kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms to help students work on their reading and writing skills.
Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring is already working in the Wilkinsburg, Woodland Hills and Pittsburgh school districts, and is now expanding into Duquesne and McKeesport Area schools.
“We only go into places where the districts want us to be there, so I commend all these districts because we know there is a high correlation between low literacy and poverty and these are high poverty districts,” said Carey Harris, Literacy Pittsburgh's chief executive officer.
Harris commended McKeesport Area and Duquesne for being proactive about seeking partners to provide additional enrichment support.
Conflict of Interest Note: The author has a conflict of interest. He is a member of the McKees Point Development Group. See previous coverage of this issue and the note at the end of this story.
Dennis Davin, state secretary of community and economic development (fourth from left, first row) joins city and county officials, state Sen. Jim Brewster (seventh from left, first row), McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko (fifth from left, second row) and U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (eighth from left, first row) announcing details of a six-year, $3 million development program. (Photo special to Tube City Almanac)
State officials approved a $3 million package of tax credits that will enable McKeesport to demolish blighted buildings in the Downtown business district and prepare the former Penn-McKee Hotel for possible reuse.
"We really appreciate this major investment by these corporations that reflects their belief that McKeesport is a great place to do business, and its future is bright," said Dennis Davin, state secretary of community and economic development.
The city is targeting most of a block of Fifth Avenue between Lysle Boulevard, Sinclair Street and Sheridan Alley for demolition, and hoping to environmentally remediate the Penn-McKee to prepare it for redevelopment.
McKeesport Area School District’s decision to compete in WPIAL’s Class 4A for football in 2020-21 and 2021-22 was done for student safety reasons, school officials said.
PIAA reclassifies districts every two years. At the school board’s open agenda meeting, School Director James Brown said the reclassification of McKeesport Area’s football team from 5A to 4A was approved in November.
Boys’ basketball will continue to compete in 5A.
Brown said the some of the schools classified as 5A for football have “double our numbers, double our student body population.”
Students participating in the Career Works program at the Tube City Center for Business and Innovation pose with Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania president and chief executive officer (fourth from right) and Emily Donato, career development coordinator (sixth from right). (Tube City Almanac photo)
Lisa Abel-Palmieri, president and chief executive officer, told Tube City Almanac the Pittsburgh-based non-profit wants to serve a growing demand for services for young people in the Mon Valley and eastern boroughs of Pittsburgh.
"We're excited to continue to grow our footprint in the Mon Valley," she said.
The new facility would include a "maker space" for STEM education, community center, gymnasium space and classrooms, Abel-Palmieri said. Although the facility is still in the planning stage, the organization hopes to possibly break ground in "two to three years" and will need to raise funds to it possible, she said.
School superintendents who attended a press conference in McKeesport on Thursday said most urban school districts in the Mon-Yough area --- and across the country --- face similar challenges created by poverty.
In the Wilkinsburg School District, about 99 percent of approximately 1,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, said Linda J. Iverson, superintendent.
Some of them are coming from generations of poverty and "fragmented" home environments, she said.
“It's not just that they're coming in from trauma-informed instances," she said. "They may not have had food or sleep the night before, or they may not have clothes.”
Charter schools are causing “financial instability” to urban school systems, said McKeesport Area School District Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. and officials from other area districts, who participated in a state-wide rally Thursday to ask Pennsylvania legislators for charter school reform.
The news conference held in McKeesport was part of an effort among nearly 20 other districts and timed to coincide with the 64th anniversary of the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycotts sparked by Rosa Parks.
State Sen. Jim Brewster joined Holtzman and school district superintendents Sue Moyer of Duquesne City, Nancy Hines of Penn Hills and Linda J. Iverson of Wilkinsburg to discuss the impact of charter school funding in Mon Valley school districts.
For the first time in anyone’s memory, holiday lights are decorating the windows of the People’s Bank Building, Downtown. Building owner Jonathan Stark and volunteers decorated the building in time for McKeesport’s Light-Up Night on Wednesday. (Tube City Almanac photo)
Scaffolding will be going up soon on part of the People’s Bank Building as workers replace a tile that fell into Lysle Boulevard on Nov. 27, and make other repairs to the facade.
Owner Jonathan Stark said an engineer visited the site on Monday and determined that each of the tiles was supposed to be secured with four metal anchors. On the tile that fell, two of the anchors were missing or never installed in the first place, Stark said.
The tile fell from the facade on the “annex” of the building that overlooks the corner of Lysle Boulevard and Walnut Street. The annex was reportedly built in the 1940s, after Lysle was widened.
Members of LaRosa Boys & Girls Club joined McKeesport city officials Downtown on Wednesday night for a Light-Up Night celebration.
For the first time, the city's holiday tree is located not in Kennedy Park, but in the nearby lobby of the Tube City Center for Business and Innovation, the former Daily News Building.
Participants in the Boys & Girls Club’s Career Works Teen Workforce Development Program, which meets in the Tube City Center on weeknights, served hot chocolate and refreshments to guests, while Paul Anselmo of New Century Careers, which is offering machinist training in the building, provided tours of his group’s classroom space.