Fire Displaces Family of Six, AC Unit Suspected

June 21, 2022 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

A family of six was displaced Friday evening by a fire that may have begun in a window air-conditioning unit.

McKeesport deputy fire Chief Gene Esken Jr. said two men working at the nearby Zion Apostolic Assembly Church on Jenny Lind Street heard a loud noise outside just before 5 p.m.

When they went outside to investigate, they saw the air-conditioning unit on the house across the street ablaze.

The first units arrived to find flames showing in two second-story windows, Esken said. No one was home at the time of the blaze.

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‘Unique’ GAP Relay Race Celebrates 5th Year

June 20, 2022 |

By Jason A. Mignanelli | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Teams of runners from throughout the area will converge on the Mon Valley this fall during the Great Allegheny Passage Relay.

The two-day race is an overnight 150-mile relay run that begins at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 in Cumberland, Md., and ends at 4 p.m. Oct. 15 on Pittsburgh’s South Side. The trail is divided into different legs with each runner contributing at their own skill level.

This is the fifth year for the event, which began in 2018. The event was virtual-only in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bryan Perry, executive director of the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy, said McKeesport and Duquesne will be critical exchange zones, where runners with fresh legs will take over for their tired team members.

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Search Begins for New McKeesport Campus Head

June 08, 2022 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Megan Nagel, an associate professor of chemistry and associate chief academic officer, will serve as interim chancellor of Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus, the university has announced. (Submitted photo courtesy Penn State University)

A national search has begun for a new chancellor of Penn State’s McKeesport campus.

Megan Nagel, an associate professor of chemistry and a member of the faculty since 2010, will serve as the interim chancellor of Penn State Greater Allegheny through June 30, 2023.

Nagel succeeds Penn State Greater Allegheny Chancellor Jacqueline Edmondson, who has stepped down to become the president of the University of Southern Maine.

“Penn State Greater Allegheny is an exceptional and diverse community of motivated students, faculty scholars and dedicated staff,” Nagel said in a prepared release. “I am honored to serve the campus in this interim role.”

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Christy Park Bike Shop Keeps Rolling Along

June 08, 2022 |

By Jason A. Mignanelli | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

The two Mikes — Jones and Kostyzak — behind the counter at Zak’s Bicycle Sales and Repair in Christy Park. The shop has become a landmark for cyclists using the Great Allegheny Passage between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md. (Jason Mignanelli photo for Tube City Almanac)

What started out as a tiny bicycle repair shop in a 900 square foot basement of an apartment building has grown into a successful landmark for cyclists just off the Great Allegheny Passage Trail in McKeesport at mile 132.5.

Glassport native Mike Kostyzak opened Zak’s Bicycle Sales and Repair on October 31, 2009, with only $2,800 to his name.

“I guess the way it worked was, I had been getting laid off at different jobs and it was getting frustrating. I thought to myself, ‘Geez, I can fail on my own. I might as well give something a try on my own,’” said Kostyzak.

“I decided on the bike shop because I had always been into cycling. My older brother Bill taught me how to work on bikes out behind our house as kids. We’d work on the old Schwinn’s and stuff like that,” he said.

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Famed Artist Plans Project in Hometown

June 02, 2022 |

By Alisha Tarver | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Matt Gergely, president of the board of McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center; Duane Michals; and McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko during their recent meeting. (Tube City Almanac photo)

McKeesport native and world-renowned artist Duane Michals recently celebrated his 90th birthday. But he’s the one who wants to offer a gift.

A photographer and storyteller whose portraits are on display in galleries and museums around the world, Michals, who now lives in New York City, has created a proposal for what he calls the “McKeesport Pipe Palace.”

Last week, Michals met with McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko to discuss his plans and possible locations for the sculpture.

A child of steelworkers, Michals closely relates to the industrial history of the Mon Valley and the citizens who contributed to it.

“If you go to Pittsburgh, you have the Carnegie Museum and the Frick Museum. There’s no kind of salute to the people who did all the work in the mills for decades,” Michals says. “I want to remind everyone what once happened there (McKeesport), who those people were, and how hard they worked.”

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Charter School Tuition Gets Statewide Attention

May 31, 2022 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, State & Region

With charter school tuition payments rising faster than enrollments, public school districts are asking the Pennsylvania state legislature for relief.

According to Pennsylvania’s quarter-century-old law, charter schools do not charge students tuition. Instead, the majority of charter school funding comes from each student’s district of residence.

But local charter school officials said that their facilities serve poor students and fill vital educational needs in the communities where they operate. One local charter administrator who asked not to be identified by name said their school and others like it are getting “a bad rap.”

McKeesport Area School District Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. is one of the local officials who have been calling attention to the expense that public school systems incur from charters.

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MASD Board Praises Student Achievements

May 26, 2022 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School District board members continued their commitment to highlighting student achievement during this month’s meeting.

After asking attendees to observe 30 seconds of silence for those impacted by the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas, Board President Mindy Lundberg recalled recent board efforts to showcase student success and said, “We're going to continually try to highlight students every month.”

Charley Kiss, athletic and activities director, reported on the accomplishments of student athletes Kanye Thompson and Aaron Elm, calling the seniors “two of the hardest workers — the kids are on campus always running on that track and preparing.”

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Superintendent Resigns, Acting Head Named

May 26, 2022 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Less than a year after being signed to a new five-year contract, the superintendent of McKeesport Area School District has resigned to take a job in another district.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the school board accepted the resignation of Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr., effective June 30. Tia M. Wanzo was named acting superintendent, effective July 1.

Wanzo will receive an additional monthly stipend of $1,250 in addition to her present salary.

Beaver Area School District in Beaver County announced that Holtzman has been hired as its superintendent. Holtzman introduced himself to the district in a letter dated May 23.

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Local Officials Bid Farewell to GA Chancellor

May 25, 2022 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Penn State Greater Allegheny Chancellor Jacqueline Edmondson, state Sen. Jim Brewster, former Penn State University President Eric Barron and McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko during the 2019 ribbon-cutting for the Mon Valley LaunchBox, located at the former YWCA on Ninth Avenue. (Submitted photo courtesy state Sen. Jim Brewster)

Local officials are praising the chancellor of Penn State’s McKeesport campus following the announcement that she will step down June 30.

Jacqueline Edmondson has been named president of the University of Southern Maine in Portland. Edmondson has served as chancellor and chief academic officer of Penn State Greater Alllegheny since 2017. She begins her new role July 1.

Additional details about the leadership transition for Penn State Greater Allegheny will be shared soon, a spokesperson said.

Under Edmondson’s leadership, the McKeesport campus launched its “Crossing Bridges” summit series to explore racial and cultural divides in the region, completed a $14.7 million renovation of the Ostermayer Laboratory and created the “Mon Valley LaunchBox” to help small and start-up businesses.

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‘United’ Effort Promises Benefits for Pupils, Families

May 19, 2022 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Guests at the launch event of United at Twin Rivers included Aimee Watters, executive director of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation; Tim Joyce, chief of staff for state Sen. Jim Brewster; Jackie Castma, associate executive director of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation; Brandy Daye, assistant principal, Twin Rivers; district superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr.; Tia Wanzo, assistant superintendent; state Rep. Austin Davis; McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko; amd state Rep. Nick Pisciottano. (Submitted photo)

McKeesport Area School District and the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation have symbolically broken ground on a new effort to support local students and their families.

The partnership was announced Thursday at Twin Rivers Elementary School, which will be renamed “United at Twin Rivers” beginning with the next academic year.

Investment from Dick’s will provide increased staffing, improved facilities and a restructured school day allowing greater individualized student support, said Sarah Cassella of Dick’s Sporting Goods. The model is designed to help students and families focus on building healthy minds, bodies and relationships, she said.

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