MASD, AIU Partner to Address Teacher Shortages

March 22, 2024 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(File photo, “School Supplies,” by Nick Amoscato, via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

McKeesport Area School District is responding to a teacher shortage by investing in its staff.

School board members have approved an agreement with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit to participate in the BridgeUP program. Designed in partnership with Point Park University and BloomBoard, the two-year program enables education professionals who currently hold associate’s degrees to earn a bachelor’s degree in special education.

“We have to think outside of the box of ways to recruit and retain teachers,” Superintendent Tia Wanzo said. Participating in BridgeUP will cost the district $16,500 for each person who completes the program.

Across the commonwealth, districts are facing increased teacher shortages. According to Penn State University’s Center for Evaluation & Policy Analysis, during 2022-23, 7.7 percent of teachers — or 9,587 — left their positions across the state.

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Board OK’s Fund Transfer for Repairs, Updates

March 21, 2024 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School District Choir Director Beth Eger leads student vocalists in a performance before the school board. The group performed songs from the high school’s upcoming production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” (Photos by Adam Reinherz for Tube City Almanac)

McKeesport Area School Board has approved a transfer of $2 million from the district’s fund balance to a capital reserve account.

The decision follows an independent audit report presented one week earlier indicating the district had nearly $9.5 million in unassigned funds. A fund balance, in accounting terms, is a surplus of revenue over expenses.

Board member Dave Seropian called the unassigned fund balance a “favorable number.”

Transferring $2 million from the pool to capital reserves will enable the district to address multiple projects, including repairs to parking lots and roadways at the high school, sound and lighting at the high school auditorium, and stadium lighting, he said.

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Byron Janis, City Native, Piano Virtuoso, Dies at 95

March 18, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Maria Cooper Janis and Byron Janis. (Photo courtesy the Janis family, via Facebook)

Byron Janis, a child prodigy from McKeesport who rose from poverty to become one of the most celebrated concert pianists of his generation, died Thursday in New York City. He was 95.

His death was announced over the weekend by his wife of 58 years, Maria, who called it “a loss to me and the world.”

“Byron understood that music has many powers, including that of bridging barriers that seem insurmountable, and in today’s fractured world, let us remember and practice this to honor his legacy,” she wrote.

Born March 28, 1928, in McKeesport, Janis was the son of Russian immigrant Hattie Horelick and Polish immigrant Samuel Yankilevitch, who owned a chain of Army and Navy surplus stores.

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Gergely Family, Friends Gather to Rededicate Park

March 11, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Charlene Salvi Gergely, wife of the late Richard J. Gergely, speaks Saturday during a rededication of Gergely Riverfront Park in McKeesport as her children, Ericka, Jason and Chris Gergely, look on. Also shown are Mayor Mike Cherepko (left) and nephew, state Rep. Matt Gergely (rear). (Tube City Almanac photo)

Despite a steady, cold rain, there were many smiles — and a few tears — on Saturday when friends and family of the late Richard J. Gergely gathered to rededicate the city’s Riverfront Park in his memory.

The ceremony was held 40 years to the date of the death of Gergely, a teacher, city council member, youth football coach and father of three who died of cancer March 9, 1984 at the age of 43.

An obituary at the time of his death called him “probably the most popular person in the city.”

Speakers included Gergely’s widow, Charlene Salvi Gergely, and his now-grown children, Jason, Christopher and Ericka Gergely, as well as his nephews, state Rep. Matt Gergely and former state Rep. Mark Gergely, and state Sen. Jim Brewster.

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Finance Report: Mostly Positive Outlook for MASD

March 08, 2024 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Auditor Peter Vancheri delivers his report on the McKeesport Area School District’s finances during a Thursday agenda meeting. (Adam Reinherz photo for Tube City Almanac)

An independent auditor’s report during Thursday’s open agenda meeting provided a source of optimism for the McKeesport Area School District.

For nearly 15 minutes, Peter Vancheri, of Hosack, Specht, Muetzel & Wood LLP, a certified public accounting firm, updated listeners on district finances ending June 30, 2023.

The district’s fund balance is broken into two categories: assigned and unassigned, he said: whereas the former is $7 million, the latter is $9.5 million.

“The unassigned balance is about 11.9 percent of your total budget and expenditures for the year. The assigned has been assigned for future capital purposes and future expenditures provided shortfalls in future budget years,” he said.

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MASD Eyes Public Return to High School Stadium

March 08, 2024 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(McKeesport Area School District official photo)

McKeesport Area School District hopes that the general public can resume using the high school stadium within a few months.

The district is working with a private security company to address concerns at Weigle-Schaeffer Memorial Stadium on Eden Park Boulevard, Superintendent Tia Wanzo said this week.

A message posted to the district’s Facebook page on Feb. 25 stated, “Due to acts of vandalism and misconduct that compromise safety, the stadium will be temporarily closed as we explore ways to ensure safety for the community.”

Police officers have said that groups of kids — some of whom had been dropped off by the parents from neighboring school districts, including Clairton and Duquesne — were gathering at the stadium after hours.

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Renzie’s Main Pavilion Gets Major Makeover

March 01, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport city electrician Tom Rosso and Nate Graboski of the public works department replace lighting and wiring in a ceiling at Jacob Woll Pavilion. The heavily used facility is receiving a makeover with the help of Allegheny Regional Asset Funds. (Tube City Almanac photo)

There are no events scheduled at Renziehausen Park’s main pavilion this spring — but it's not for a lack of interest.

The heavily used Jacob Woll Pavilion is closed for a makeover that will include new windows, flooring, lighting, ceiling fans, sidewalks and other improvements. Funding for the $373,300 project is being provided by the Allegheny Regional Asset District, which is supported by the county’s 1 percent sales tax.

Work is expected to be complete before the summer, said Tom Rosso, McKeesport city electrician, who is serving as project coordinator.

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Stadium Closed to Public, Open for Activities

February 26, 2024 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(McKeesport Area School District official photo)

McKeesport Area High School stadium is temporarily closed to the public after a fight last week and several acts of vandalism.

Weigle-Schaeffer Memorial Stadium is still available for official school activities but the walking track and grounds are off-limits for now, said Charley Kiss, district athletic director.

An announcement on the district’s Facebook page Sunday night caused concern for residents who were worried that some serious incident had taken place.

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Students’ Mural Brightens Hallway at Hospital

February 21, 2024 |

By Vickie Babyak | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Students pose for a portrait in front of the mural they designed and constructed for the oncology department in UPMC McKeesport. Left to right, Tyler Reigh, 16, of White Oak; Victoria Fast, 17, of White Oak; Christina Wos, 17, of White Oak; Ryenn Thomas, 15, of McKeesport; and Matthew Miller, 17, of McKeesport. (Vickie Babyak photo for Tube City Almanac)

Students from McKeesport Area High School recently completed a 4-foot by 16-foot mural to beautify the hall in the Oncology Wing of UPMC McKeesport hospital.

Not only is the mural colorful, but it displays uplifting messages like “grow positive thoughts” and other encouraging phrases.

Mark Winowitch, director of facilities and environmental services for UPMC McKeesport, contacted art teacher Denise Bollman, and asked if her students would be interested in creating a mural; she accepted the offer.

The students’ mural project was under the direction of Bollman and commercial art teacher Lyndsay Brown. The students are taking classes in the MAHS Art Department and Technology Center Commercial & Advertising Shop.

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MASD, Teachers Settle Contract Dispute

February 12, 2024 |

By Adam Reinherz | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Students from the arts enrichment class at Founders’ Hall Middle School show their work to school directors during Thursday’s meeting. (Adam Reinherz photo for Tube City Almanac)

After a nearly-seven month dispute between the McKeesport Area School District and the McKeesport Area Education Association, both sides have agreed to a new five-year contract.

District board members announced the agreement during Thursday’s meeting.

“Thank you to all those who were involved,” board president Mark Holtzman said. “I believe it was a pretty fair and equitable contract for the teachers and I’m very pleased to see that.”

Board member Dave Seropian, who previously served as the district’s business manager for more than 20 years, led MASD’s negotiating team.

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