School Year Moving Smoothly for 'Rejuvenated' MASD Staff, Superintendent Says

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News

McKeesport Area teachers began their year with a bus tour of the communities and neighborhoods the school district serves.

At last week's board meeting, Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. told school directors the tour --- involving more than 350 employees and 10 school buses --- was "a very powerful event."

“I spoke to our staff a little bit about what we’re doing, what our direction is as a school district, and how we meet the needs of our students, and it was very moving,” he said, adding that he hopes the event sets the tone for a positive school year.

“I’m extremely proud of our building administration, our principals, people on the front line, our teachers and support staff, and their attitudes toward the education of our students,” Holtzman said. “We have a rejuvenated, energized and passionate group, and I look forward to building on that as we move throughout the year."


There have been a number of “awesome events” so far this school year, Holtzman said, but one highlight for him was attending the 70th reunion of the McKeesport High School Class of 1948.

At last week's board meeting --- the first since the start of school --- Holtzman told school directors that 50 to 60 alumni attended from the graduating class of 752.

“It’s kind of unique, it’s interesting and not something you could do every day,” he said. The alumni in attendance “were a pretty interesting group, they were very successful individuals in their time, in their careers.”

Holtzman also updated the school board on several upcoming events, including the career and college fair Oct. 16 for all high school students and Tiger Fest on Oct. 17.


In Other Business:

The board approved an agreement with Donna Maguire, a registered nurse, to provide nurse liaison services for the UPMC/McKeesport Area School District Allied Health Partnership, effective Sept. 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, contingent upon final agreement.

The partnership provides students with the opportunity to receive hands-on experience in health-related occupations in the classroom, as well as in a clinical setting at UPMC McKeesport. “She’s been with the district for years and she does an outstanding job,” Board President Joe Lopretto said.

The board approved field trips to Washington, D.C. on Dec. 7, 8 and 9 for high school students and a trip to Gettysburg and Hershey Park on May 17 and 18, 2019 for Founders Hall’ students. Teacher Shari Halfhill will supervise the high school students and teacher Derek Pavlovic will supervise the middle school students.

Holtzman said students will be raising the money to pay for the trips. “It’s an opportunity for our students to experience something a little different,” he said.

Board actions were presented to approve property tax refund checks and a 2018-2019 tuition agreement between Pittsburgh Public Schools and McKeesport Area School District for the Pioneer and Conway programs. Holtzman said the programs are for students with special needs who attend classes in Pittsburgh.

An agreement was approved with Catapult Learning, LLC, through June 30, 2019. Catapult Learning, formerly Sylvan Education Solutions, LLC is a Camden, N.J., company that offers K-12 programming, including special education.

Committee Reports:

Reporting for the Buildings and Grounds Committee, School Director Steven Kondrosky said lighting has been updated in the swimming pool lanes and emergency lighting was repaired at the pool and basement.

AGX, Inc. is performing state-mandated lead testing in the water at all the schools, and Vegely Welding is in the process of repairing district trucks, he said.

"No Smoking" signs have been ordered and will be posted around the stadium grounds to curtail smoking there, he said.


School Director Ivan Hoffman, reporting for the athletics committee, announced plans to hold a senior recognition day for the boys’ and girls’ soccer, cross-country, volleyball and golf teams prior to the 7 p.m. Oct. 12 varsity football game vs. Kiski Area High School.

Some of the teams are scheduling games at new times to avoid conflicting with parents' work schedules, he said.


Richard Finch Jr. is a freelance writer who is covering McKeesport Area schools and North Versailles Twp. for Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at finchr43@gmail.com.

Originally published September 28, 2018.

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