The day after two McKeesport Area High School students were charged with bringing a weapon onto a school bus, District Superintendent Mark P. Holtzman Jr. promised school directors and the community that the administration is doing everything in its power to ensure the safety of students and staff.
“Considering some recent (events), I just want to reassure everybody in the audience, on the record, that we are committed to our students,” Holtzman said at Wednesday's school board meeting. “Before we educate children, we have to continue to focus on safety and security at all times.”
On Tuesday, McKeesport police arrested a 16-year-old student who they said had brandished a handgun on a school bus. Police believe the student was supplied with the weapon by a 15-year-old who was not in class that day, but entered the campus after dismissal and boarded the bus. The younger student also was charged.
Holtzman said that although students at the high school are young adults, they're also still children, “and I will do everything in my power to make sure that everything that we do in our school district keeps them in mind.”
He said he was reluctant to go into much detail about the incident in public beyond what had already been released, but noted that he and Assistant Superintendent Tia Wanzo “are committed to this community, because it is our home.”
In Other Business:
The school board accepted a proposal from Pennsylvania Coach Lines, Inc., to provide student transportation services from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2025, subject to the solicitor's review of the final agreement.
Matt Gergely, district business manager, thanked Wanzo and administrator Kristen James for their "effective and efficient" work resolving the contract. Gergely said the six-year contract includes an option for the district to extend the agreement by an additional three years.
As part of the contract, Pennsylvania Coach Lines agreed to maintain a terminal and bus garage in McKeesport, and the contract also includes mandatory cameras and two-way radios on all buses.
Board Vice President Mary Jane Keller presented a plaque to volunteers from Beulah Park United Methodist Church in McKeesport thanking them for providing meals over the Thanksgiving holiday to local families.
Teachers from the district delivered more than 250 meals to 41 homes.
Holtzman thanked the church as well for including the school district in the project.
“That was a great opportunity for myself to participate as well as a few others,” he said. “I was impressed with the whole operation and I look forward to being part of things that will go on in the future.”
Committee Reports: On behalf of the Athletics Committee, School Director Ivan Hampton asked about planning a day of recognition in honor of former basketball coach Dan Pacella at some point during the current season.
Pacella coached from 1980 to 2003. School Director Dave Donato offered to meet with the Athletic Department to discuss ideas and make suggestions, including having former players come to a particular game.
Holtzman said the matter would merit further discussion to determine an appropriate way to manage an event with Pacella and his former players.
Reporting for the Buildings and Grounds Committee, School Director Steven Kondrosky said the high school pool pump has been rebuilt and the cafeteria has been painted. Twin Rivers phone lines and fire systems are up and running properly. Snow crews and removal assignments are currently being assessed.
The board approved the purchase of a John Deere 5055E utility tractor from West Central Equipment, LLC, in the amount of $36,513.67.
Richard Finch Jr. is a freelance writer who covers news from McKeesport Area School District and North Versailles Twp. for Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published December 09, 2018.