School District Will Partner With Pitt on Violence Prevention Research

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: News

McKeesport Area School District will partner with the University of Pittsburgh on a research project about how to prevent violence among pre-teens, teens and young adults.

At their Feb. 28 meeting, school directors approved the district's participation in "Expect Respect Middle School: Preventing Severe and Lethal Violence Among Youth with Prior Violence Exposure."

The violence prevention program is part of a study being conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, said Mark Holtzman Jr., district superintendent.

“The university is doing great work in studying violence in Allegheny County, looking at violence as a disease, violence prevention, dating violence and criminal activity,” Holtzman said.

In an effort to deter youth violence, the district currently has a leadership team at the high school that meets regularly with 15 to 20 at-risk youths.

“Paul Watson and LaReese Harper do an outstanding job with our young people, talking through issues pertaining to violence and unfortunate situations that we’ve been faced with in our community,” Holtzman said.

In other business, board members approved an agreement with Therapy Travelers to provide a speech therapist from March 5 through June 3.

A 36-month agreement was approved with Consolidated Communications to provide landline phone service to the district. The total cost per year will be set at $42,787, a decrease of $14,537 from the previous agreement.

The board unanimously approved the hiring of four elementary teachers at Twin Rivers. Hired were Dana Ruffing, long-term substitute elementary teacher, and Vallie Kukla, long-term substitute special education teacher, each at a pay rate of $125 per day plus benefits.

Nick Baughman was hired as a health and physical education teacher and Brandi Merriweather was hired as a permanent day-to-day substitute teacher at Founders’ Hall, each at a pay rate of $100 per day plus benefits to increase to $125 per day on the 61st day.

The board unanimously voted to accept the resignations of teachers Danielle Jordan-Lantzy, Mary Eckels and Jaclin Spiewak.

Board members voted to approve the High School Music Department field trip to Walt Disney World on Feb. 5, to 8, 2020. Also approved was a Skills USA field trip to the state competition in Hershey, Pa., on April 10-12, 2019 and speech students filed trip to attend the PHSSL State Speech tournament at Bloomsburg University on March 14-16, 2019.

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

Originally published March 06, 2019.

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