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City NAACP Gets Apology from Superintendent

Comments at Sept. 22 meeting were ‘unprofessional and inappropriate’

By Siana Emery
The Tube City Almanac
November 07, 2021
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

The McKeesport unit of the NAACP asked for an apology at McKeesport Area School Board’s October meeting, saying that Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. misconstrued the group’s support.

Brenda Sawyer, unit president, said that during a discussion at the Sept. 22 meeting, Holtzman implied that the NAACP backed the early renewal of Assistant Superintendent Tia Wanzo’s contract.

“We were unaware that (Wanzo’s) contract was being renewed with two years remaining,” Sawyer said. “Where is the transparency in that? Who knew that you and Dr. Wanzo would resign and be re-hired within 48 hours on the new contract, with years remaining on the current contract? The taxpayers had no idea.”

Members of the NAACP are individuals and district taxpayers and are capable of expressing their own opinions, Sawyer said.

The school board this summer allowed both Holtzman and Wanzo to submit their resignations, then re-hired them to new contracts. Some members of the community and several school directors objected, saying that the new incoming school board should have been the ones to make any decision about extending the contracts.

Sawyer added that Holtzman’s comments criticizing people for speaking out about the contract renewals were “disrespectful and unprofessional.”

“We have never experienced a superintendent take over before the meeting to chastise residents of the city of McKeesport,” Sawyer said. “Must we remind you that you are an employee, not a member of the board?”

Holtzman apologized to Sawyer, saying that he only wanted to challenge the community to “look at where our greatest strengths are, and bring them together.”

Sawyer also asked the school board to extend its partnership with the Dicks Sporting Goods Foundation, which sponsored a summer camp in the district this year.

“The NAACP desires that every child, regardless of economic status or race, has access to safe and quality education that prepares him or her to reach his or her full potential,” Sawyer said.

Siana Emery is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh’s South Hilltop. She has also written for The Mennonite World Review, Goshen College Communications and Marketing and The Goshen College Record. She may be reached at

Originally published November 07, 2021.

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