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MASD Parents Still Frustrated By Bus Problems

Dispute continues; superintendent says district is seeking legal remedies

By Siana Emery
The Tube City Almanac
December 15, 2021
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School Board had a packed house for its final meeting of 2021.

During a public comment period, Stephanie Graham, the mother of a student whose bus was cancelled two out of three days last week, asked where the district stands on the busing issue as winter approaches.

McKeesport Area School District has been locked in a dispute with its bus provider, Pennsylvania Coach Lines, since August. In September, the district asked Allegheny County Judge Arnold Klein to declare the company in breach of contract after the bus company repeatedly cancelled service, citing a lack of drivers.

Although an agreement was reached for Pennsylvania Coach to continue providing services, the dispute has continued. The case was scheduled to go to trial Dec. 15, but has been postponed, according to court records.


“We’re not only disappointed, we’re disgusted, and we’re not happy with any of it,” Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr. told Graham. “We wish we had control over any of these scenarios.”

Temporary solutions to the busing problems have included administrative faculty driving children to and from school, he said.

The district has no control over which buses are cancelled, or why, Holtzman said, but school officials are actively working on the problem. He said he could not say anything else publicly due to ongoing litigation with the bus company.


The Dec. 8 meeting was the first with the newly elected school board, which includes new directors Dan Goughnour, Matthew Holtzman and LaToya Wright, and returning school director Dave Donato.

“I’m really excited to see a packed house this evening,” said School Director Mindy Lundberg, who was serving as acting board president for the meeting. “I hope we continue to see this level of engagement as we move throughout the year. I’m very excited for new starts and new beginnings.”

Lundberg has been nominated to serve as school board president, while School Director Steven Kondrosky was nominated as vice president. The board will vote on the nominations in January.


In other business

Holtzman discussed the school district’s budgeting process and current challenges.

Over the past year, he said, expenditures exceeded revenue by almost $1.2 million. School property taxes were not raised for the 2021-22 budget year, Holtzman said, primarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local taxes remain the most reliable source of funding for the school district, he said, because state funding is unpredictable and can change depending on legislative priorities in Harrisburg.

Major expenditures over the last year, both planned and unplanned, have included the addition of new personnel such as social workers, meeting contractual obligations and building maintenance, Holtzman said.

In addition, payments to charter schools increased by $2.9 million, he said. The district also spent $1 million on new technology to support online learning during the pandemic.

About $4 million remains in the district’s unassigned fund balance, or surplus, he said. “It’s better than zero,” Holtzman said, but it’s not much.


The district has been allocated approximately $30 million from the federal government’s COVID-19 stimulus program, which has to be spent by Sept. 24, 2022, he said. The funding will take some of the pressure off of the fund balance, Holtzman said.

The district has a few options for reducing spending, he said. Those include early retirement incentives, which would allow for the hiring of entry-level teachers, but it also could include staff furloughs and pay freezes.

“That is a slippery slope,” said Holtzman. “The only way to generate revenue is by raising taxes. Nobody wants to hear that, but it’s the reality.”


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 sianaemery@gmail.com.

Originally published December 15, 2021.

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