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In her report to the board during Wednesday’s meeting, McKeesport Area Superintendent Tia Wanzo spotlighted students and staff across the district.
Wanzo described various acts of kindness undertaken by those at Francis McClure Elementary School and Founders’ Hall Middle School, as well as recent achievements by McKeesport Area High School’s band and color guard.
Wanzo’s presentations culminated in more than 10 students receiving certificates and rounds of applause.
After the final student was celebrated, Board President Mindy Lundberg told the nearly 50 attendees at Wednesday’s meeting, “Ladies and gentlemen, that's what this is all about.”
Apart from celebrating student success, however, board members heard about various challenges in the district.
White Oak resident and parent Stephanie Graham told the elected officials that although her children receive bussing, the transportation arrives 45 minutes late every day.
Graham’s second concern, she said, is that McKeesport’s students are not receiving proper education.
“We're a failing district. Everybody knows that. I mean everybody who owns a house knows our district is failing. I love this district. I love everything about it. I love my neighborhood. I love my neighbors. I'm not moving. I'm not going anywhere. But there's got to be something we can do,” Graham said.
“It's across the board — it's reading, it's math, it's everything,” Graham said. “I just wish we could do something.”
David Donato implored his fellow board members to “internalize” Graham’s comments.
“Our product is supposed to be education. We're not doing a very good job at it. And these are the kinds of things that we need to look at,” he said.
Donato said the board is “hopeful” that new superintendent Wanzo will improve educational performance, but that the situation remains “serious.”
After noting the district has “invested a lot of money into new curriculum, new assessments,” Lundberg praised the superintendent’s efforts to date.
“Dr. Wanzo has been amazing,” she said. Along with improving academics throughout the district, Wanzo has responded to “the asks that we put forth in terms of revising an evaluation system.”
Donato replied, “We can't pretend that we are the best football team in the world, and we can't pretend that we're the best this or that and the greatest facilities in the world. The only product we're supposed to produce is quality education and we’re failing.”
Near the end of the meeting, Donato again referenced McKeesport’s varsity football team, which is currently 9-1, and asked Lundberg if the Tigers could wear red and blue for the rest of the season as opposed to the pale blue uniforms the team has been sporting this year.
“The brand of this school district, this legendary district, is red and blue,” he said.
In addition to failing to garner a vote from the board, the potential decision about uniform colors didn’t receive larger discussion from meeting attendees.
Said Solicitor Gary Matta, “This issue is not something that I believe has to have a major debate from the public.”
Adam Reinherz is a Pittsburgh-based journalist. He can be reached at email@example.com
Originally published October 31, 2022.