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School Board Apologizes, Commits to Cooperation

President says sometimes behavior prevents ‘town hall’ environment

By Adam Reinherz
The Tube City Almanac
May 27, 2023
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School Board this week recognized pupils from United at Twin Rivers and Francis McClure schools who wrote winning essays for a contest sponsored by the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., program. Superintendent Tia Wanzo congratulated each of the students before encouraging attendees to applaud the group. (Adam Reinherz photo for Tube City Almanac)

An expeditious meeting of the McKeesport Area School Board this week featured an apology and recommitment to communal partnerships.

School Board President LaToya Wright told attendees she needed to share something “that’s been on my heart.”

The board recently enacted a policy that school directors would not respond directly to comments, complaints and accusations raised by the public during a meeting.

Wright said she has heard from the community that the board is opting to remain “ignorant” of serious concerns.

“I want to apologize to any community member if they felt ignored, or any ignorance from the board, because that was never the intention,” she said.

As a parent, Wright said she understands community members’ frustrations with the board’s adopted silence, but the policy is in order to remove the “back and forth” behavior that had dominated recent meetings.

“I felt like it was becoming too much,” she said. “Instead, I felt like what we could do is the citizens can address their concerns to the board and then administration could get back to one of them individually, versus us going back and forth like a town hall.”

In other business, although school ends in approximately a week, Superintendent Tia Wanzo said the administration remains focused on utilizing the remaining days and summer break to prepare for next year.

In the coming weeks, Wanzo said she is meeting with the bus company and several area charter schools to ensure “we’re on the same page” regarding transportation.

“We absolutely all want the same thing. We want all the students who are transported to have a full day. And we want to make sure that we are not having discussions in August, as we did this past year [where] we were meeting a week before school started and realizing the problem that we had.”

Taking the time now to address the number of runs and drivers needed will ensure transportation runs smoothly at the start of the year, she continued.

During Wednesday’s hearing of citizens White Oak resident Stephanie Graham said bussing remains an issue: “Last meeting of the year, with seven days left, my kids still don't have a bus that gets them to Propel on time.”

Graham told the board her children begin school at 8:30 a.m.

“My kids get picked up at twenty after eight and do not get deposited to school till almost nine o'clock every day,” she said. “They miss a half hour of instructional time almost every day…It just seems like everybody just runs the bus stuff under the rug.”

Though the board remained silent, Wanzo thanked Graham for her comment and confirmed that a representative of the bus company had been in touch.

Following the meeting, Wanzo said “it's important for us to still realize that although we've come a long way with transportation [from] where we started in August that we still have work to do.”

The superintendent said she appreciates when parents “are holding us accountable and continuously reminding us of their struggles.” Those reminders, she continued, “keep us focused that we have to stay on it, and we have to keep meeting and we have to make sure that we are holding ourselves and also the bus company accountable.”

Adam Reinherz is a freelance writer. He can be reached at adam.reinherz@gmail.com

Originally published May 27, 2023.

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