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A new superintendent of schools is expected to be named tonight at a special meeting of McKeesport Area School Board.
Superintendent Dr. Rula Skezas is retiring June 30, and the new superintendent is expected to take over the following day.
At the regular board meeting on March 22, parents expressed their hopes and concerns about Skezas' replacement.
"You need to make sure the new superintendent is aggressive in promoting achievement and proficiency," said resident Keith Murphy, who is concerned about low test scores in the district.
Murphy said certain strategies, such as setting the expectation bar at a higher level, need to be implemented in order for scores to increase.
Board Member Mindy Sturgess responded to Murphy's concerns by explaining that the issue is not going unnoticed by the staff or the administration. She said her number one goal is to "find another strong academic leader that can take over the helm."
A current main area of focus for the district is improving "academic achievement for all students, but particularly for the African-American students," Sturgess said.
The district needs to use its resources to address a racial gap in test scores between white and African-American students head on, she said.
Harold Allen, a 1970 graduate of McKeesport High School, told the board he hoped they would hire a "strong, aggressive" superintendent and added that he hoped the district would recruit more African-American teachers.
In other business at last week's board meeting,
Resident Amber Webb of "Take Action Mon Valley" asked the board about a safety concern involving a teacher at Founders' Hall Middle School who was placed on leave. The board was not able to offer any comment on the subject because it pertains to a personnel matter.
Webb also addressed an issue pertaining to fair opportunities on sports teams in which School Director Ivan Hampton offered some insight. A coach himself, Hampton said coaches try to be fair in evaluating student athletes and that no child receives special treatment.
School directors voted unanimously to:
- Approve $4,000 in funding for chaperones and security for the 2017 prom
- Accept a proposal from The Nutrition Group for food service management for the 2017-2018 school year
- Approve the academic calendar for the 2017-2018 school year
- Approve an extended school year program, a summer school program through the YMCA, a summer family literacy program, a camp invention program, the summer music program and specific upcoming field trips
School Director Jim Brown reported on behalf of the Athletic Committee that the boys varsity basketball team's head coach, Gerald Grayson, was nominated WPIAL Section 5 Coach of the Year.
Reporting on behalf of the Career and Technology Committee, School Director Pat Maksin announced that the High School's Building Construction classes are building a deck on the outside of the Tiger Inn.
Maksin says the deck is expected to be finished in May, and will hopefully alleviate some overcrowding, which, as she said, is "a wonderful problem to have."
Editor's Note: Freelance writer Mary Shelly is a junior at McKeesport Area High School. This is her first story for Tube City Almanac.
Originally published March 29, 2017.