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Pittsburgh Could Educate Wilkinsburg Students For Another Five Years In Partnership Extension

Students arrive to Westinghouse Academy for the first day of school in 2016 the first year of the Wilkinsburg Partnership.
Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA
Students arrive at Westinghouse Academy for the first day of school in 2016, the first year of the Wilkinsburg partnership.

As Pittsburgh Public Schools and Wilkinsburg's school district decide whether to continue a years-long partnership, there is evidence that it is helping students. In the six years that Wilkinsburg students have attended Pittsburgh Public Schools, they've collectively improved grade point averages by a full point, according to Ed Donovan, the Wilkinsburg school board president.

Donovan told the Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg boards during a joint meeting Tuesday that the shrinking eastern suburban district couldn’t offer students what they now have access to.

“This has always been about quality and being able to give our students more,” he said.

Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh board members alike praised the partnership. Students from Wilkinsburg are eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship, advanced placement courses and more robust extracurricular offerings. Students can also apply to attend one of the district’s magnet schools through the lottery process.

Linda Iverson, the Wilkinsburg superintendent, told the boards that data from a parent survey about the partnership “looked good” because more than 50 percent of parents agreed or strongly agreed that Pittsburgh Public meets their child's academic needs. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they were happy with the level of communication they receive from Pittsburgh Public; 61 percent agreed that their child is engaged in classes offered by PPS; 61 percent said their child is treated with respect at PPS.

Most students attend Homewood's Westinghouse Academy, which now offers three AP courses, although no student passed an AP course and exam during the past three school years. The school has seven career and technical education programs: business administration, emergency response technology, sports and entertainment, carpentry, cosmetology, culinary arts and health careers. Last year 75 percent of students graduated, an improvement from 67 percent in 2017.

The school enrolls 708 students: 84 percent are economically disadvantaged and 94 percent are Black.

The Wilkinsburg district still serves 540 younger students in two schools: Kelly Primary PreK-2 and Turner Intermediate 3-6.

The new agreement would increase the tax-funded tuition that Wilkinsburg pays Pittsburgh from $8,000 to $10,317 per student. Payments will also include additional fees for services for students with disabilities.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools board is expected to vote on the extension during its May 26 meeting.