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Teacher recognized for community outreach in ‘underfunded’ Carlynton

Photo by Sam Bigham – Exceptional community outreach awardee and teacher Donald Alexander (right) shakes hands with Carlynton Secretary Kieth Bielby.

By Sam Bigham

Donald Alexander was recognized and congratulated by the Carlynton Board of Directors for winning the Exceptional Community Outreach from the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania Chapter.

Alexander teaches at Carnegie Elementary and was crucial in bringing the Chill Room to Carlynton School District and for starting the free store at Carnegie Elementary.

Superintendent John Kreider described this award as a “fitting recognition of Mr. Alexander’s unwavering commitment” to creating a “community where everyone is seen, valued and heard.”

Kreider added that “education extends to every facet of life” and not just what happens inside the classroom.

Carrie Badger, a chemistry teacher at Carlynton High School, nominated Alexander for the community category. They were notified of his award by May and traveled to Philadelphia for the reception.

Alexander thanked the board and described his work in more detail following the board’s August meeting.

“Community engagement is what we’re trying to do,” Alexander said.

He along with Mary Campbell run the free store in Carnegie Elementary which provides clothing, food and some other necessities to students. The free store at Carnegie was inspired by Giselle Fetterman’s free store in Braddock.

“It just runs so smoothly with her connections with the Salvation Army,” Alexander said.

When asked about plans for the future, Alexander said that he hopes to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables since most of the food currently being offered is canned, frozen or salty. These kinds of foods have a long shelf life, making them cheap and efficient, but they are not necessarily healthy or nutritious and certainly cannot make up an entire diet, he said.

Kreider also recognized four board members who have served on the board for at least 8 years. They are President Jim Schriver, Vice President Joe Appel, George Honchar and Kelly Zaletski. Schriver and Appel have served 12 years, more than anyone else on the board.

Alexander’s work in providing food and clothing to students is particularly needed in the district. More than half of the students there, 56%, qualify for free or reduced lunches. A February ruling stating Pennsylvania’s funding formula is unconstitutional has helped increase state funding for Carlynton School District, but the district is still in need.

Superintendent John Kreider explained at a recent school board meeting that the district will receive around $350,000 more since the ruling.

Despite the increase, Director Leanne Mitchell-O’Brien criticized the lack of funding that the district receives from the state saying, “I would not describe us as fully funded.”

She then explained that there are certain mandates and other initiatives they either have to or want to take, but that it is difficult to finance them on their current budget, unlike larger and wealthier school districts that have a larger tax base to pull from.

Much of the district’s funding still comes from property taxes even though the ruling critiqued this system because of the disparities it creates for districts like Carlynton.

Still, Schriver said he was proud of the budgets they have created saying they have “crafted a budget” that fits the wealth of the district and that the “students thrive and succeed.”

In other Carlynton school news, four two-hour delays were added to the schedule, allowing teachers to review their students’ performances and better accommodate their needs. Those dates are Sep. 30, Oct. 27, Jan. 19 and Feb. 16.

Also, John McAdoo was appointed as the interim assistant principal for Carlynton High School. Residents may recognize that name as McAdoo served as the principal of Carnegie Elementary from 2016 to 2017. Before that, McAdoo was an English teacher at Carlynton High School and then vice principal of the high school.


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