Teachers concerned recovery plan ignores pandemic learning loss
By Jamie Wiggan
Sto-Rox educators have asked the school board to consider postponing a state-enforced financial recovery plan that’s slated for a vote next week.
Union president Carrie Palermo said teachers agree with large portions of the plan, but have also identified gaps, particularly in terms of remedying learning losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s no mention of what has happened,” Palermo said in a statement to the board March 24. “There’s no mention of what are we going to do about one-and-a-half years of reading and math losses… Our leadership has given us no direction on how to bridge those gaps.”
John Zachorchak, a state recovery officer working with the district, said after building the plan with input from the wider community, the board must now accept or reject the plan wholesale.
While the plan includes academic performance measures, Zahorchak said its main objective is to reduce the spiraling fund balance deficit and return the district to financial stability.
“I fully appreciate the impact of COVID,” Zahorchak said. “This is not designed to be an all-encompassing plan. This is a financial recovery plan first and foremost.”
The board is set to vote on the plan April 7.
Longtime administrator Sam Weaver tendered his resignation without a public pronouncement March 24.
Weaver, an assistant principal at the high school has been with the Sto-Rox district for more than 15 years as a teacher and administrator. His departure follows a wave of teacher and admin resignations tendered during the previous year.
School Board President Cameron Culliver said he was unable to comment at length about Weaver’s reasons for leaving the district.
“All I can say at this time is the board accepted his resignation,” he said.
Speaking to the larger staffing outflows, Culliver acknowledged the district is struggling to fill many vacancies but said the board will still take its time finding employees who will be a good fit for the school.
“In the past, they just hired folks to fill a void,” he said. “I think right now we have to do the due diligence to hire the right folks.”
Two years into the pandemic, mask use is now optional for students, teachers and school visitors.
The board approved an update to its health and safety policy, dropping the mask mandate effective March 25. The Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance in late February making mask use optional in areas with lower case levels like Allegheny County. However, some districts have been slower to lift the mandates.
Joseph Dimperio, acting superintendent, said Sto-Rox staff and the wider school community had requested masking be made optional.
“If there were to be an uptick in covid cases, of course, we would mandate the masks in the future,” he said.