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DR. LINDA IVERSON, second from right, touts improvements in the Wilkinsburg school district, at a Back to School event, Aug. 23 (Photo by John Ford)

It’s the first week of school for roughly 550 students in the two Wilkinsburg elementary schools, and superintendent Dr. Linda Iverson says her district is turning the corner.

“We are the new Wilkinsburg,” Dr. Iverson told the New Pittsburgh Courier during a Back to School event outside the administration building on Wallace Ave., Aug. 23. “We’ve raised expectations and accountability for ourselves, and we are providing and assuring that our kids get the very best education.”

Hundreds of people—parents, students, administrators and area residents —attended the two-hour event, which featured refreshments, free backpacks, information, and an overall uplifting outlook to the new school year, which began Aug. 28.

“We have some new initiatives in place, we have some new programs, offering very hi-tech programs such as STEAM, and we’re bringing instrumental music back to our community,” Dr. Iverson said. “But the biggest thing I think we’re doing is we’re working on increasing the capacity of what we do so we better serve our students— in the classrooms, central office…we’re trying to make sure we provide to all our citizens in Wilkinsburg the very best.”

The Courier reported in a May 3 story that a study released in June 2012 by the Commonwealth Foundation in Harrisburg labeled the Wilkinsburg school district the most violent in Pennsylvania, with a rate of 47.23 incidents per 100 students. In 2013-14, Wilkinsburg High School had the lowest School Performance Profile in Pennsylvania.

Some of the negative perceptions of the district led a number of parents in the district over the years to send their kids to charter schools, or leave the district altogether. But Dr. Iverson told the Courier Aug. 23 that the findings from research she’s done paints a different picture. “We’re finding that what they think they’re getting (parents who moved their kids to charter schools) is no better than what Wilkinsburg (schools) can offer,” she said. “So that’s part of a marketing plan we have developed to start selling our district more to our community to let them know that we can give your kid the very same experiences you’re getting at, say, another charter school.”

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