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County judge delays Harrisburg school district receivership hearing for 10 days

A recent Harrisburg school board meeting

A Dauphin County judge has delayed by 10 days a hearing to determine whether the Harrisburg school district should be placed into receivership.

Judge William Tully this morning signed an order delaying the hearing, originally scheduled for Friday, until June 17 and 18. The motion cited unspecified “scheduling conflicts” as the reason for the delay.

Just yesterday, district Solicitor James Ellison asked for a delay until Tuesday, stating that the district needed more time to prepare for the hearing. Tully’s order extends that timeframe by another six days.

The order also extends the time for Tully to make a decision about potentially placing the school district into receivership.

Under statute, Tully has 10 days following the hearing to make a decision. So, if the hearing occurs on June 17, he would have until nearly the end of the month to render a verdict on the fate of the school district.

The state Department of Education has asked that Dr. Janet Samuels, the current chief recovery officer for the district, be named receiver for a three-year period. The district school board then would be stripped of virtually all its power, except for the ability to levy and raise taxes.

Meanwhile, the school board has called a special meeting for tomorrow night for unspecified “personnel issues.” Both long-time district Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney and newly appointed Solicitor James Ellison currently lack contracts, leading to speculation that the board plans to consider contracts for them just before the state might put the district under its direct control.

The board also has a regularly scheduled meeting on June 17, the same day as the court hearing.

The board also must approve a final budget for the 2019-20 school year before the end of the month. Currently, that budget envisions a 3.4-percent increase in the school portion of the city property tax.

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