The Harrisburg school board tonight selected Tyrell Spradley, a tax consultant and former city treasurer, to serve an appointed term until 2019.
Spradley replaces Matt Krupp, a board director who resigned to serve as Dauphin County prothonotary last month.
The board picked Spradley over four other candidates, three of whom they interviewed tonight. One applicant, Richard Soto, withdrew his name at the last minute, urging board members to vote for candidate Mariah Rodriguez instead.
The other two applicants were school board veterans: James Thompson, who served for six years until he failed to win reelection in 2017, and Kia Hansard, who served one year on the board following an appointment in 2003.
All candidates except Soto garnered nominations in tonight’s first round of voting. Board Director Carrie Fowler and President Judd Pittman cast votes Thompson. Lionel Gonzalez and Brian Carter supported Rodriguez. Percel Eiland, Melvin Wilson, Ellis Roy and board Vice-President Danielle Robinson voted for Spradley, who fell just shy of the five votes required to confirm a seat. Hansard, who had been nominated by Pittman, did not receive any votes.
In a second round of voting, Pittman dropped his nomination for Hansard and cast the decisive vote for Spradley.
In his interview before the board, Spradley touted his financial background and his two years of experience working in the district’s accounting department. He said he thinks many of the issues facing the district can be resolved, given the improved fiscal health he has seen since he worked as a district accountant.
“A lot of the issues I see are administrative issues, communication,” Spradley said. “Money isn’t a problem like it was before. We’re stronger now and have a stronger administration.”
Spradley joins the board as it braces for a number of contentious discussions, including the annual budget process and the expiration of Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney’s contract this June. The board must decide soon whether it will renew Knight-Burney’s contract or open an application process in which she may participate.
Spradley currently works as a tax consultant for the Bryn Mawr Trust. He was appointed by Harrisburg City Council in 2014 to serve as city treasurer but resigned in May 2016, shortly after being elected to the position. When he resigned, he was also employed in the accounting department of the school district.
Speaking after the meeting tonight, Spradley said that he resigned as treasurer after completing a forensic audit to assess damage by former Treasurer John Campbell, who resigned amid theft charges in 2014.
“I felt like my job was done,” Spradley said.
He said he would not leave his school board appointment mid-term and expressed confidence that he could manage the duties of his office in addition to his full-time work. Spradley has one son, a fifth-grader at Marshall Math and Science Academy.
It’s unclear how Spradley’s vote will shape future board decisions, as he was hesitant to take a hard stance on specific issues. For instance, he was uncertain whether he would support a contract extension for Knight-Burney.
Spradley also said it was “too early” to comment on the issue of charter schools. Just last year, the board rejected an arts-based charter school application by a 6-3 vote.
“I’m not saying yes or no now,” Spradley said. “Not all charter schools are the same.”
Spradley did say he would support efforts to improve literacy and attendance rates in the district. He will be sworn in at the board’s next meeting on Feb. 20.