Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg school district names Chris Celmer as acting superintendent

Starting Jan. 1, Chris Celmer, right, will become acting superintendent of the Harrisburg school district, replacing John George, center.

The Harrisburg school district is making a change in its top leadership, as the acting superintendent is stepping down.

Dr. John George announced this afternoon that he will leave his post on Jan. 1, replaced as acting superintendent by Chris Celmer, currently the assistant acting superintendent.

“[Celmer] has been here, on site everyday,” George said. “He has, for all practical purposes, already been serving as superintendent and I, more or less, have been serving as an advisor.”

The district receiver, Dr. Janet Samuels, affirmed that she approved Celmer’s promotion.

Celmer and George have worked together for about a decade, first at the Berks County Intermediate Unit and then at the Reading school district. George brought Celmer to Harrisburg as his second-in-command under Samuels, who was appointed school district receiver in June.

George said that he planned to serve full-time in his current post as executive director of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit until September, when he would retire from that job to lead the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units.

George and Celmer both said that they’ve worked to stabilize the district’s finances, hire competent personnel, instill a solid governing structure and make academic reforms since they arrived in late June. Going forward, the district will focus particularly on academic achievement, they said.

“I’m excited about the opportunity, and I’m very confident that we’ll continue to make great strides in the Harrisburg school district,” Celmer said.

In his final public statement, George again took swipes at two entities that he’s criticized in the recent past: the former leadership of the district, which he described as having a “perverse self-interest,” and PA House Speaker Mike Turzai, who has proposed a bill to give Harrisburg students vouchers to attend private schools.

“Harrisburg school district will be devastated for generations if Speaker Turzai’s ill-conceived voucher bill becomes law,” George said. “On the other hand, with proper governance and leadership, and the support and patience of elected officials, community members, parents and faculty, I foresee much better days ahead for the Harrisburg school district.”

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