Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Deputies halt Harrisburg school board meeting; judge schedules hearing as state attempts to stop action on contracts

Harrisburg school district administration building

Two Dauphin County sheriff’s deputies marched up to the second floor of the school district administration building to serve a temporary order to stop the school board from entering into any contracts during a meeting on Thursday night.

The board was in the middle of its private executive session when the deputies delivered the order, which forbade the district from “taking any action to bind the District to new — or terminate existing — commitments, obligations or expenditures of resources . . .”, thus halting the public portion of the meeting.

A hearing will now be held Friday afternoon at the Dauphin County courthouse on a motion filed today by the state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.

In that motion, Rivera wants to halt all contractual decisions by the district until Judge William Tully decides whether or not to grant Rivera’s petition, filed Monday, to place the Harrisburg district into state-controlled receivership. That hearing is scheduled for June 17.

“The board should not be permitted to enter into or terminate existing contracts during this interim period with the Petition pending, impacting a receiver’s ability to effect meaningful change,” according to today’s court motion.

The school board had scheduled a special meeting for tonight to discuss unspecified “personnel” issues, which many believe could include action on several long-term contracts, including for the district superintendent and the solicitor.

“The disingenuous nature of the board’s actions here is illustrated by the vague description of its June 6 meeting which, by its own terms, could literally encompass anything,” according to the motion [bold and emphasis are contained in the motion].

In his response, school district Solicitor James Ellison stated that “there is no legal basis whatsoever for infringing upon or limiting their [school board’s] actions as the Secretary requests.”

On Monday, Rivera petitioned the court to place the Harrisburg district into receivership, citing numerous alleged failures on the part of the current school administration and board. The hearing was originally slated for tomorrow, but was pushed up 10 days.

Continue Reading