The Harrisburg School District seems likely to remain under state receivership for several more years.
The state-appointed receivership period is set to expire this Friday, June 17. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has filed a petition for an extension of the receivership for another three years.
PDE filed the petition with the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas in late May. The court is expected to make a decision by Friday.
According to the document, PDE requests the reappointment of Dr. Lori Suski, the current receiver of the district, to serve until June 17, 2025.
Suski was appointed as the receiver in January, following the departure of Dr. Janet Samuels who served in the role since the beginning of the three-year receivership period in June 2019. The court originally placed the district under state control due to its failure to meet 2016 Financial Recovery Plan goals.
Suski confirmed that she was aware of the filed petition by the Department of Education. No objections to the petition were filed as of Monday.
The document states that while “the District has made initial progress toward financial and academic recovery,” the district’s long-term recovery still needs work to improve financial health and academics. The department said that the receiver is “mid-stream” in many of her current initiatives to meet goals outlined in the district’s 2021 Amended Financial Recovery Plan.
According to the petition, the district has improved its financial status—PDE noting the proposed 2022-23 balanced budget, with a possible budget surplus. It also outlined the district’s development of a K-12 math and English language arts standards-aligned curriculum and the hiring of several top officials in the district, such as Superintendent Eric Turman.
However, PDE has a number of items that it wants the district to address before exiting receivership. This includes continuing to develop a five-year financial projection and facility utilization plan, improving student PSSA and Keystone Exam scores and making progress with graduation rates and attendance goals, among other objectives.
While under receivership, the Harrisburg School Board is essentially stripped of all authority, except for the power to vote on the district’s annual taxing proposal.
Jim Thompson, a district board director, told TheBurg that he supports the petition of extension for the receivership. According to Thompson, the board isn’t prepared to resume control and needs “professional development” before he feels confident that they can do so.
“I’m completely supportive of the extension,” he said. “The current plan has no specific element to prepare the board for local control.”
Thompson said that he felt confident in Suski’s abilities as the receiver, but would hope to see more student performance goals achieved in the coming years than in the past three.
“In the next three years we will need to really scrutinize what we are doing and if it’s working,” he said.
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