Harrisburg School District to come up with recovery plan after federal funding pulled

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Harrisburg School District is in recovery mode after $10.9 million in state federal funding is pulled over an audit dispute.

The school board voted not to cooperate with the audit and then agreed to 13 out of 14 information requests from the State Board of Education.

A revised recovery plan for the district is now being updated under the requirements of the Department of Education’s, Act 141.

Chief Recovery Officer, Dr. Janet Samuels says she is hoping the plan will keep the district from receivership – something Mayor Eric Papenfuse and state legislators support.

“This is about the business of supporting students in this district," said Samuels. "It’s very important to pull together and to collaborate and to remain hopeful," she added.

She says there are three main goals the plan will support including: Financial management, academic achievement and student stability.

“It may be the nuclear option, there is no hope in the current environment," said Jayne Buchwach, who is running for Harrisburg's School Board Director position in the upcoming election.

Even though the school district has been under state oversight since 2012 -- the districts academic performance has declined and mayor Papenfuse says the dysfunction has reached an unprecedented level.

However, many are looking fro two things: Getting curriculum and finances in order.

“Unless players change, unless you flip that board, and you do something with the administration, no matter what we do it might not be enough," said Buchwach.

School officials  say the goal is to have a final plan written by the end of May.

If the plan is approved, then the Department of Education will determine receivership.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera issued a statement Friday pertaining to the school district and its recovery plan:

"The recovery plan under law is meant to help financial recovery school districts implement various initiatives to lead them into solvency and position them for academic success. We have worked closely with the chief recovery officer and have added resources, including hiring a qualified audit firm, to solicit information that is needed to create a comprehensive plan for improvement that is tailored for the students and community of the Harrisburg School District.

"The district’s refusal to submit appropriate information to the department, and its apparent failure to meet appropriate obligations and expectations, are unacceptable. The Department of Education will consider all actions allowable by law to draft and implement a recovery plan that the students of Harrisburg School District need and deserve.

"Additionally, it is important to note that the district has already received its April federal funding. As the district cooperates with the department’s requests, we are hopeful that we will be in a position to remove the suspension at some point in the future."

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