Harrisburg School District receiver announces recovery plan, eliminating a dozen administrative positions

HARRISBURG, Pa --- In a special meeting Thursday night, a plan was released regarding the recovery of the Harrisburg School District.

Dr. Janet Samuels, appointed school district receiver, announced a three-year partnership with Montgomery County Intermediate Unit No. 23 and Dr. John George.

Full details on the plan can be found here.

Dr. Samuels said they are modeling the recovery plan after a turnaround of the Reading School District in Berks County.

Dr. George, the former acting superintendent of the Reading School District, will serve as the Financial Recovery Plan Service Director.

The recovery plan partnership goes into effect on Monday, July 1 and will end June 30, 2022.

“This is not business as usual. This is working collectively to do what is right for the children of the Harrisburg School District,” said Dr. Samuels.

As a result of the plan, more than a dozen administration positions will be eliminated on Sunday, June 30:

  • Superintendent: Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney
  • In-House Solicitor: James Ellison
  • Business Manager: Bilal Hasan
  • Federal Program Administrator: Damali Brunson-Murray
  • HR Manager/Acting Human Resources Director: Lance Freeman
  • HR Manager: Shelena Roy
  • Chief Academic Officer: Jaimie C. Foster
  • ACCESS Coordinator/Supervisor of Paraprofessionals: Annette Roy
  • Chief Financial Officer: Vacant
  • Assistant Business Manager: Vacant
  • Accountant: Vacant
  • Assistant Payroll Services: Vacant
  • Director of Human Resources: Vacant
  • Acting High School Principal: Barbara Hasan

It's a move Dr, Samuels said will help the district save roughly $600,000, instantly.

She said they are now seeking a more "credentialed" and "qualified" administrative staff.

She added that she appreciates the people who have been a part of the district.

“I must very publicly on behalf of all the children and families to say thank you but we are going to move in a very, very, very aggressive manner,” said Dr. Samuels.

Danielle Robinson, president of the Harrisburg School Board, said afterwards that she is "disappointed," "angry," and "frustrated" by the recovery plan.

She said people removed from their positions didn't know it was coming.

“How disrespectful is that? And I think it’s vindictive, I think it’s spiteful...If you’re going to implement something to make this district better, give them an opportunity to adjust to whatever changes you have. Why come in here and at the first opportunity, you eliminate everyone,” said Robinson.

Gerald Welch, an incoming member of the Harrisburg School Board, said he believes the move by the receiver is an effort to put the children first.

“We are heartsick about people losing their salaries and how it’s going to affect their families but we are also glad that finally, we are going to have some people who operate without compromising integrity,” said Welch.

Lauri Lebo, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said they believe administrative changes within the district is a "good step."

She said they're "cautiously optimistic" these moves will help the district get back on track.

“There’s been a lack of transparency and fiscal solvency as well as academic excellence and we need to restore the district to that. We are, for the first time in a long time, we’re feeling a little more optimistic and I believe that 2019-2020 school year is going to be a much better  school year than it has the past couple years.”

People in attendance, such as Walter Marshall, who said he has three grandchildren in the district, said they believe Dr. Samuels needs to get the Harrisburg community involved in the recovery efforts.

He said he wants to see people "buy in" to the district.

“I love her start but how is it going to finish?” said Marshall.

The Harrisburg School District is also retaining Fox Rothschild, LLC for solicitor services.

The district has been in Financial Recovery Status with the state since 2012.

The school board also passed a budget and tax levy plan by a vote of 6-2.

Dr. Samuels said the budget passed cut roughly $400,000 from a budget originally proposed at a prior meeting.

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