York City School District questions await Wolf team
Jan. 18, 2015 – By Angie Mason, York Daily Record – With the appointment of a York City School District receiver put on hold, many are now looking at how Gov.-elect Tom Wolf could intervene when he takes office next week.
At the state education department’s request, a judge appointed David Meckley as the school district’s receiver, a move that would give him the school board’s powers except taxation. But the district appealed, and an automatic stay of receivership has been left in place while that moves through court.
Wolf previously said he opposed a proposal to turn all schools into charters, which Meckley had urged the board to approve, and Wolf had supported calls for the education department to postpone action until he took office.
Meckley, who remains the district’s chief recovery officer, referred questions about what could change to the Wolf transition team.
“I am committed to continuing to work with the school district and (Pennsylvania Department of Education) to advance the recovery plan,” Meckley said. “I’d look forward to talking to the administration about where they want to go and will support the direction that they choose … and their choice for a chief recovery officer moving forward.”
During a Community Education Council meeting Wednesday, Meckley said he’s been in touch with the Wolf transition team and they are monitoring the situation. As council members questioned what happens next, Meckley said much depends on the state level.
Wolf has previously declined to say whether he would remove Meckley from the position, saying it would be a tough call.
Jeff Sheridan, a Wolf spokesman, said no decisions have been made. He noted that Wolf hasn’t yet named an education secretary and doesn’t have any authority until Tuesday. Then he will work with the appropriate parties to review the situation and decide how to move forward.
“It’s certainly something that’s very important,” Sheridan said of the York situation, but added that schools across the state are suffering because of funding cuts, so Wolf’s priority remains adequately funding education.
Michael Churchill, an attorney with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, said the law, which says the chief recovery officer serves at the pleasure of the education secretary, allows for Meckley to be removed from that position. Options could also include asking the court to revoke receivership, or potentially replace Meckley as receiver.
Churchill said he believes it was appropriate of the court to leave the stay of receivership in place while appeals move forward, since otherwise Meckley could act unilaterally as receiver.
“It gives the new team the opportunity to decide whether or not they think there are other solutions to the problem,” Churchill said.
Maura McInerney, attorney with the Education Law Center, said there are a few ways Wolf could potentially address the York City situation.
Assuming the stay remains in place, there might be time to review the district’s finances, she said, noting that the projections in the recovery plan were made about two years ago.
Wolf could also appoint an education secretary “to really work with the district, look at the components of the plan,” providing oversight and technical assistance to help the district improve, she said.
“The third issue is really what caused the school district to be in this predicament in the first place,” she said. “To restore the funding cuts, ensure adequate resources, so York City School District is able to retain local control and continue.”
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