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Harrisburg (Pa.) district agrees to state-appointed receiver

June 17, 2019
The district had been contesting a state takeover, but changed its position as a court hearing was set to begin.

The Harrisburg (Pa.) School Board says it will no longer contest the state's plans to appoint a receiver and take over the district.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reports that the announcement of the school board's change of position came as a court hearing was set to begin on whether a receiver would be appointed.

School District Solicitor James Ellison told Judge William Tully that the school board agreed on the facts outlined by the state’s petition for a receiver, including that the district had not met academic goals for improvement.

The surprise move came after the school board met Sunday night in an emergency executive session.

Tully did not announce the name of a receiver at Monday’s hearing, but no other names have been discussed for the position besides Janet Samuels, the district’s chief recovery officer, who was recommended by the state Department of Education.

The judge thanked the board for accepting the state’s petition to receivership, which would put Samuels in charge of all district operations. She would take on all the powers of the superintendent and school board. The school board would become only a figurehead, but the board would retain the power to raise taxes.

Tully said he believed the school district’s change in position was in the best interest of students and taxpayers. He said receivership posed the district’s best chance to meet the goals outlined in its recovery plan. The district has been in the state’s program for financial recovery since late 2012.

“I hereby grant the petition for receivership,” Tully said. “I will sign the order later today.”

Ellison’s change in stance avoided his planned argument that if the judge ordered receivership, then he would be compelled to transfer all districts to schools “under external management.” Those words were used in the recovery plan if the district failed to meet its academic goals, but the words were not defined.

Many people interpreted the words to mean that the district would have to completely transform into charter schools.

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