Status report has good news for Harrisburg schools - abc27 WHTM

Status report has good news for Harrisburg schools

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It was this time a year ago the Harrisburg School District declared itself a distressed district. A year later, the chief recovery officer filed a status report that shows promise financially and academically.

Gene Veno can't believe it has been nearly a year since he was hired to help right the ship for Harrisburg schools. The district's the chief recovery officer filed a 30-page report Tuesday that detailed improvements made and areas that still need work.

A few highlights depend on an audit report that could give the district $9 to $11 million in funds. Veno explained the district's expenditures were not accurately reported in the past, skewing the numbers. As CRO, Veno can only recommend action to the superintendent and school board.

In his update, Veno believes the school board would not have to raise school taxes for the 2013-2014 budget. He added that taxes may not have to be raised through the duration of the next 54 months of the recovery plan.

Although teachers and staff were asked to take a .05 percent wage reduction, Veno believes the school board could revisit that action and adjust it accordingly once the audit is completed.

"The board will look at the possibilities to do with that surplus," Veno said.

On the academic side, Veno said there needs to be areas of improvement in classroom performance, but there are steps to help educators and students at home.

The district hired a chief financial officer in August to manage the day-to-day business. Veno said this has and will allow principals in the school to conduct more classroom walkthroughs and have a more hands-on approach with teachers and students.

The reported stated the district's cyber school, Cougar Academy, is near its 60-student capacity with 45 students currently enrolled and climbing.

Veno said the report offers a positive outlook on the district's future and believes the plan is on track for recovery over the next few years. Noting the city government's Harrisburg Strong plan waiting to be finalized, Veno believes both recovery plans lay a framework for a rebuilding community.

"The strong plan can't be successful unless you have a solid recovery plan with an education proponent for this community," Veno said. "So, hand-in-hand it's a great time for the community. It's coming together and I think 2014 is going to begin to show even more positiveness for the district and even for the city."


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