Months of Fireworks in the Harrisburg School District led to a state-takeover.
On Thursday, the state-appointed receiver, Dr. Janet Samuels, lit another fuse, eliminating more than a dozen positions, including the superintendent, in-house solicitor and business manager.
Former superintendent, Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney, got a jump on the meeting, announcing her resignation.
In an email to staff, Knight-Burney wrote, “as my time as superintendent has come to an end, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work side by side with you.”
However, she was not alone. The controversial, recently hired in-house solicitor, James Ellison, and acting business manager, Bilal Hasan, also lost their jobs in the decision.
“This is a very bold move. This is not your ordinary average decision. It was done very thoughfully,” Samuels said.
These kinds of ‘bold moves’ drew bold reactions.
“This is something we’ve been praying for. To see it come in this measure, it’s a blessing,” said Joelle Ewell, a Harrisburg School District taxpayer.
Although some people’s blessings are others blunders.
“I’m disappointed, frustrated and a little pissed,” said Harrisburg School Board President Danielle Robinson
Robinson walked out as Samuels started announcing the eliminated positions. She said she was horrified that people sitting at the table with Samuels learned that they were losing their jobs from her public announcement.
“People didn’t know about it — like, how disrespectful is that? I think it’s vindictive. I think it’s spiteful,” Robinson said.
Samuels considers the move as district-saving. She said Harrisburg School District has long struggled with attracting highly qualified staff and administrators.
“We’re about the business of ensuring there is a high caliber, high quality team that really works together,” Samuels said.
With only a week and a half since receivership, Robinson wishes the fired administrators had a chance to fight for their jobs.
“If you’re going to implement some things to make this distric better, give the people an opportunity to adjust to the changes you have,” Robinson said.
The elimnated positions will be suplemented by a partnership with Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. Its executive director helped turn around Reading School District — the poorest in Pennsylvania.
“Many of the positions and the restructuring pieces that you will see are designed intentionally to ensure that there is an immediate financial impact for the district,” Samuels said. Eliminated positions
- 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 D. Freeman
- HR Manager Shelena Roy
- Chief Academic Officer Jaime C. Foster (volunteered to be transferred to Harrisburg High School to serve as principal)
- 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
The eliminated positions will be filled by the subcontractor Montogomery County Intermediate Unit No. 23.