State takes control of Harrisburg School District


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — What was expected to be a two-day hearing lasted only a few minutes.

The state will take control of the Harrisburg School District, a quick decision that left many surprised in a Dauphin County courtroom on Monday.

Judge William Tully placed the school district into receivership as requested by the state Department of Education. The district did not oppose receivership at the hearing.

“That filing has a practical effect of consenting to the appointment of Dr. Janet Samuels as receiver for the Harrisburg School District,” said James Ellison, the district’s solicitor. Samuels was the state’s chief recovery officer in the school district.

Ellison says the board of school directors was aware of the decision after Sunday’s emergency executive session, despite the reaction after the judge’s decision.

“I’m still in shock, so yes, this was a big curveball based on conversations we had last night,” said Carrie Fowler, a school director.

Lauri Lebo, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, hopes this decision puts the district back on track.

“It’s been a rough couple of years. Right now, we know that the students have been not treated like they should by the administration, and getting back on the right track means working with them to improve grades. We look forward to working with the teachers,” Lebo said.

Ellison said during the first takeover by the city, the district was governed by a five-member board of control. Under state receivership, the receiver will assume all the powers and duties of the school board except the power to levy and raise taxes.​​​​​​​

“What’s next is we start to get to work,” Ellison said. The receiver, Dr. Samuels, is upstairs as we speak and is getting ready for tonight’s board meeting.” 

Receiverships are granted for a three-year period, but the Education Department can petition the court for three-year extensions.

Harrisburg has been in financial recovery status since December 2012.

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