Takeover brought significant changes to Harrisburg schools, auditor says

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania’s auditor general says there have been significant changes since a state takeover of the Harrisburg School District.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Friday praised the new leadership for taking actions that include closer monitoring of leave time, overtime and payroll, and reviewing outsourced food services and facilities management contracts.

“There was a whole host of irresponsible decisions over a number of years to get us here,” DePasquale said.

DePasquale met with district officials twice this month. He said the district has also eliminated the use of travel advances and now requires documentation for expenses. The district additionally has enacted new controls prior to paying invoices.

“Instead of giving people an advance ahead of travel, which quite frankly is insane, now requiring receipts,” he said.

DePasquale said the district’s new management is committed to bringing about needed changes.

“There’s budget work to do. There’s lots of other deficiencies and dysfunction that needs to be addressed and corrected,” said Dr. John George, the acting superintendent who came in once the state took over.

In June, shortly before Harrisburg was placed into receivership by the state Department of Education, DePasquale announced his department would perform a real-time audit of the district.

DePasquale’s findings and recommendations come the day after we learned the FBI is joining the state attorney general’s investigation of the district.

“I have no idea what the FBI is or isn’t looking at, or the attorney general is or isn’t looking at,” DePasquale said.

“That’s up to them,” said George. “We will continue to cooperate with them, but our team’s focus is rebuilding. Their focus is trying to hold those accountable who may have been responsible for the plight of the school district.”

The auditor general says he will share information with law enforcement as necessary, but hasn’t found anything to make him do that so far. He will give them the full report once it’s complete.

“We all need to be very clear: this is not going to be an overnight process,” DePasquale said.

For those who are lacking hope, DePasquale points to Reading as one of the districts able to successfully recover once the state stepped in.

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