The Lead

As it seeks state control, Education department tries to prevent new action by Harrisburg School Board

By: - June 6, 2019 3:15 pm
Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera is the only member of the charter appeals board whose term has not expired.

Update: A Dauphin County judge halted a meeting of the embattled Harrisburg School Board with an injunction Thursday night, just minutes before board members were expected to vote publicly on new contracts for top administrators. Read more here. 

Original post

The Pennsylvania Department of Education on Thursday tried a new tactic in its battle to take control of the Harrisburg School District, asking a county judge to prevent the city’s elected school board from approving any new contracts.

Education Secretary Pedro Rivera filed the emergency injunction on Thursday morning, the same day that the Harrisburg School Board of Directors is scheduled to hold a special meeting to vote on personnel items.

Rivera petitioned Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas earlier this week to put the struggling district in receivership, a move that would require its superintendent and school board to cede almost all their powers to a state-appointed administrator.

Harrisburg city school district may soon be under state control, as Pa. Education department petitions for receivership

Among other points, Rivera argued in the petition that the district violated the long-term recovery plan it adopted jointly with the state in 2013 by allowing its superintendent and solicitor to collect paychecks, even though its board has not approved their employment contracts.

In his filings on Thursday, Rivera sought to prevent the school board from voting on any new employment contracts until the courts make a decision on receivership.

District solicitor James Ellison responded by saying there was “no legal basis” for Rivera’s request to prevent duly elected officials from performing their duties.

As of 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, Dauphin County Judge William Tully had not posted an order of injunction. The board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m.

The board has not published its meeting agenda, but board President Danielle Robinson told members earlier this week that the purpose of the special session was to “vote on personnel and any other business matters,” according to PennLive.



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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.