This article was originally published Feb. 5, 2013.
The direction of the York City School District financial recovery process got a little clearer Monday night.
It was the first time Chief Recovery Officer David Meckley, appointed by the state to help York City schools turn their finances around, had to meet with the public and discuss what he and his committee will be doing.
"These are public meetings, and there will be transparency," Meckley told the crowd.
The committee had its first meeting Jan. 24. But Monday was the first time public comment was sought. The committee, directed by Meckley, was formed after the Department of Education placed the city district on "moderate" financial recovery status on Dec. 12, placing it firmly under the supervision of the state.
The status gives Meckley power to recommend a plan on what should happen with the district budget, recommendations that the board must approve or face the threat of a receiver who won't need to ask for permission.
Many in the sizable crowd at the administration building had a direct connection to the district, but some community members in the audience, including some district employees, spoke of their concerns and vision for the committee.
Meckley was asked to address rumors swirling around York that the committee would recommend Meckley pursue drastic action, such as convert schools to charters, merge York City with neighboring districts, or go after the teachers' union contract.
There is no list of pre-planned ideas, he said, although he added the committee will start putting thoughts down on paper in the next meeting or two.
"But just because an idea is on that list, it doesn't mean it's viable. Many of those ideas you articulated will probably end up on the list," he said of brainstorming.
Although the 20-person committee of various educators, city officials, parents, and community members gets to help fine tune ideas, Meckley is the only one who gets to write the plan.
And that plan may take some time, he said, as the goal is to get it right rather than get it done quickly. Technically the plan is due for submission to the school board to consider in March, but Meckley said he plans to get an extension and submit it in April for a May vote.
City resident Glenn Medice asked how long will York City have to prove the plan is working after its enacted.
That's difficult to say, Meckley replied, although he figures at least a year or two, with the idea that there are a lot of moving parts.
"If that takes more than one year, then let's do it right," Meckley said.
Many seemed to agree York City faces a unique and substantial problem not quickly fixed, even if it got more funding.
"It's just a succession of problems that none of us have the ability to deal with individually," said city councilman Michael Helfrich, who was there as an interested citizen. "We have to stop looking at each other as separate entities."
Meckley and York City staff also gave the audience the same overview of the district the committee got. Charter schools, for instance, are costing York City $28 million a year, as parents are "voting with (their) feet. The parents of the district are clearly making a statement," Meckley said.
Some in the crowd suggested the committee look into marketing, as well as ways to get people passionate again about York High sports.
Michael Muldrow, who oversees York City School District safety and security but said he was speaking as a father of five, said he also hopes the committee considers the direction Superintendent Deborah Wortham already is taking the district.
Not that he thinks the job is done yet. His school-age children attend a neighboring school district, and he thinks if the committee accomplishes its job, the exodus from York City schools will subside.
"People like me, a father of five, will send my children back to the schools when I like what I see," he said.
Another public forum will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at Martin Library. For more information, visit www.ycsdrecoveryplan.org.
- Reach Andrew Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.