Wortham
Wortham

As of Wednesday night, the York City School District does not have a superintendent.

Deborah Wortham, who'd held the position since June 2011, has resigned and will take over as superintendent of Roosevelt Union Free School District in Nassau County, N.Y.

"I came here to do a job, and we were able to move this forward," Wortham said in an interview before the meeting started. "I believe I was instrumental in working with the district to move it in the right direction."

Wortham said her resignation letter indicated she was willing to remain superintendent until June 30.

But, according to school board President Margie Orr, Wortham's resignation is effective immediately. Wortham did not stay for the bulk of the board's meeting.

"People come and they go. They come and they go," Orr said.

Orr said she could not explain why Wortham resigned. She had the board's support, Orr said.

Wortham leaves on the cusp of a district transformation designed to save it from financial and academic distress.

Recovery plan: At the same meeting, state-appointed Chief Recovery Officer David Meckley presented his recommendation for change, which, he said, should begin attracting charter-school students back to the district in September.

School board members are expected to vote on Meckley's recommendation at their next meeting on June 19.

Meckley said he remains confident in the abilities of remaining administrators to carry out the recovery plan.

"I think the district will move forward and absolutely be able to achieve that recovery plan," he said.

Board resignations: Also Wednesday, two school board members resigned.

Speaking to reporters as the meeting continued, Aaron Willford Jr. said he resigned "because of the vindictiveness of the leadership of our board."

Willford said he's lost confidence in Orr's ability to lead, and he said he believes Wortham was "somewhat forced" to leave.

"We have incapable leadership. I feel like I'm wasting my time," Willford said. "The district's going to hell."

Willford, however, said he believes in Meckley's recovery plan.

"The thing that will save us is Mr. Meckley," he said.

Asked to respond to Willford's criticism, Orr declined to comment. She said the board "had absolutely nothing to do with forcing Dr. Wortham out."

Board member James Morgan announced his resignation "for personal and health reasons," then left the meeting.

Before coming to York, Wortham was superintendent of Steelton-Highspire in Steelton, Pa., and an area academic officer of Baltimore City Public Schools.

Wortham said she was attracted to the job in New York because it is "a district that is coming out of state takeover."

"That's my skill set," she said. "You go and you stay until you see the mission is being actualized."

In York, she said, progress is being made. For example, she said, student achievement is improving and disciplinary problems are decreasing. Wortham also mentioned the closure of two middle schools, which allowed the district to teach K-8 students in the same building, as signs of progress.

Wortham said she told the board three weeks ago of her plans to move on.

But, according to Orr, Wortham did not officially announce her plan until Wednesday. Willford also said he did not know about Wortham's resignation until Wednesday.

- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.