As recently as a week ago, it didn't seem like York City School District Chief Recovery Officer David Meckley should have been expecting any Christmas cards from the teachers' union this year.
Teachers and the community seemed absolutely positive that Meckley was going to recommend York City schools go with a full charter conversion option, and teachers let Meckley know their ire.
The district is in a state-mandated financial recovery process, with Meckley in charge of making a recommendation to the city school board to vote on. Nearly all public commenters at the financial recovery committee meetings over the past few months had urged Meckley to go with the district's preferred option for financial recovery, an internal transformation that allows district staff to retain control of the schools.
That might be why on Thursday night, Meckley seemed to go from zero to hero in one sentence.
"The collective internal staff can and will transform the district," Meckley said to a standing ovation from elated and surprised teachers and parents.
Meckley will formally give his recommendation on Wednesday, May 15, to the school board at 6:30 p.m. at the high school, and the option will be voted on by the board after that, possibly by June's regular board meeting. The option isn't officially chosen until the board confirms it, but it did have the overwhelming support of the 20-member financial recovery committee. All but four members rated transformation higher than charter conversion, with two preferring charters and two splitting their vote.
Meckley said the two preferring charters aren't being revealed, despite the committee previously saying all ratings would be made public.
"We are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support the internal transformation model received from so many committee members," said teachers' union president-elect Bruce Riek.
"I want to congratulate all of you for listening to the community," said Sandra Thompson, president of the York NAACP.
The option for internal transformation would involve letting the district fix itself with magnet schools, adding pre-kindergarten classes, cutting wages, having Meckley appoint a council to oversee the process, and more. The school board and superintendent would not be losing any authority, Meckley added.
"It's a golden opportunity for the community to take this" and run with it, Superintendent Deborah Wortham said.
Charters loom: Meckley, deciding to blend elements of the charter option, said individual schools would have about three years to show they are making progress or they could be turned into charters. The transformation plan does hinge on the district being able to lure students back to city schools. City school parent Lydia Tucker the new plan needs to work."My kids still go to York City, but am I on the edge? Yes," Tucker said. "You have to realize we need more. You're not showing us enough to make us want to stay in York City."
Follow @YDSchools on Twitter to ask questions with reporter Andrew Shaw about the recovery process.