State asks to withdraw petition for receivership of York City schools

Erin James
The York Dispatch

Editor's note: This article was originally published March 25, 2015.

The state Department of Education has taken a major step toward ending its attempt to seize control of the York City School District.

On Tuesday, the department - with the support of the district, its employees' unions and the York NAACP - filed a stipulation asking the Commonwealth Court to remand the case back to a York County judge.

The stipulation further asks the Commonwealth Court to direct York County President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh to allow the state to withdraw its petition for receivership, said Tom Scott, an attorney representing the district's unions.

"And then I would expect the secretary (of education) to withdraw the petition," Scott said. "I don't think it's going to take a long time."

The education department under former Gov. Tom Corbett filed a petition in December asking Linebaugh to appoint chief recovery officer David Meckley as the district's receiver - a role that would have given the Spring Garden Township businessman nearly all authority over the district.

Meckley, who resigned as the district's chief recovery officer earlier this month, had advocated a full conversion of district schools to charter schools operated by a for-profit company.

After a series of hearings, the judge named Meckley receiver but also granted the district's right to appeal.

In November, Pennsylvania voters elected Gov. Tom Wolf, whose approach to education policy differs greatly from that of his predecessor.

What's next: The search is underway for a new chief recovery officer, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said.

When that person is chosen, he or she will co-chair a "community action committee" with York City Mayor Kim Bracey to gather community input on the best path forward for the district, Sheridan said Wednesday.

Wolf and acting secretary of education Pedro Rivera "believe it is very important that the community is involved in this process," Sheridan said.

The governor "values Mayor Bracey's influence," he said.

"At this point I couldn't tell you when a new chief recovery officer will be chosen," Sheridan said.

The success of the governor's committee plan will depend somewhat on whether the appointed members are representative of the community, said Sandra Thompson, president of the York NAACP and a local attorney.

She asked that "the people who have been vocal," including the NAACP, be included.

Bracey could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

School board President Margie Orr said she needs to know more about the governor's committee idea before forming an opinion.

"The receivership being off the table, that's a good thing," she said. "As far as anything else, I really don't have a comment about it right now."