Dallastown's Sophia Rodriguez breaks another world record for her age group

State petitions for control of York City schools

Erin James
The York Dispatch

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Dec. 1, 2014.

The state has asked a York County judge to seize control of the York City School District and give it to a Spring Garden Township man.

If the judge agrees, the locally elected school board would retain only the ability to set the property tax rate.

In a petition filed Monday in the York County Court of Common Pleas, state Department of Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq asks that David Meckley be appointed as the district's receiver.

Meckley, who has an extensive business background, has served as the district's chief recovery officer for two years. His tenure started after the state placed York City in moderate financial recovery status.

Last month, he unveiled a plan to convert the entire district to charter schools operated by a for-profit company based in Florida.

"If I become receiver, I'm going to continue to do what I've been doing, which is to look for solutions to improve the finances, the education, health and safety of the district," Meckley said Monday.

The process: State law requires the court to hold a hearing within seven days of the petition's filing, according to a news release from the education department.

Then, the judge must issue an order denying or approving receivership within 10 days of the hearing.

If receivership is granted, it would last at least three years, department spokesman Tim Eller said.

The state can pursue and the court can approve extensions in three-year increments, he added.

A hearing had not yet been scheduled as of Monday afternoon.

If Meckley is appointed as receiver, his compensation of $80 per hour is unlikely to change, Eller said.

The background: Meckley took the district's proverbial reins in late 2012. He spent several months developing a recovery plan, which the school board approved in June 2013.

That plan set financial and academic goals for the district to be achieved through what came to be known as the internal transformation model.

However, the plan offered charter schools as an alternative if those goals were not achieved. About a year into implementation, Meckley argued that internal transformation is failing on both counts.

For example, the recovery plan calls for teachers' salary reductions of up to 11.9 percent. But the union has rejected such deep cuts.

A few weeks ago, Meckley directed the board to approve a contract with Charter Schools USA on Nov. 19 - just 10 days after they first received it.

Board members declined to take a vote, choosing instead to table the matter until a later date.

At the same meeting, the board approved a new collective-bargaining agreement with the teachers union reflecting a 5 percent across-the-board pay cut starting Jan. 1.

Diminished goals: In the petition, Dumaresq alleges the new agreement "not only is inconsistent with the goals and objectives of the (recovery plan), it also diminishes the provisions and goals and objectives of the plan."

"The board has consistently failed to follow the recovery plan and the directives of the chief recovery officer. It is now necessary for the district to be placed into receivership so the recovery plan can to be fully executed for the benefit of the students and to return the district to financial solvency," Dumaresq said, according to a news release.

Meckley said he does not know how receivership would affect the new collective-bargaining agreement with teachers approved Nov. 19.

He also acknowledged the vast majority of people who have spoken at public meetings has criticized his charter plan. He's listened to those people, Meckley said.

"My remaining question is, where is another viable alternative that could improve the district?" he said.