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State on the search for new York City school recovery officer

York City School District’s Chief Recovery Officer Carol Saylor is shown in her office at the York City School District Administration Building in York City, Tuesday, March 29, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The state will need to replace its chief recovery officer for York City School District's recovery plan after the current appointee announced her retir effective Friday.

The district was placed in financial recovery in 2012 — along with Harrisburg, Chester-Upland and Duquesne school districts — and a chief recovery officer was assigned to help formulate a recovery plan and oversee the district’s progress.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education is already searching for Carol Saylor’s replacement, spokesperson Eric Levis said in an email Thursday.

"Turning 70 years old during a pandemic has forced me to refocus," said  Saylor, noting she wants to spend time with family she has missed.

Saylor, who announced her retirement at the board’s July 22 meeting, is the second recovery officer appointed to the district.

The first was David Meckley, who resigned in 2015 after a change in state leadership.

Gov. Tom Wolf did not agree with Meckley's plans to convert the district's schools to charters, which he could have done after the court appointed him receiver.

More:York City schools: End of state oversight near?

More:State asks to withdraw petition for receivership of York City schools

There are several requirements under the school code for replacing a recovery officer, Levis said.

The law states the appointee cannot be an employee of the district or an elected or appointed official. The recovery officer, once appointed, also cannot seek or hold office in the financial recovery district — or for two years following.

The recovery officer must also meet one of the following requirements:

  • at least five years' experience in either budget and financial management, public school finance, school administration, accounting, academic assessment or education law
  • a master’s degree in business or finance and at least four years of relevant experience in business, finance or management.
  • current business manager or financial officer of a school district in the state

Levis did not immediately respond to follow-up questions on a timeline for replacement or if there would be an interim recovery officer until a replacement is found.

Through her years as recovery officer, Saylor said, she’s seen the district accomplish many recovery plan initiatives.

Those include stabilizing its leadership, centralizing student enrollment, creating several academic academies and implementing districtwide looping — in which teachers spend more than one year with students.

Dr. Carol Saylor, has been named chief recovery officer of the York City School District, left, looks on as the William Penn JROTC Color Guard presents the colors at the State of the City Address held Thursday evening, April 23, 2015, at LSC Design. Randy Flaum photo - raflaum@comcast.net

"It’s been my privilege to know you," said board member Margie Orr, at the  July 22 meeting. "You have worked tirelessly to get our district to where we are now."

Under Saylor’s tenure, the district met some financial requirements to exit recovery, but use of its fund balance to balance budgets prompted the state not to grant a release.

More:Is Pennsylvania's financial recovery law helping school districts?

Saylor — who was superintendent of Fairfield Area School District in Adams County and Manheim Central School District in Lancaster County — also expressed her disappointment with a "broken" education funding system in which an overreliance on property taxes has significantly disadvantaged urban education, she said.

"If the governor’s formula were fully funded, York City schools would receive an additional $6,500 per pupil per year, or an additional $51 million annually," she said.

More:Coalition: York City district is Pa.'s most underfunded per student

Though Saylor said the state's current funding formula is fair, it only applies to new funding and does not make up for the years of underfunding. York City has historically been one of the most underfunded school districts in the state.

York City school board members commended Saylor for her calm demeanor and dedication in navigating such challenges.

"You gave it to us straight, but there was always a silver lining, and I appreciate that about you because you saw the whole picture," said board member Tonya Thompson-Morgan.