Auditor General: Reading School District’s Efforts To Fix Problems ‘Ridiculous’

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eight months ago, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale lambasted the Reading School District.

In an audit report that he called the worst ever of a school district in Pennsylvania, he derided the district’s leadership, financial management and ability to provide students with a quality education. He said if things didn’t change quickly, there would be a more than strong chance the state would take the district over.

On Friday, DePasquale was back in town to provide an update. The story wasn’t much better.

“It is, again, not a pretty picture,” he said during a press conference at the Reading State Office Building.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article/20140118/NEWS/301189948#.Utqg8PQo6c8

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

Reading School Board Member Karen McCree Says She’ll Resign

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following a tumultuous reorganization meeting earlier in the week, longtime Reading School Board member Karen H. McCree has resigned from her position.
McCree said she submitted her resignation to board president Rebecca Acosta Wednesday. The school board released a statement about McCree’s resignation Friday.

Acosta and McCree have butted heads at recent public meetings. The tussle escalated to a heated shouting match at Monday’s reorganization meeting, when Acosta was named president.

McCree just began her 15th year as a member of the school board. Her last board meeting will be Dec. 18 and her resignation will take effect Jan. 3.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while and there have been some other reasons that I’ve decided that now is the time,” McCree said of her decision Friday.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article/20131207/NEWS/312079964/1052#.UqNbcPSgnuI

Reading School Board Meeting Devolves Into Shouting Match

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It didn’t take long for the newest incarnation of the Reading School Board to spectacularly explode.

There were accusations and gavel banging. There were angrily mumbled threats. And there was a whole lot of screaming and yelling.

What started as a welcoming of the board’s newest members Monday night quickly devolved into a heated shouting match, pitting newly elected board president Rebecca Acosta versus long-time board member Karen H. McCree.

The tinder was set early during the board’s annual re-organizational meeting, with McCree questioning the two presidential candidates – Acosta and incumbent president Pierre V. Cooper – about their leadership experience and plans for the future.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article/20131203/NEWS/312039892#.Up5IVLB3uM8

Reading School Board Fires Its Superintendent

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Who didn’t see this coming?  “Indefinite sick leave…”  What a hot mess.

The short but rocky relationship between the Reading School Board and superintendent Dr. Carlinda Purcell has come to an end.

The board voted Tuesday night to fire Purcell, effective today. Substitute superintendent Karen B. Gokay will take over as acting superintendent.

Purcell is in the second year of a five-year contract. She was paid $175,000 annually.

The board ousted Purcell by a 6-3 vote. Rebecca Acosta, Isamac-Torres Figueroa and Robert Heebner voted no.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=520360

Reading School District Running Deficit Of Nearly $1 Million

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Four months into the 2013-14 fiscal year, the Reading School District is already running at a nearly $1 million deficit, the school board learned Monday night.

Robert Peters, chief financial officer, presented the board with a status update on the 2013-14 budget at a committee of the whole meeting.

He said unexpected increases in expenses and decreases in revenues have the district facing a $952,000 deficit.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=517608

Albert Boscov: Reading School Board Should Honor 2006 Tax Deal

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  We ask the members of the school board not the be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Do the right thing for Reading’s revitalization.  Honor the deal!

Albert Boscov wants the Reading School District to hold up its part of the deal.

Back in 2006, Reading School Board members – along with city and county officials – agreed to a plan to reduce property taxes for the then-proposed GoggleWorks Apartments.  But now that the complex at Second and Washington streets is open, a problem has popped up.

It turns out, Our City Reading, which spearheaded the project, never officially finalized the tax deals.

Boscov has met with school district, city and county officials in hopes of getting current officials to sign off on the tax breaks their predecessors agreed to.  He attended Monday night’s Reading School Board meeting to reiterate his plea.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=494614

Last-Minute Budget Proposal Includes 2 Cuts

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. Carlinda Purcell waited until the very last minute – literally.

At 4:59 p.m., just moments before a 5 p.m. deadline, the Reading School District superintendent sent an email to school board members with a proposal to close a gap in the district’s 2013-14 budget.

The deadline was set at a meeting Tuesday night after Purcell told the board the $213.6 million budget that was passed June 28 had a $180,000 hole.  The announcement drew criticism from board members frustrated by the budget process and a demand that the administration fix the problem by the end of the business day Wednesday.

James Washington II, board vice president, confirmed he received an email from Purcell at 4:59 p.m.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=493735

Reading School Board Confirms Suspension Of Superintendent

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. Carlinda Purcell, superintendent of the Reading School District, wasn’t at work last week.

She wasn’t sick, and she wasn’t enjoying a vacation.

Instead, Purcell was serving a five-day unpaid suspension handed down by the Reading School Board.

The board voted 7-1 on Tuesday night to retroactively approve the suspension, with Robert F. Heebner Jr. voting no.  Yvonne L. Stroman was absent.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=493521

Reading School Board Uses Deep Staff Cuts To Balance Budget

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Reading School District‘s long and winding road to closing a more than $13 million gap in its 2013-14 budget has finally come to an end.
In a process fraught with frustrations, surprises and boiling tempers, the final act provided more of the same.

Apologizing to the staff, students and public for an experience they called “deficient,” “baffling” and “sad,” the Reading School Board approved the $213.6 million spending plan Friday night at the end of a 4 1/2-hour meeting.  But not without some fireworks first.

Coming into the night, the district was already faced with a more than $300,000 deficit after deciding Wednesday night not to cut kindergarten to half-day and not to raise the property tax from its current rate of 16.92 mills.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=489178

Reading School Board Makes Budget Progress

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slowly toiling away, looking at proposed cuts from every angle imaginable, the Reading School Board inched closer and closer to its members’ goal: a balanced budget they can live with.

Following the board’s voting meeting Wednesday night, members stuck around to pick through the administration’s latest proposed 2013-14 spending plan.

They reviewed a list of 18 cuts one by one, taking straw polls to find out which ones have support and which ones don’t.

And, with two days before they plan to vote on a final budget, they appeared to have finally made some big decisions.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=487596

Reading School Budget Would Raise Taxes

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The group of about 25 spectators gathered inside the Reading School District‘s board room Monday, made up mostly of district employees, waited patiently.

They waited as the board discussed an administrative job chart.  Waited through detailed questions about a bond.  Waited through a two-hour executive session where the board discussed personnel.

They waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

“They’re trying to get us to leave,” a member of the crowd remarked.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=487166

Labor Board Sides With Reading Teachers: District Negotiators Had Conflict

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The state Labor Relations Board has ruled in favor of the city’s teachers union in a claim against the Reading School District.

The Reading Education Association had filed an unfair labor practice in February 2012, claiming two board members formerly on the district’s negotiation team should be removed.

The union claimed that Karen H. McCree should be barred from negotiations because she is a member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the Reading union’s parent organization.  McCree works for the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.

Robert F. Heebner Jr. should be taken off the negotiation team, the union claimed, because as a former Reading teacher he was a member of the Reading Education Association.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=481952

Budget Presentation Disappoints Reading School Board

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The third time was not the charm.

The Reading School Board held its third budget workshop Wednesday night, and for the third time board members were disappointed.

It wasn’t because of the scope of proposed cuts needed to close a more than $8-million budget gap, but rather because of the lack of information. Again.

Administrators provided the board with a list of proposed changes – ranging from trying to bring some outsourced special education services back to cutting assistant principals from 12-month to 10-month employees – but did not provide a comprehensive plan to balance the budget.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=476031

State Auditor General Rips Reading School District

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They very well may be the worst accounting practices in the state.

That was Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale‘s assessment of the financial situation in the Reading School District, which he shared during a press conference Friday in Reading.

“To be direct,” he said, “the Reading School District has failed its students, failed the children of Reading.  It has failed the taxpayers.”

DePasquale was in the city to release the findings of a major audit his department did on the school district.  The audit was the result of requests by local legislators to investigate the district following the discovery of a more than $15 million accounting error in December.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=474980

Reading Schools Begin Pondering $8 Million Budget Gap

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a lot of work still to be done.

Facing a budget gap estimated at about $8 million, that was the overriding message Wednesday night during the first in a series of budget workshops held by the Reading School Board.

Not much new was revealed during the workshop, with Robert Peters, the district’s chief financial officer, simply setting the stage for future budget talks by reviewing the district’s current fiscal status.

Peters said he built the initial $216 million budget – the one with the $8 million hole – without reducing any services or programs.  It includes the maximum allowable tax increase of 2.8 percent, as well as any other projected changes that he could predict to expenditures and revenues.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=465957

Shake-Up: Reading School Board President Leaves Post

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Reading School Board faced two surprising changes Monday night, as one board member resigned and the board president gave up his leadership role.

In a letter read by board President Robert F. Heebner Jr., member Frank B. Denbowski announced he would give up his seat effective midnight Wednesday, following that night’s board meeting.

Denbowski, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, cited his responsibilities as Reading’s recycling and solid waste division manager as his reason for leaving.  Denbowski was in the second year of a four-year term.

After reading Denbowski’s letter, Heebner announced that he is relinquishing the presidency immediately but will remain on the board as a member.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=463377

Violence Prevention Program Targets Reading’s Northeast

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A joint effort to reduce youth violence is targeting the northeast section of the city, an area where most Reading kids will end up attending school.

For members of the Reading Youth Violence Prevention Project, who recently met at Albright College to discuss goals for 2013, the logic was simple.

Northeast Reading is home to Reading High and the Citadel intermediate high school.  There’s also Northeast Middle School, CHOR Day Academy, I-LEAD Charter School and four elementary schools.

“The northeast sector is not considered the neediest per se, but there are perhaps more assets to build upon,” said Laura M. Welliver, project coordinator at St. Joseph Medical Center.  “There are more opportunities to stabilize, using the schools as anchors.”

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=451722

Reading School District Short Millions; Lawmakers Want Audit

Officials in the Reading School District announced the discovery of an accounting error that has left the district short more than $15 million.

Board President Robert F. Heebner Jr. said revenues for the 2010-11 school year were overstated by about $15.6 million. Heebner said it is still unclear which revenues were misstated.

That number could change, he said, as the district is still working on digging up all the facts about the incident.

The mistake was missed in audits of the district last year but popped onto the radar during an audit of the 2011-12 school year, which is taking place now.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=441680

Retired Teacher Named President Of Reading School Board

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A former Marine Corps sergeant was named to lead the Reading School Board through turbulent times at Monday’s annual reorganization meeting.

Robert F. Heebner Jr., 63, a retired teacher and longtime swimming coach, was named president of the board by a slim one-vote margin that reflected ongoing division over the direction of Berks County’s largest school system.

Heebner, who had been vice president, defeated Pierre V. Cooper in a 5-4 vote.

Lining up behind Heebner were Frank D. Denbowski, Isamac Torres-Figueroa, Rebecca Acosta and Harry P. Storch Jr.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=432952

Reading School District Budget Outlook Not Good

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Reading School District isn’t likely to get any relief from the financial straits that have led the district to cut programs, layoff staff and close schools.

Robert Peters, the district’s chief financial officer, provided the school board with an initial overview of the district’s 2013-14 budget process at a meeting Wednesday night. And the outlook doesn’t appear good.

The district, like others across the state, will yet again be facing increasing expenses with little hope of jumps in revenue.

Peters said increases in pension contributions will probably cost the district about an extra $2.5 million next year, and health care costs will likely increase somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=421733