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

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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 City Council Adopts $84 Million Budget; Most Taxes Remain Unchanged

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City Council on Monday approved a 2014 budget of $84.4 million that leaves most tax rates the same, but puts about $1.5 million into a contingency fund that may be needed to pay for its recycling program.

Council also voted 6-1 to turn down Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer’s request to switch to a land-value tax that he said would spur economic development.

Councilman Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. voted for the move, which Spencer had called his signature initiative.

The land-value tax would have lowered the tax rate on each property’s buildings by 20 percent a year until it’s entirely eliminated, but make up for that by raising the tax rate on land.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=520206

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

Reading Mayor Gets Earful At Forum

Pastor Jack Williams of First Century Worship Center told Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer Thursday that he and other volunteers cleaned street litter and piled trash bags behind his 11th Street church one day this summer.

The church wound up with a $25 code fine for its efforts.

What did the pastor and the mayor learn from this?

Maybe that no good deed goes unpunished.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=513206

Healthy Ways To fight Truancy In Reading Aired

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

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

There are students in the Reading School District who accrue 10 absence excuses from a parent and 40 from doctors in one school year.

So health care officials were urged Friday to be on the lookout for such students and not to feel pressured to issue them absence excuses.

Students are allowed to return to school without such notices, but the absences will be recorded as unexcused, said Anne Fisher, supervisor of the school district’s nurses.

“They don’t need a note to come back,” she said.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=509416

Reading Police Pulled From The Citadel

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

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

City police officers have been pulled from their stations at the Reading Citadel intermediate high school while the school district figures out how it’s going to come up with the money to pay for them, district officials said Wednesday.

“We don’t have coverage in the building,” school board President Pierre V. Cooper told fellow board members at the end of their meeting.

“The police are circling and in the area, and they can be there at a moment’s notice,” Cooper said.  “But they are not in the building.”

The two officers stationed at the Citadel, who also serve the high school, were at the school for the first day but were reassigned to regular city patrols later in the week, Dr. Carlinda Purcell, superintendent, said after the meeting.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=505051

Reading School District’s Bond Rating Dropped

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

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

The Reading School District has faced some major financial challenges lately, and it’s not going unnoticed.

Citing budget struggles and a $15 million accounting mistake discovered last year, Moody’s Investors Service, a major credit-rating firm, has lowered two district bond ratings by two levels.

Moody’s announced last week the district’s underlying general obligation rating was lowered to Baa2 from A3, and its enhanced rating was lowered to A3 from A1.

The outlook for both ratings, a release from Moody’s says, is negative.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=502171

State School Subsidy For Reading District Tells Only A Partial Story

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

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

The number looks enormous.

$117 million.

That’s how much the Reading School District will get from the state in the coming school year in basic education funding, the main channel through which state funds flow to local school districts.

It is by far the largest total of any district in Berks County and ranks the third-largest in the state, behind only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=497613

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

Streetlights Proposal A Nonstarter For Reading City Council

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City residents have been taxed to the hilt and need help from the state to help fix Reading’s financial woes, council members said at a finance, audit and budget committee meeting Monday.

A passionate discussion about the state of the city developed during the meeting, spurred by talk of a proposal to start charging residents for streetlights.

The administration has floated the idea of charging residents for streetlights that provide light to their properties.  Carole B. Snyder, managing director, earlier presented the proposal to council, saying it would free money to pave streets.

The city currently uses money from the state liquid-fuels fund to help pay for electricity for streetlights.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=485327

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