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A Spring Garden Township businessman and community leader has been appointed to work with the York City School District to craft a plan for turning around district finances.

On Wednesday, state education Secretary Ron Tomalis declared the school district in "moderate financial recovery" and appointed David G. Meckley, 61, as chief recovery officer.

The declaration comes out of a state law, adopted over the summer, aimed at intervening in districts experiencing financial difficulties. In recent years, the city district has been forced to hike taxes and make drastic cuts in order to balance its budget.

The law says a district can be deemed in financial recovery for certain reasons, including if it has requested an advance on its funding. York City requested and received an advance in April to address cash flow problems, and therefore qualified, according to the state.

Meckley, president and owner of Strategic Advantage Inc., is tasked with working with the district to create a financial recovery plan for the district. That plan could include actions such as reopening the district budget, raising taxes, converting schools to charters, renegotiating contracts other than collective bargaining agreements, among other measures.

If the local board doesn't cooperate with plans, the state could ask the court to appoint a receiver to carry them out, according to the law.


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York City School Board President Margie Orr said Wednesday afternoon that she's trying to look at the news positively.

"After we went to the state ourselves and gave them our future plans ... on how we thought we could recover, I guess they didn't see it was adequate," she said. "I always said whatever help the state could give us ... far be it (for) me to deny the school district that opportunity."

Meckley said he believes the city school district is probably the most important thing the community can invest time and effort into. He said he spoke with Supt. Deborah Wortham and with Orr on Wednesday, and he thinks they look at the situation the same way.

"It's going to be a collaborative effort on trying to find the best ideas using all available resources," he said.

Meckley has been serving on a YorkCounts group that has been working to analyze methods that worked in turning around other school districts. He's not coming in with any pre-formed solutions, he said.

His first steps will be meeting with Wortham and Orr early next week, he said, and drafting a recovery officer entry plan.

"Really, the pieces behind that are to collect information, work with some resources, have some community forums, have some interviews," he said, and to start to shape the approaches that might make a difference in the long- and short-term.

Meckley -- whose parents and grandparents were York High graduates -- said he's confident the work will receive community support. The first email he received after the appointment was announced was from Mayor Kim Bracey, who has also been working with the YorkCounts group, he said.

"That's the kind of community support I think will distinguish York from some of the other situations," he said.

The school district had initially tried to resist the possible state action. But Orr said the district isn't in a position to fight now, noting it would just cost money.

She hopes Meckley can help, she said. She doesn't know him personally, but she hopes that having someone familiar with York will work in the district's favor.

About David G. Meckley

Age: 61

Residence: Spring Garden Township

News: Newly appointed chief recovery officer for the York City School District

Education: Bachelor's degree in industrial engineering, Cornell University

Work/community experience: Meckley president and owner of Strategic Advantage, founded in 2001. He is former president and CEO of Flinchbaugh Engineering, and is chairman of the company's board.

He has served as president of the Spring Garden Township commissioners and a York Suburban School Board member. He has been active in numerous community organizations, including Better York, YorkCounts, York Cultural Alliance, York County Community Foundation, Rotary Club of York, York Chamber of Commerce, and York Suburban Dollars for Scholars.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education

@angiemason1; 771-2048

Related links

Read about the YorkCounts group looking at school district issues.

Read financial recovery documents on the Cram Session blog.