Some York County community leaders are optimistic that state education Secretary Ron Tomalis has chosen the right person to work with the York City School District on turning its finances around.
The state announced Wednesday that it had declared York in financial recovery and appointed Spring Garden Township resident David Meckley as chief recovery officer. His task is to craft a plan for turning finances around.
Meckley is a former Spring Garden Township commissioner and former York Suburban School Board member and has served with numerous community organizations. He's part of a YorkCounts group that has been examining city education issues.
Eric Menzer, York Revolution general manager and chairman of the YorkCounts group, said he was thrilled by the news -- and not because he hopes the group will have any kind of inside track.
Menzer said he's held that the process couldn't be just about money but about the education of York's children.
Even if Meckley's official task is financial, Menzer said, "there's nobody I can think of who is more concerned about the outcome for kids. I'm 100 percent confident there won't be anything proposed that is not also ... supportive of getting improved educational outcomes for kids."
Tim Eller, spokesman for the state education department, said Tomalis reviewed a few candidates for the position. He wanted someone with expertise in financial management and executive experience, as well as experience in education.
Tomalis was also looking for someone from the York area, Eller said, so that the officer could work well with the community. Meckley fit the bill.
State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-West Manchester Township, who was recently elected to become the next state auditor general, said Meckley is "as good a choice as any the secretary could make."
"He's going to do the best he can for a balanced solution for the York City School District. He clearly cares about this community," he said.
DePasquale, who voted against the financial recovery legislation, said that had been one of his concerns. He said the delegation met with Tomalis and, not naming Meckley, expressed that was the sort of person they'd like to see in the position.
"We wanted to make sure it wasn't just some slash and burn person from out of the area," he said.
York County Commissioners President Steve Chronister said the conversation can't just be about money, but has to be about getting students what they need. Meckley is a good businessman and appears to get it -- "the whole package, not just the finances," he said.
While Menzer expressed confidence in Meckley's consensus-building skills, he also noted that Meckley won't be rolled over by anyone.
"Dave's got a backbone," he said.
YorkCounts, a initiative of York County Community Foundation, formed a work group over the summer to look at methods that have been successful at turning around other school districts and see what might work in York.
Eric Menzer, chairman of the group, said that it is on track to have "an outline of what we believe would be an approach for success" early in 2013.
Because York City School District initially contested the possibility of having a chief recovery officer appointed and the process was delayed, he said, that might allow the group "to come to the table and speak with more authority, in a more intelligent way about what we've concluded."