Q.  How many pupils attend the Harrisburg School District?

A.  The Pennsylvania Department of Education reported the district having 6,691 pupils enrolled for 2011-2012.

Q.  What is Act 141?

A.  Called the School District Financial Recovery Law, Act 141 (PA House Bill 1307) is legislation designed to help financially distressed schools and ensure education for the students of these schools.  This law requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to develop an early warning system that will be used by the Department of Education to identify school districts in financial watch status.  A district will be declared in Financial Watch Status if it meets the criteria established by the PDE based on data that the district is required to provide.  School districts may be declared in Moderate Financial Recovery Status or Severe Financial Recovery Status.  The PDE must officially notify districts in financial watch status and continue to provide technical assistance to these districts.  The PDE will appoint a Chief Recovery Officer (CRO) for each district in financial recovery status.  The CRO is charged with taking input from the School Board and the community to develop a recovery plan to lead the district into financial solvency and position it for academic success.  The law also requires the PDE to establish the Recovery School District Transitional Loan Program, which allows school districts in financial recovery status to apply for an interest-free loan in order to implement parts of their financial recovery plan. 

Q.  When was House Bill 1307 signed into law?

A.  Governor Tom Corbett signed House Bill 1307 into law on July 12, 2012, and it is now designated at Act 141 of 2012.

Q.  Does the Harrisburg school district qualify as “distressed?”

A.  Yes.  On Wednesday, December 12, 2012, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis designated Harrisburg’s school district in “moderate financial recovery” status.

Q.  What is the difference between moderate financial distress and severe financial distress?

A.  A school district in moderate financial distress enables a Chief Recovery Officer ninety days to develop a recovery plan.  In a district in severe financial distress the Chief Recovery Officer has thirty days to develop the plan. There are a variety of other differences between the two designations, including the requirement to appoint an Advisory Committee in moderately distressed districts.

Q.  Do other school districts in Pennsylvania qualify as “fiscally distressed?”

A.  Only nine districts can be in financial recovery status at any one time under the law.  Four urban districts including the Harrisburg school district have received preliminary declarations as districts in financial recovery.

Q.  What is a Chief Recovery Officer (CRO)?

A.  Declaring a district in financial distress triggers the appointment by the state Secretary of Education of a qualified individual to develop a recovery plan.  This person carries the title of Chief Recovery Officer.

Q.  Does the Harrisburg School District have a CRO?

A.  Education Secretary Ron Tomalis appointed Gene G. Veno as Chief Recovery Officer.  Veno is required by the new law to present a plan to the school board within 90 days of his appointment.

Q.  What type of background does CRO Veno have for this role?

A.  Gene G. Veno earned a bachelor’s degree in business education from Elizabethtown College and a master’s degree in public administration from Marywood University in Scranton.  In Scranton, he served on the Scranton School Board and Chairman of the Government Study Commission and ran for Mayor of Scranton in 1981.  He was appointed by Governor Dick Thornburgh in 1984 to a state wide position and later would establish a governmental policy and lobbying firm, representing many health care trade associations.  Veno & Associates, developed a specialty niche in representing many healthcare associations as their governmental contract lobbyist both on a state and national level.   Veno was also an adjunct instructor at Lebanon Valley College where he taught marketing and business management classes and was awarded the Nevelyn J. Kinsley Award in 2002 at the College commencement exercise.

Q.  What are the objectives of the plan?

A.  The recovery plan will establish a framework for leading the district into financial solvency and position it for academic success. The CRO looks at this as an opportunity to improve the education of the students in ways that will create many new life changes and rewarding experiences to best prepare them for college and the workplace environment.

Q.  What are the objectives for our children?

A.  Each of our children must be equipped with the skills not only to meet the state performance standards, but to graduate and to go to college or trade school.  Gene Veno wants to enable the Harrisburg schools to offer every student the best education possible, an education that every child, from kindergarten to 12th grade, deserves.  He believes that the Harrisburg school district can grow and foster excellent education.

Q.  What types of things will be included in the CRO’s plan to the school board?

A.  To build a framework that will serve as the guide to the successful recovery of the school district, CRO Gene Veno will use a collaborative and open process. As an educator, former school board member and businessman, he will utilize his skills on the issues facing the district.   A team of experts will study all aspects of the district, from academics and extracurricular programs to building functions and viability, labor contracts, technology, and security, along with revenue and expenses. He will start with a financial baseline, see how much money is coming into the district and what the needs are.  The plan will be a starting place in determining how to best meet those needs.  The plan will be revised as needed when it is put into action.

Q.  How can a plan be developed if the district is in moderate financial distress?

A. The CRO intends to bring in a team of experts.  Consulting firm, Public Financial Management, was hired by the state education department to provide technical support including analyzing data, making projections and helping an advisory committee come up with ideas for the future.  Starting with a financial baseline, assessing needs, determining how much money comes into the district through public funds, there is nothing stopping the planners from considering raising private money.  He said the plan could include a wide range of ideas from charter school conversations to cutting programs.

Q.  Will CRO Veno develop this plan himself?

A.  The state provides him with a technical assistance team to review the Harrisburg school district’s budget and help determine the financial viability of different recovery options. Consulting firm, Public Financial Management, was hired by the state education department to analyze data, make projections and help the group come up with ideas for the future.  The CRO assembled an advisory committee, in accordance with the law, and is working with a collaboration of partners to solicit ideas.  The committee will be comprised of Harrisburg school administrators, school board members, community members and other involved educators to lay the foundation for turning the district around and ensuring all children have the opportunity to achieve academic excellence.  The committee will meet one to two times each month. Gene Veno will also be hosting a series of public meetings starting in January to provide opportunities to the community for committee updates prior to issuing the report on March 12.  More information about those meetings can be found on the Public Meetings page of this website.

Q.  What is the timeframe for developing a recovery plan for the Harrisburg School District?

A.  The law requires the plan to be presented to the school board within 90 days of the appointment of the CRO, which was December 12.

Q.  How will the plan and the process impact the financial recovery of the Harrisburg school district?

A.  The entire process is meant to get Harrisburg schools on the right path financially and academically. 

Q.  What happens after the plan is presented?

A.  The elected school board must vote within ten days of March 12 to accept the plan.  If the board accepts the plan, the CRO submits a copy of the plan to the Secretary of Education within five days of the board’s approval.  Within ten days of the CRO’s submission of the plan to the secretary, the secretary shall approve the plan in a written statement.  The school board has 364 days to implement the plan.

Q.  Did the parents and other interested members of the public have any opportunities to provide input into the plan?  When will the public hear the details of the plan?

A.  Public forums will be held for the Harrisburg School District community to discuss the financial and academic recovery declaration for Harrisburg and explain the procedure for developing and implementing a financial recovery plan.  A forum to learn about the Chief Recovery Officer’s report for the school district will also be held.  The forums will be hosted by Chief Recovery Officer Gene Vino and open to the public as follows:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  • Harrisburg High School-John Harris Campus Auditorium
  • 2451 Market Street, Harrisburg
  • 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

  • Camp Curtin School
  • 2900 North Sixth Street, Harrisburg
  • 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - MEETING CANCELED

  • Harrisburg High School-John Harris Campus Auditorium
  • 2451 Market Street, Harrisburg
  • 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, April 11, 2013  

  • Administration Building
  • 2101 North Front Street, Building #2, Harrisburg
  • 6:00 p.m.

Friday, April 26, 2013  

  • Marshall School
  • 301 Hale Ave., Harrisburg
  • 6:00 p.m.

Q.  Where can I get more information? 

A.  This website will be updated regularly, and videos of public meetings will be posted on the website: