AP NEWS

Recovery Officer To Include Canceling Bus Contract In Scranton School District Recovery Plan

March 15, 2019

If the chief recovery officer of the Scranton School District wants to cancel the busing contract, she will need the support of the Scranton School Board. On Thursday, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called on Candis Finan, Ed.D., to terminate the district’s no-bid bus contract with DeNaples Transportation and to seek bids. On Friday, district officials learned more details about the process. If Finan wants the district to cancel the plan — and save what the auditor general estimates to be $1.4 million over the next several years — she must include that in the financial recovery plan, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The school board then must take action pursuant to the plan. Finan said she will “definitely” include canceling the contract in the plan, which is due in early May. “The plan is going to have a number of options, and it’s going to have the steps to take for those options,” she said. The board must discuss those options, and the Financial Recovery Advisory Committee also will have input, she said. State law allows districts in financial recovery to cancel or renegotiate a contract if that action would “effect needed economies in the operation of the district’s schools.” Finan does not have the power to cancel the contract unilaterally, according to PDE. State audits show the district far outspent the state allowance for transportation costs. In 2017, DePasquale found from 2007 through 2016, the district paid DeNaples $26.1 million — including more than $4 million in questionable fuel surcharges. Auditors found costs exceeded the “final formula allowance” by more than $11 million during the 2012-13 through 2015-16 fiscal years. Some school directors question whether the district even has a legal contract with DeNaples. School Board President Barbara Dixon said Friday that she will consider all options when it comes to action on the transportation deal. “There are a lot of pieces that need to be answered, and I need to see the full picture,” she said. “I don’t want to open the district up to any kind of legal action.” Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., encouraged the public to let Finan and the district work on finding solvency. “If everyone would just slow down and let us get through the process, in the long run, the recovery plan will be a great plan,” Kirijan said. “We’ll have something to work toward... I’m sure transportation will be part of that plan.” Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT on Twitter