Officials Discuss Ways To Help Financially Strapped Scranton School District

April 3, 2019

SCRANTON — Scranton School Board directors and state and local leaders spent Wednesday morning discussing what more can be done to help the financially distressed district. During a legislative breakfast in the district administration building, school board Director Paul Duffy asked the officials, including Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, and state Reps. Marty Flynn, D-113, Scranton, and Kyle Mullins, D-112, Blakely, to make sure Scranton’s growth is mentioned when they advocate for more funding for the district at the state level. Scranton had 9,598 students enrolled in 2014, but that number jumped to 10,167 by March, he said. Harrisburg and York both have less students, yet get more money from the state than Scranton, said Duffy, who along with some directors, began speaking to Parent Teacher Associations about the district’s financial problems this week. “The disparity between wealthy and poor districts is wider than any other state,” Blake said. Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., said the district is redistributing funds and dealing with financial challenges every day. There’s many things the school district needs and wants to improve including technology, school safety, graduation rates, mental health resources and to increase the number of both professional and nonprofessional employees, she said. “It’s hard to overcome when we don’t have the resources,” Kirijan said. Scranton Federation of Teachers President Rosemary Boland asked how long the teachers are expected to work without a raise. Kirijan also pointed out that some of the district’s oldest buildings are in need of repairs. Scranton is not alone and there is talk at the state level to revive Plan Con, which reimbursed districts for building projects, Blake said. Boland, who had a meeting at U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s local office after the breakfast, said Casey and U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8, Moosic, also need to help the district. “We can’t just do this by ourselves,” she said. “Somebody has to come up with a plan to fund public education.” Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright suggested the district needs more positive press. He told the board they need to get along in public. “The perception is not good, we have to change that,” said Courtright, who added his neighbor recently moved out of Scranton because of the district. Some members of the group also chided The Times-Tribune for what they called “negative coverage” of the district. Duffy said that even if the board maybe at times be split on their votes, “when we know something is wrong, we work together.” “We all know we need to fight this fight together,” said board President Barbara Dixon. Also in attendance were Scranton School Board Vice President Greg Popil, director Katie Gilmartin and state-appointed Chief Recovery Officer Candis Finan, Ed.D., Scranton City Council Member Kyle Donahue Newly appointed school board director Kenneth Norton was also in the crowd that also included Luann Henehan, president of the district’s maintenance and clerical workers union, district administrators, and Sandra Miller from PA Schools Work, a public schools advocacy organization. Contact the writer: kbolus@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5114; @kbolusTT on Twitter.