SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The Pennsylvania Department of Education is planning to keep an extra eye on the Scranton School District.
For years, the district has made headlines for a multi-million dollar deficit.
On Friday, the Scranton School District was officially put on financial watch status.
Being placed on “financial watch” might seem like a bad thing but the school district administration is welcoming it.
Administrators don’t want parents or students to be nervous.
“The message we want to get across is don’t panic! This is not a takeover!” Scranton school board president Bob Sheridan said.
At the office of Pennsylvania State Senator John Blake Friday, district leaders explained the designation means the Pennsylvania Department of Education will now provide more financial guidance and assistance.
That will include an independent financial analysis.
“They’ll bring in a qualified third party to take a look objectively, kind of like an outside look,” State Senator John Blake said.
Scranton becomes the sixth district in the commonwealth to be placed on financial watch.
Other districts already include Reading, Aliquippa and Erie.
The Erie School District went on the list in September 2016 and was immediately able to get additional money in the state budget.
“Hopefully we’ll have the ability for us to do that also. I think that’s what we’re looking for,” Scranton Chief Financial Officer Gregg Sunday said.
The money troubles of Scranton’s schools are not breaking news but administrators say over the last few years they have already downsized central administration, offered buyout incentives to teachers and re-financed bonds to save money.
The superintendent says she is 100-percent committed to working with the new state aid.
“The school district board of education and administration has worked tirelessly to try and chisel away at this deficit,” Dr. Alexis Kirijan said.
One thing district leaders say they have not looked at and have not considered is closing any schools.
Administrators also wanted to tell teachers that this move does not automatically mean layoffs and they say they will work to make sure jobs aren’t lost during this process.
It is currently unknown exactly how long the Scranton School District might be on financial watch status.
Administrators say the designation is likely to last several years.