Education

Former CV superintendent ousted as nominee for state education position

2013-08-26T13:43:00Z 2013-08-28T06:56:39Z Former CV superintendent ousted as nominee for state education positionNaomi Creason, The Sentinel The Sentinel
August 26, 2013 1:43 pm  • 

HARRISBURG — After three months in the state capital, William Harner, the former Cumberland Valley School District superintendent, is looking for a new job.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s office Monday said he asked for and received the resignation of Harner, 56, who was Corbett’s nominee for the state education secretary position. The Associated Press said the removal was because of a “personnel matter not party to his service to the state.” An anonymous administration official told the Associated Press, however, that the dismissal involved “multiple and inappropriate comments by Harner.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that those comments and “unflattering” behavior were from his time as the superintendent of Cumberland Valley. It said Harner’s nomination was pulled due to further background checks, which had uncovered the comments.

Harner released a statement Monday evening saying that the complaints during his tenure at Cumberland Valley were without merit.

“I am very proud of the many accomplishments my team and I made while serving at the Cumberland Valley School District,” Harner said. “It remains my understanding and belief that any complaints made during my tenure as superintendent were fully investigated and no matter was ever determined to be of merit or legal consequence. In fact, the Cumberland Valley school board awarded me the maximum possible bonus available for the 2012-2013 school year as further affirmation of our team’s success and lack of substance of any complaints made during my tenure.”

On June 17, the school board voted to give Harner a $15,000 performance bonus for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, as well as a $10,000 employment severance package. The board had voted for both unanimously.

Harner continued in his statement to say that he has faced detractors despite what he said he has accomplished during his tenure at Cumberland Valley.

“I have spent the past 15 years transforming schools and school districts, building stronger schools, curricula and students at all levels and from all backgrounds,” he said. “My quest to accelerate the pace of academic rigor at the Cumberland Valley School District garnered wide support among educators, parents and students. However, detractors to my approach have succeeded in undermining my confirmation with a campaign of distortions. I regret that they have put their interests ahead of their children’s education.”

Cumberland Valley School District spokeswoman Tracy Panzer said the district will not comment on personnel matters.

Harner was nearing the end of his contract with Cumberland Valley, where he worked for five years, when Corbett on May 15 named Harner as his nominee for the education position, replacing Ron Tomalis. Harner was not yet approved by the state Senate for the position by the time he resigned. Even on Monday, the Associated Press reported Harner was still expecting to be confirmed by the Senate next month.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve Gov. Corbett and the residents of the Commonwealth in the capacity as acting secretary of education,” Harner said. “During my lifetime of service to my state, community and my nation, these months have been equally rewarding. I am disappointed that I will be unable to continue to serve in this role, as we had a strong team in place to improve education for Pennsylvania students.”

Harner said he is looking to get back into education by “returning to a school district in a future leadership role.”

Harner was immediately replaced as acting secretary of education by Carolyn Dumaresq, the department’s executive deputy secretary, who is a holdover from the administration of former Gov. Ed Rendell.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

HARRISBURG - Gov. Tom Corbett dismissed his second education secretary in three months on Monday when he asked for the resignation of nominee William Harner over a what one administration official characterized as multiple and inappropriate comments that arose separately from his state service.

Harner's dismissal came after Corbett, a Republican, removed Ron Tomalis in May without explanation.

An administration statement on Harner's resignation gave no reason for the move. A Corbett spokeswoman, Lynn Lawson, said that it involved a personnel matter that did not involve Harner's time in the Corbett administration.

Lawson would not elaborate, but a Corbett administration official who was briefed on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation said it involved multiple and inappropriate workplace comments by Harner, who was previously the superintendent of large school district in suburban Harrisburg.

In a statement posted online late Monday by The Sentinel of Carlisle, Harner said he was disappointed that he was out as education secretary and said "detractors" to his leadership approach "have succeeded in undermining my confirmation with a campaign of distortions."

"It remains my understanding and belief that any complaints made during my tenure as superintendent were fully investigated and no matter was ever determined to be of merit or legal consequence," Harner said.

Lawson could not explain why the administration was unaware of the undisclosed personnel matter before Harner was nominated, and she could not say how or when the administration became aware of it.

"Since it is a personnel matter, I am not going to get into the specifics beyond what we've announced today," Lawson said.

Harner knows why he was dismissed, Lawson said.

Harner, 56, told an Associated Press reporter earlier Monday as he was walking into the Capitol that he knew nothing about his nomination potentially being withdrawn and that he still expected to be confirmed by the Senate next month. About 90 minutes later, the administration announced his departure.

Harner replaced Ron Tomalis on June 3 after previously serving five years as the superintendent of the Cumberland Valley School District. His contract with the district was ending June 30, and the board there had not approved a new contract with him before Corbett nominated him in May.

A Cumberland Valley district spokeswoman would not say whether or when the Corbett administration had sought access to Harner's personnel information on file there.

"Cumberland Valley School District considers routine employment verification requests as a personnel matter; for privacy purposes, we do not provide comment on personnel matters," spokeswoman Tracy Panzer said in a statement.

Sen. Andrew Dinniman, the ranking Democrat on the Education Committee, was sharply critical of the administration Monday, saying educators had wasted three months getting to know Harner and trying to address major issues with him.

"The real question, I think for all of us, is how can the governor's office nominate someone for a position like this without doing proper vetting?" Dinniman said. "This is certainly not a sign of leadership on the part of the governor's office."

The upheaval at a major agency comes as Corbett gears up for re-election, and is inconvenient timing for a governor who is sustaining heavy criticism for cutting aid to public schools while seeking to advance the fortunes of private, parochial and charter schools.

Harner was immediately replaced as acting secretary of education by Carolyn Dumaresq, the department's executive deputy secretary who is a holdover from the administration of former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat.

Dumaresq, who has a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania, is a former public school teacher, superintendent, college professor, teacher's union official and president of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

HARRISBURG - Gov. Tom Corbett has dismissed another education secretary over what an official calls multiple and inappropriate comments.

The governor has asked for and received the resignation of his nominee for the job, William Harner, less than three months after he started.

A Corbett spokeswoman says Harner’s removal is because of a personnel matter not party to his service to the state. She declined to elaborate, but an administration official briefed on the matter, and speaking on condition of anonymity, says it involved multiple and inappropriate comments by Harner.

Harner told an Associated Press reporter earlier Monday that he knew nothing about his nomination potentially being withdrawn.

Harner had previously served as the superintendent of the Cumberland Valley School District in suburban Harrisburg. He replaced Ron Tomalis on June 3.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

HARRISBURG - Gov. Tom Corbett dismissed his second education secretary in three months on Monday when he asked for the resignation of nominee William Harner over an undisclosed personnel matter that a spokeswoman said did not involve his state service.

Harner's dismissal came after Corbett, a Republican, removed Ron Tomalis in May without explanation.

An administration statement on Harner's resignation gave no reason for the move. But a Corbett spokeswoman, Lynn Lawson, said later that it involved a personnel matter that did not arise during Harner's time in the Corbett administration.

Lawson could not explain why the administration was unaware of the undisclosed personnel matter before Harner was nominated, and she could not say how or when the administration became aware of it.

"Since it is a personnel matter, I am not going to get into the specifics beyond what we've announced today," Lawson said.

Harner knows why he was dismissed, Lawson said.

Harner, 56, told an Associated Press reporter earlier Monday as he was walking into the Capitol that he knew nothing about his nomination potentially being withdrawn and that he still expected to be confirmed by the Senate next month. About 90 minutes later, the administration announced his departure.

Harner replaced Ron Tomalis on June 3 after previously serving five years as the superintendent of the Cumberland Valley School District, a large district in suburban Harrisburg. His contract with the district was ending June 30, and the board there had not approved a new contract with him before Corbett nominated him in May.

A Cumberland Valley district spokeswoman would not say whether or when the Corbett administration had sought access to Harner's personnel information on file there.

"Cumberland Valley School District considers routine employment verification requests as a personnel matter; for privacy purposes, we do not provide comment on personnel matters," spokeswoman Tracy Panzer said in a statement.

The upheaval at a major agency comes as Corbett gears up for re-election, and is inconvenient timing for a governor who is sustaining heavy criticism for cutting aid to public schools while seeking to advance the fortunes of private, parochial and charter schools.

Harner was immediately replaced as acting secretary of education by Carolyn Dumaresq, the department's executive deputy secretary who is a holdover from the administration of former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat.

Dumaresq, who has a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania, is a former public school teacher, superintendent, college professor, teacher's union official and president of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.


Posted earlier on Cumberlink:

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett has dismissed another education secretary, the second in three months.

Corbett's office said Monday that the governor has asked for and received the resignation of his nominee for the job, William Harner, less than three months after he started.

A Corbett spokeswoman says Harner's removal is because of a personnel matter that doesn't involve his service to the state, but she declined to elaborate.

Corbett's office did not explain the move. Harner told an Associated Press reporter earlier Monday as he was walking into the Capitol that he knew nothing about his nomination potentially being withdrawn and that he expected to be confirmed by the Senate next month.

The upheaval at a major agency comes as Corbett gears up for re-election.

Harner, a retired Army officer, had previously served as the superintendent of the Cumberland Valley School District, a large suburban Harrisburg school district. He replaced Ron Tomalis on June 1.

Check back to Cumberlink.com as more information becomes available.

Copyright 2015 The Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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