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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera announced Monday the appointment of Dr. Audrey Utley as the new chief recovery officer for the Harrisburg School District.
Utley will not only oversee the fiscal recovery of the district, but also assist district leaders in leveraging resources to support student academic achievement. Utley, who is from Middletown, Dauphin County, has spent more than 40 years working in both suburban and urban school districts across the commonwealth. Utley began her career in education as an elementary school teacher at the Steelton-Highspire School District and since then has held many supervisory positions including superintendent for the Middletown Area and Steelton-Highspire school districts, and acting superintendent for the Harrisburg School District. "In addition to Dr. Utley's experience as a superintendent, she also comes to this position with firsthand knowledge of the unique issues that fiscally distressed school districts face due to her time working to improve other struggling schools," Rivera said. "I have complete confidence that under Dr. Utley's guidance, the Harrisburg School District will continue on the path toward financial stability, which will allow the district's leadership team and educators to focus on the goal of ensuring every student graduates college- and career-ready." Utley replaces Gene Veno who submitted his resignation as chief recovery officer on May 8.
Harrisburg mayor weighs in on selection of new chief recovery officer Audrey Utley | Harrisburg mayor weighs in on new chief recovery officer | +
Harrisburg mayor weighs in on selection of new chief recovery officer Audrey Utley | PennLive.com PennLive Harrisburg mayor weighs in on selection of new chief recovery officer Audrey Utley UTLEY 0819 JLK Audrey Utley, a graduate of Steelton High School and former superintendent for the Harrisburg and Steelton-Highspire school districts was named this week as chief recovery officer for the Harrisburg School District. The selection of Audrey Utley as the new chief recovery officer for the Harrisburg School District was a unanimous decision, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said. The mayor said Utley comes into the job of chief recovery officer with a lot of consensus and good will. "It was a pretty rigorous review, but she was the consensus choice," he said. "She has a lot of experience working with distressed school districts and I think her historical knowledge of Harrisburg and ties to the city will help her to develop the support she needs." Utley served as acting superintendent of Harrisburg's schools for three months in 2010 and most recently retired as the superintendent of the Steelton-Highspire School District. She has more than 40 years of education experience. Utley said she could not comment about her appointment by the Pennsylvania Department of Education or plans as chief recovery officer. "At the present time I have been asked to refer all media inquiries to the PDE Press Secretary," she wrote in an email response to PennLive. Utley will earn the same hourly pay as Veno, according to a PDE spokeswoman, which is $80 per hour. "Dr. Utley is a well-respected educator, on a school district and state level and an advocate for children," Smallwood said.
Audrey Utley was named the new chief recovery officer for the Harrisburg School District on Monday.
She previously was superintendent of the Steelton-Highspire School District. HARRISBURG - The state Department of Education on Monday announced the selection of Audrey Utley as the new chief recovery officer for the Harrisburg School District. Utley, of Middletown, has more than 40 years of education experience in suburban and urban school districts, according to a news release issued Monday. She also served as acting superintendent of Harrisburg's schools for three months in 2010, taking over for Sybil Knight-Burney, who had been acting as superintendent. Knight-Burney resigned and returned to her former position as assistant superintendent to make way for Utley. Utley's term with Harrisburg ended awkwardly amid a dispute between Utley and then School Board President Lola Lawson. Utley resigned from the Harrisburg School District to take the top job as superintendent at the Steelton-Highspire School District, but Utley left a few days earlier than planned in July 2010 after Lawson called Utley out on several issues. Utley resigned from the Harrisburg School District to take the top job as superintendent at the Steelton-Highspire School District, but Utley left a few days earlier than planned in July 2010 after Lawson called Utley out on several issues. Utley sent an email to Lawson announcing her departure and noted Utley's regret "that you believe my work and service to the district has been unsatisfactory. Utley led Steelton through some turbulent times and retired when her contract expired in June 2013.
Press/Journal Photo by Debra Schell - Steelton-Highspire School District Superintendent Audrey Utley, above, sits at her desk on a busy day in January.
Press/Journal Photo by Debra Schell - Steelton-Highspire School District Superintendent Audrey Utley, above, sits at her desk on a busy day in January. Steel-Highâ€™s chief administrator Audrey Utley brings vast experience with â€˜troubledâ€™ schools to the role of superintendent. by Debra Schell Press And Journal Staff : 4/13/2011 Like many school districts, Steelton-Highspire is facing a tough budget year. But SHSD may have a secret formula that will get them through and see light at the end of the tunnel - Superintendent Audrey Utley. Utley briefly served as superintendent at Harrisburg School District, and sits on the Board of Control for the Duquesne School District, a troubled district in Pittsburgh. Utley also served as superintendent of the Middletown Area School District and worked as an assistant superintendent, administrator, principal, and teacher. "We will get through it," she said. "One of the things about this town is that teachers are here because they want to be here and are concerned about the students," Utley said. Utley grew up in Steelton and attended a segregated school in the early 1950s known as Hygienic, located at the top of Adams Street. Utley was reminded of the school after speaking with Samuel C. Thompson, legal scholar and author, who addressed students at his alma mater, Steelton-Highspire Jr.-Sr. "He was talking about our history, and we discovered that we both went to the school," Utley said. "It was in 1956, and during the time of Brown vs. The Board of Education," said Utley. "The [landmark U.S. Supreme Court] ruling forced school districts to integrate." Steelton didn't integrate until 1958, she said. "We talked about the little segregated elementary school we both went to 50 years ago and it was interesting," Utley said. That Utley attended the same school she now leads is amazing as well, she said. "It's just a little twist in the black history story of this country and this town." Utley's father worked in a steel mill and was the only one of his co-workers who had a high school diploma, she said. "Many co-workers came to my father and I helped my father fill out income tax forms for his friends," Utley said. "I was taught that if there were needs in your community, it was your responsibility to help," Utley said. Utley's father was also an assistant pastor at Monumental AME Church in Steelton. Utley was 21 when her father died, he was 58. College life After graduating from Steel-High, Utley attended Penn State University where she obtained a Bachelor of Science and Elementary Education degree in 1972. She received a Master's of Education and Administration in 1986 from Shippensburg University, received elementary principal certification in 1987, and received superintendent letter of eligibility in 1993. Utley was hired as an elementary teacher at her alma mater in 1972. She was hired by a teacher who had Utley as a student. Utley lived in Harrisburg at the time, and paid tuition for her daughter to attend Steel-High schools. She taught grades four, five and six, before taking a job as elementary curriculum coordinator in 1983 and assistant principal in 1987. The right move Utley moved to Middletown Area School District, taking a principal position at Fink Elementary School. "At that time I was new, chances of me going to be a principal were slim," she said. "In the mid-'80s, as an African-American female ... my options were limited." She became the first African American principal hired in Middletown. "I was surprised that I was hired in Middletown," she said. "It was the best decision I have ever made." Leaving the "cocoon" of Steelton opened opportunities, changed her view of the "educational landscape," and opened her eyes to new ways to solve problems, Utley said. Her relationship with Middletown lasted 20 years. She worked as a principal for the elementary schools, and served as administrative assistant to the superintendent from 1993 until 2002. Middletown was different from Steelton, she said. "There are multiple schools with different populations, and different issues," she said. At one point, Utley was the principal for Fink and Mansberger elementary schools. Moving on up Utley was named superintendent at Middletown in 2002 after fellow colleagues encouraged her to take the next step into administration, she said. "I can't tell you that the position of superintendent was something that I always wanted to do," said Utley. "It's just that I have been at the right place at the right time." Utley's love for the classroom and teaching are some of the things she misses the most. "You build a relationship with the students directly," Utley said. "Even today, I will run into some of my ex-students." She misses being a building principal as well. "The further you move up, the more removed you are from that family atmosphere," Utley said. Current MASD Superintendent Richard Weinstein said Utley was his supervisor for 14 years. After spending 35 years in education, Utley decided to retire in 2007. "I decided that I wanted to enjoy the time off," she said. Retirement lasted a year. During that time, she painted her house room by room by herself. Once it was finished, she grew restless. "Once my house was done it was like, OK, now what am I going to do? she said. Utley became a Distinguished Educator for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, a role that allowed her to work with school districts throughout the state on a variety of programs on a part-time basis. Zahorchak wanted Utley to join the board of control for the Duquesne School District. The state controls the board, and Utley makes the drive to Pittsburgh once a month. "The Duquesne School District is not only educationally distressed, but also financially distressed," she said. When asked how she keeps in touch with the school district, she said technology has helped her. "I have a Duquesne phone and a Steel-High phone," she said. "My daughter helps me set up Skype," she said. Utley said she was asked to stay on the board until a new administration comes in to replace her, which she expects will be soon. To the city As a Distinguished Educator for the state, Utley was assigned to the Harrisburg School district to help with the transition of the school board and superintendent. Utley eventually was appointed superintendent of the district in May of 2010. But she resigned two months later to take the superintendent's job at Steel-High. The decision rankled some Harrisburg board members, who questioned the motivation behind Utley's decisions as superintendent. "The elected board believed my recommendations to address the financial and educational issue of the district were politically, rather than educationally motivated," Utley said. "Although I assured the board prior to my selection that I was an educator and not a politician, a few still questioned my motivations." "I realized that in order for the district to move forward ... they had to be able to trust the advice of their superintendent," Utley said. Returning home She returned to Steel-High in 2010 and was happy to be back. She missed the students' Christmas decorations in the hallways of the school and the holiday musical performances. "I always said that when I was retired, it never felt like Christmas to me," Utley said. This year it did, she said. "When you are away from that, after being around it for 35 years, it really feels like something is missing when it's not around," Utley said. Now, she tried to stay connected. She does walk through halls of the buildings and attends programs and performances. Her husband told her that she needs to find a happy medium. "I am hoping to find that happy balance here, at Steel-High," she said. Steel-High School Board President Sam Petrovich said Utley has been outstanding as the district's superintendent. Even members of the offic
Audrey Utley, who served as superintendent for both Harrisburg and Middletown Area school districts, was tapped to become Steelton-Highspire School District's Superintendent.
She replaces Deborah Wortham, who resigned last month to care for her ailing husband. Utley was given a three-year contract and her salary was set at $136,500 per year. Her hiring was effective Aug. 1. Utley, who resigned from the Harrisburg district last week amid a disagreement with the school board president, had planned to resign at the end of the month, according to published reports. Utley's salary at Harrisburg was $149,000. In addition to working for Harrisburg, Utley spent 10 years with Middletown schools. She was hired by MASD in 1988 as Fink Elementary School principal. She became the administrative assistant to the superintendent in 1993, assistant superintendent in 1998, and superintendent in 2002. She held that post until 2007, when she retired. Current Superintendent Richard Weinstein, who worked as an assistant with Utley, said that she is a good choice for Steel-High. "She is a skilled administrator who will do a wonderful job," he said. As a Distinguished Educator for the state Department of Education, Utley provided support and targeted assistance to struggling districts from 2007 to 2009. Utley also was chosen to chair the Duquesne City School District's Board of Control in 2008. Utley contacted the Steelton-Highspire to express interest in the position shortly after Wortham announced her resignation, said Sam Petrovich, SHSD school board president. Utley, who is a Steel-High graduate, will bring much experience to the district, Petrovich said. Hired by Harrisburg Schools as a temporary superintendent in May, Utley also worked as a member of Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson's education transition team last year, according to published reports.