(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Erie’s Public Schools has been removed from Financial Watch status after more than five years of recovery effort. Erie is the first school district to be removed from Financial Watch status in the commonwealth.
The change in status was announced by Gov. Tom Wolf and Department of Education Acting Secretary Eric Hagarty during a visit to Strong Vincent Middle School on Sept. 29.
“I am immensely proud of Erie’s Public Schools, and the years of work leaders have dedicated to improving their financial health,” Wolf said. “Their removal from this designation today marks the first time in the commonwealth a district has been removed from Financial Watch status. It is a monumental accomplishment. Erie has demonstrated its ability to maintain a structurally balanced budget, and made strategic investments in students, staff and programs that previously struggled due to financial challenges. Through strong partnerships and oversight locally – and additional education funding from my administration – the district was able to stabilize its finances. Their recovery process should serve as a model for other school districts that are struggling financially.”
In 2016, the school district was designated as being in Financial Watch status. The district was then required to work with the Department of Education regarding financial problems. The district also had to improve curriculum across grade levels and subject areas, hire staff to support students in English language arts and math, and hire teachers for art, music and physical education.
EPS Superintendent Brian Polito also celebrated the announcement.
“This is a momentous day in the history of Erie’s Public Schools, and is a day of celebration for everyone in the district who helped lift us to this point. That we are now being removed from Financial Watch – the first district in the commonwealth to achieve such a goal – is a testament to diligent and thoughtful planning in every aspect of our organization, strategic execution of that plan and, of course, robust support from the state – without which, we would not be here today,” Polito said. “I’m so proud to say this district is now much better positioned, financially and operationally, to serve our families and meet the mission of ensuring every student finds a personal path to success.”
Since 2022, James Ohrn had been appointed to oversee the EPS recovery efforts.
“My analysis of the financial footing of Erie Public Schools’ General Fund now confirms that, after access to additional local and state support, prudent usage of federal stimulus funds, and ongoing initiatives for cost control, the future financial projections over the next five years are both structurally balanced and provide the necessary funds for curriculum upgrades and capital improvements,” Ohrn said.