Penn Hills School District financial recovery officer has been selected
State Department of Education officials have selected former Wilkinsburg Superintendent Daniel Matsook as Penn Hills School District’s financial recovery officer.
The state placed the district in financial recovery in January after being in financial watch the past two years.
Matsook, who once worked as Wilkinsburg’s liaison during a transition of more than 200 middle and high school students to Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Westinghouse Academy, was announced as Penn Hills’ overseer Tuesday.
His start date has yet to be determined.
Matsook is familiar with the district. He served as its assistant superintendent in 2002-2004. After that, he led Beaver County’s Center Area School District, where he helped engineer a voluntary merger with neighboring Monaca that created Central Valley School District.
Matsook’s appointment follows years of warning signs that Penn Hills, with less than 4,000 students, was on the brink of a financial cliff.
“During my time at Penn Hills, I was impressed with the staff and people in the community,” Matsook said via email to the Tribune-Review on Wednesday evening. “The staff had a great work ethic, and the board and community were and still are very proud of their community. My sense is that we will work well together to resolve this issue.”
Matsook, of Rochester, will work with the school board, administrators, education experts, community members and officials from neighboring schools to develop and implement a financial plan for the debt-ridden district.
”I am the eyes and ears for the department in lieu of a receiver being assigned,” Matsook said.
Penn Hills is more than $172 million in debt largely due to the construction of a high school and elementary school.
Board President Erin Vecchio said she does not like Matsook’s appointment. She would like to see the state select someone with more financial experience.
“I don’t understand what he’s going to bring to the table,” Vecchio said. “We have a superintendent and a business manager that’s well-qualified. We need financial help. We need solutions.”
Superintendent Nancy Hines remained optimistic about the financial oversight and other possible options for assistance.
“Penn Hills is a proud and resilient community,” Hines said. “I remain hopeful that we can move forward and make effective use of the new resources being made available to us by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.”
The appointment follows two scathing reports citing mismanagement of taxpayer funds.
In May 2016, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale published a report that he described as “one of the worst school audits” he’d ever seen. Among concerns DePasquale cited were alleged mismanagement of funds and district credit cards, bad business decisions and an alarming lack of oversight and internal controls.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. launched a grand jury investigation shortly after the audit release to see if any criminal activity took place.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, email@example.com or via Twitter .