Fewer than three months after nominating him to the post, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett asked for and received the resignation of acting Secretary of Education William Harner.
Corbett spokeswoman Lynn Lawson says Harner’s removal was a “personnel matter” that comes as consequence of an undisclosed incident that occurred prior to his service in the governor’s cabinet.
Lawson declined to elaborate on specifics, but added, “Governor Corbett has absolutely no tolerance for any behavior outside the proper protocols as an employee for the commonwealth.”
Harner told the AP earlier Monday that he knew nothing about his nomination potentially being withdrawn and that he expected to be confirmed by the Senate next month.
At approximately 12:30 p.m. Monday, Harner was asked by the governor’s chief of staff for his resignation.
The move comes from an administration that’s seen much turnover in recent times. Last month, Corbett hired his third chief of staff in as many years. Including Harner, six agency secretaries have now resigned their posts in the past two years. Harner replaced previous state education secretary Ron Tomalis on June 1st.
“It raises questions about the governor’s ability to surround himself with capable individuals,” said Chris Borick, director of public policy at Muhlenberg College.
Borick says that the lack of steady leadership “positions agencies in a stop and start manner” that inhibits the efficiency of civil-service workers.
“It really is damaging to the Governor in terms of putting together a consistent and coherent gameplan,” said Borick, who questioned whether a higher degree of “due diligence” could have prevented Harner’s nomination at the outset.
The Governor’s office defended its timeline.
“Dr. Harner was in the role of ‘acting’ secretary for a reason. That ‘acting’ designation allows the commonwealth time that’s needed to review files and determine the appropriateness of the nomination going forward,” said spokeswoman Lawson.
Harner 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.
Harner, who grew up in Cheltenham, worked in the Philadelphia school district as deputy chief executive officer under former district superintendent Paul Vallas.
The cash-starved Philadelphia School District has been awaiting Harner’s signature on a measure worth $45 million dollars to city schools.
That money has been sitting in state coffers contingent on the education secretary deciding that the Philadelphia school district has adopted a “reform” agenda.
Corbett has made clear that those reforms must include major concessions from the Philadelphia teachers’ union. The district is currently asking for $133 million dollars in labor-related salary reductions and health care concessions.
Harner’s replacement, effective immediately, will be Dr. Carolyn C. Dumaresq, the department’s Executive Deputy Secretary.
An official release from the governor’s office gave this biography of Dumaresq:
“A former superintendent at Central Dauphin and Steelton-Highspire school districts, Dumaresq began her education career as a math teacher. Later, Dumaresq taught on a college level at the Harrisburg campuses of Temple and Penn State universities.
She served as executive director of the Pennsylvania State Education Association and president of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. Dumaresq worked for the state Department of Education from 1976 to 1983, and then joined the department again in 2011.
Dumaresq is the recipient of several awards with recognition coming from the Education Policy and Leadership Center, the Keystone Research Center, the American Association of University Women, the American Association of School Administrators, and was named Pennsylvania Superintendent of the Year in 1994.
She has served leadership roles with the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators including president, board of governors, elections committee, chair of the legislative committee and president of the woman’s caucus.
Her community and social service has extended to the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, the Penn State Outreach Advisory Board, the National Council of State Education Agencies where she is a past president and the governing board of the Governor’s Center for Excellence and the Governor’s Work Force Investment Board.
Dumaresq, of Harrisburg, earned her bachelor’s degree from Hood College, her master’s degree from Villanova University and her doctorate in education with a concentration in personnel and labor relations from the University of Pennsylvania.”