Coatesville hears from 2 superintendent choices

COATESVILLE The Coatesville Area School District has narrowed down the choices for its next leader from two dozen to two: an acting superintendent who briefly led the state Education Department and an assistant superintendent who serves on the state's Special Education Advisory Panel.

The district presented superintendent candidates William Harner and Cathy Taschner on Wednesday ahead of a closed forum in which school board members and a group of about 30 invited community members questioned the educators. Before the meeting, both said transparency was one of their top priorities.

The financially struggling district has needed a superintendent since the beginning of the school year, when Superintendent Richard Como resigned after the discovery of racist and sexist text messages about students and staff that he exchanged with athletic director James Donato, who also resigned.

Leonard Fitts, a former New Jersey educator, has been interim superintendent since late October.

Harner, acting superintendent of the Quakertown Community district, worked in the Philadelphia School District as a special assistant to former chief executive Paul Vallas and in two other districts as a superintendent. He was acting state education secretary for about three months last year. Harner said he wanted to improve student achievement, shrink class sizes, and give residents more information about what's happening in the district. He said he would bring "a very open, transparent approach."

Taschner, assistant superintendent of the Susquehanna Township School District, has served as an assistant superintendent in the Oxford Area district and a principal and assistant principal in the Twin Valley district. "I think I'm going to bring sound leadership, fiscal responsibility," she said. If selected, she said, she will sit down with teachers, students, and residents to better understand their vision for the district.

The board aims to choose a superintendent by summer.

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond