This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Superintendent William Hite has hired Matthew E. Stanski as chief financial officer for the School District. Stanski worked in that position in the Prince George’s County school district when Hite was head of the schools there.
Stanski, 34, left Prince George’s under controversial circumstances. Persons close to the situation indicated that it was the product of turmoil resulting from Hite’s own hastened departure and did not reflect on Stanski’s skills or fitness for the job here.
The controversy, reported in the Washington Post, focuses on Stanski’s cutting of a severance check for another departing official that was not authorized by the Board of Education.
In an interview, Hite said that Stanski has "a good bit of technical knowledge and the right disposition" for the job. Among other things, Hite said, Stanski helped Prince George’s eliminate a $300 million deficit and turned in budgets that received clean audits after years of problematic ones.
Hite said that Stanski also has his trust, and that is important, given the District’s history of poor communication between former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and former CFO Michael Masch.
"Part of it was a level of comfort, and I wasn’t the only one who felt like he has the type of skills that we needed," Hite said.
School Reform Commission member Feather Houstoun said that Stanski was "head and shoulders above the other candidates that we met." Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen, who has already been working with Stanski, said in a statement that Stanski "has the full confidence of Dr. Hite. I cannot emphasize how important that is."
Houstoun said she was looking for a CFO who could assemble a good team, had been part of a high-performing organization, and could "translate and bring to understandable terms the complexity of what we are dealing with."
She said that Stanski met those criteria.
"I was aware of the controversy in Prince George’s County before I met him," Houstoun said. "We talked about it … and it did not, to me, rise to be a disabling thing. I think he will be a real asset to the District."
Prince George’s school board member Donna Hathaway also spoke highly of Stanski and said his departure took place in a "politicized environment."
"In my years working with Matt, I had the utmost respect for him, his abilities, the way he presented budgets and his knowledge," Hathaway said.
According to those with knowledge of the controversy, the Prince George’s general counsel told Stanski to write a lump-sum severance check to former human resources director Synthia J. Shilling instead of paying out her severance in biweekly increments — and he did so. Shilling left the district in August when she was facing trial for leaving the scene of an accident.
Stanski and the general counsel were dismissed. Stanski appealed the dismissal and was allowed to resign, according to persons with knowledge of the situation.
Stanski is the second Prince George’s official Hite has brought with him to high-level positions. The other is Karyn Lynch, who is chief of student services.
He starts Monday, according to District spokesman Fernando Gallard.