The head of the Pennsylvania Department of Education is stepping down to take another role, Gov. Tom Corbett announced this morning, and Corbett is nominating Cumberland Valley School District superintendent William E. Harner to become the new Secretary of Education.
Ronald J. Tomalis has led the department since January 2011, supervising sweeping changes in Pennsylvania's educator evaluation system, stressing the importance of standardized testing procedures, implementing tighter security requirements, helping create the Opportunity Scholarship Program that offers tax credits for businesses who provide scholarships for students living in low-achieving school districts, and working to bring back the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Sciences summer program. Tomalis will become special adviser to the governor on higher education, responsible for overseeing, implementing and reviewing the recommendations made by the Governor's Postsecondary Advisory Commission.
Harner's nomination will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Harner, 56, came to the Cumberland County district in 2008, according to a news release. Prior to beginning his career in public education, the Montgomery County native graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served in command, teaching and staff positions at West Point and Chief of Policy & Strategy, U.S. Forces Korea in Seoul. After 20 years in the military, he retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel after serving as an infantry battalion commander and receiving the Legion of Merit, the military's highest award for service.
Harner has a doctorate in educational leadership and a master's degree in education supervision and human resources from the University of South Carolina. He worked as a middle school and high school principal before he was named school superintendent for the Greenville County Schools in South Carolina, then served school districts in Georgia, Toledo, Ohio and Philadelphia before being named deputy superintendent for the Recovery School District of New Orleans, overseeing the reopening of nine school buildings in the post-Katrina area.
"From his days at West Point to his service at Cumberland Valley, Dr. Harner has shown himself as an effective problem solver able to unite all sides in a common goal of educational excellence," Corbett said. "Those who have worked with him describe Dr. Harner as an accomplished student, born manager and decisive leader who can carry out our agenda of educational excellence in the face of any challenge."
"I am truly honored that Governor Corbett has asked me to serve as the next Secretary of Education," Harner said. "I look forward to working closely with the governor and members of the General Assembly as we strive to provide all Pennsylvania students with an exceptional education."