Jennifer Murray commission ceremony

Jennifer Murray, Reading School District's new superintendent, left, and Berks County Judge Theresa Johnson, right, during Murray's previous commission ceremony at the Berks County Courthouse in downtown Reading in September 2021.

READING, Pa. – The Reading School District has a new leader.

The school board voted 8-1 Tuesday night to appoint Jennifer Murray as district superintendent for a five-year term, expiring Nov. 23, 2026.

Board member Patricia Wright opposed the appointment but did not give a reason for the dissenting vote during the virtual meeting.

In a separate motion, the board voted 7-2 to approve Murray's annual salary of $235,000.

Board member Mark Detterline joined Wright in opposing the recommended salary.

Murray served as the district's assistant superintendent until she was appointed as interim superintendent on Sept. 22.

The superintendent position became available after Khalid N. Mumin announced in late August that he was leaving Reading to accept the job of superintendent in the Lower Merion School District in Montgomery County.

Outgoing board President Robin Costenbader-Jacobson congratulated Murray and reminded her that she was taking the role of superintendent of the state's fourth largest school district.

"I am very humbled and deeply honored to accept the position of the superintendent of schools," Murray said. "I have dedicated my career to the children, the families and the community of Reading ever since I joined the district 23 years ago as a substitute teacher at 16th and Haak [Elementary School]."

"I am excited to continue the work of updating our strategic plan," she said, "built on a strong foundation for the continued success in the areas of safe and secure schools, academic excellence, effective communications, financial effectiveness and very strong partnerships with key stakeholders to promote excellence for Reading."

Murray said she was appreciative of the opportunity and would not let the board down.

"During this Thanksgiving week, I am filled with gratitude for every staff member, every student and every community partner," she added. “Thank you for the school board directors for continuing to move this district forward into 2022 and beyond."

Chief administrative officer

In addition, the board voted to approve Yamil Sanchez Rivera in his continued role of chief administrative officer for another year, retroactive to July 21 and ending June 30, 2022.

Sanchez Rivera's recommended annual base salary for the year is $161,424.

Land bank steering committee

In other business, the board voted to authorize the creation of and participation in a city land bank steering committee.

Last month, Jamal F. Abodalo, the city's community development director, asked the district to support a land bank, which is permitted by a 2012 state act, and would be a tool for the city to combat blighted properties.

A land bank will allow the city to purchase properties ahead of a judicial sale, with no competition, and allow back taxes and municipal claims to be discharged.                                                              

A land bank is permitted to hold property tax free while it is being rehabilitated, and then share up to 50% of the taxes for five years after redevelopment.

The land bank would take 50% of the taxes from the county, the city and the school district to fund its redevelopment activities. 

RACC funding request

In another matter, the board heard a funding request of $3 million towards a $33 million project by Reading Area Community College to establish an early learning academy.

College President Susan Looney said the academy would be built on RACC's campus as part of a proposed education and social services building. It would be able to accommodate 150 students, from six months to five years old.

Looney said the facility would have slots for 150 students, which would be allocated through a yet-to-be-determined formula for students and employees of RACC, residents of the Reading School District and county residents.

Costenbader-Jacobson called Looney's presentation a great beginning of a strong dialogue moving forward.

Reorganization

Monday's meeting marked the end of the terms for three board members: Costenbader-Jacobson, Dave Myers and Ann Sheehan.

The board will hold a reorganization meeting next Wednesday to it seat three new board members and appoint a new president.

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