ERIE, Pa. - The Erie School District's newest board members took the oath of office at Wednesday's reorganization meeting. With $14 million in additional recurring revenue now guaranteed by the state, they're joining a board that is no longer in the red; instead, they are ready to focus on academics.

"The morale, you could call it a '180' because every time we came to a meeting, it was always 'what are we going to cut?'," said Erie School Board President Frank Petrungar, Jr., who was re-elected president for the second consecutive year Wednesday evening. The board's vice president, John Harkins, was also re-elected vice president.

Incumbents Thomas Spagel and Angela McNair, along with new board members Darlene Feeney and Tyler Titus were sworn into office prior the meeting. Feeney and Titus take over for Mary Frances Schenley and Edward Brzezinski on the board.

Administrators are now developing a long-term strategic plan meant to enhance curriculum district-wide.

"We do have a limited amount of dollars to invest back into our educational programs, so we want to make sure those investments do count," said Superintendent Brian Polito.

McNair said Polito's leadership through the district's financial crisis and the recent financial successes inspired her to run for re-election this year.

That's about $1 million left over by year five of the strategic plan. But the board and the administration hope that will be enough to jump-start early education and develop specialized magnet programs at Erie High School and Collegiate Academy.

"We lost a lot of kids in the middle schools to other schools and stuff, so there's an issue there and we have to figure out why and how we can keep those kids," Petrungar said.

The district is also looking to hire outside consultants to help implement the strategic plan. The administration says that work will be covered by private funds, Polito said.

"For the investment that we just received, we want to make sure we use that properly," he added.

The plan has two main goals: one is to improve test scores. Last year, just 19 to 36 percent of 3rd through 8th graders were proficient or advanced, on state standardized tests. The second goal: to improve the graduation rate, which is just 78 percent.

"Everything starts with primary literacy," Polito said, "so that's going to be a focus over the next year."

Because the district entered financial watch status last year, the state will appoint a financial administrator once the district receives that money. That's expected to be paid in the coming weeks, Petrungar said. But, he added, this strategic plan is also dependent on the recommendations of that financial administrator.