Come September, or whenever school begins again, there’s a good chance the entire Chester-Upland School District will be run by one or more charter school operators. 

According to today’s Delaware County Daily Times the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas has issued a…

…directive for the district’s receiver to solicit requests for proposal and for the district to consider “the potential need for strategic options in managing and delivering pre-kindergarten – 12th grade schools

Doesn’t appear to be any wiggle room in that decision. The Chester-Upland School District will be scratched off the list of Pennsylvania school districts as soon as they figure out who will run which schools. 

John Pund, a Certified Public Accountant who put together the school district recovery plan laid out five major areas in the plan in March that he said should be explored as soon as possible: 

  1. Outsourcing transportation, facilities and finance
  2. Outsourcing management and operations of schools 
  3. Completing a facilities assessment
  4. Reducing special education costs
  5. Assessing leadership.

Just like the city of Chester, the Chester-Upland School District has money issues. 

“The reason why they’re in receivership is because they have fundamentally difficult financial problems,” said Michael Churchhill, an attorney representing parent petitioners opposed to school conversion. 

Just like the city of Chester, the Chester-Upland School District has difficulty completing financial audits on time…

Churchhill noted the district still has not filed financial information for school years 2018 and 2019. It is going to be difficult to know how they’re going to save money if they don’t even know how much they’ve been spending,” said Churchill

Just like the city of Chester, there’s not enough money coming in from two critical sources…

“Chester Upland School District can’t generate enough money from local sources, local property taxes, to fund its operations and the state has not increased its funding,” said Frank Catania, an attorney representing the charter school.

Everyone is talking about schools and financing, not schools and education. 

Allow me to break role and slip in another Frank Catania quote from another issue he’s involved with which can be applied just as easily here…

The City’s financial decline was over multiple years and fully observed by DCED and the Act 47 team and they did NOTHING. This is a manufactured financial crisis. 

That quote refers to the city of Chester finances and the people charged to help put Chester on track but appeared to be looking the other way in the past 12-years as the city finances have taken a precipitous dive to the abyss of no return. The respective watchdogs watched the finances of both entities crumble while the state has been unwilling or unable to slide any more money our way. One is only left to conclude that these are both manufactured financial crises that demand immediate and drastic solutions, which almost never facilitate sound decisions while in panic mode. 

There is one glimmer of hope. 

…the order says: Allow people to submit any idea that they have, as long as it’s authorized by the school code and Pennsylvania law, and then we’ll consider those, and we are looking forward to participating in that

Idea Submission 1 – by Stefan Roots

Since improving education is not the immediately situation these smart people are addressing in the move to charter schools, lets take this opportunity to become a powerhouse school district in sports. Instead of watching talent from Chester being recruited to other schools in the area, now is the time to do like other charter schools are doing to make money by building up their sports programs and bringing in top talent from outside the area to join with our super talented kids here. 

Chester has an amazing head start with some of the best facilities in the county. The athletic field has a great football field, a great track, and the best baseball field in county. The Philadelphia Union is adding an official soccer field with bleachers on the lower end. Our high school basketball court with its new floor and abundance of seating is one of the best around. They can take over the Chester Park tennis courts. Can we revive the swimming pools at the YWCA or the old YMCA (Leake Center)?

With Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sure to get approval for his charter school, who could be a better poster guy for bringing in top sports talent, coaching, and resources to Chester.

Sports programs are what some charter schools are built on and have saved several catholic schools in the area. It does wonders for school spirit and community involvement. It keeps a lot of students coming to school. It attracts sponsors.

As they figure out how to deal with raising the bar on the education side, creating a charter school system on a sports platform is my 2-cents to getting the ball rolling in the right direction. 

Idea Submission 2 – By A. Jean Arnold

The district is swimming in a sea of reports, studies, plans, etc., including two MASS Insight Reports with the latest Recovery Plan while the court has ordered the filing of the latest financial audit.

We (will) need an out-of-the box Superintendent who is a change agent and a supporting track record. The public was involved in the selection of one of our Superintendents years ago but not this time!

I call for a public forum, one that we can trust, which has not been provided, to air this issue thoroughly.

Amidst our financial needs, we can not lose sight of the purpose of education to develop a people to live in their world to the fullest of their potential. There are teachers and others in our district who still work successfully to make this happen on their watch everyday. We know who you are. Thank you.