Chester Upland students deserve great schools 

Click here for the Delaware County Daily Times opinion piece by CRO Joe Watkins 






As the Chief Recovery Officer for the struggling Chester Upland School District, I have met with school administrators, staff, the board, parents, students and members of the school community. Although they may differ on how to achieve results, everyone sees the need for change. But the voices that resonate the most for me are those of the students.

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Creating academically vigorous, financially sound districts is the goal of the recovery plan 

        November 13 Public Meeting






Chief Recovery Officer Joseph Watkins released a financial and academic recovery plan for the Chester Upland School District that he said is designed to usher in a new era of academic excellence and financial stability.  The plan introduces a series of bold initiatives crucial to steering the district away from financial collapse and leading it to financial and academic success.

Key Report Recommendations 

  • New district leadership—The district will hire a new, dynamic superintendent and an aggressive, creative chief financial officer, both of whom will be expected to make long-term commitments to the district. 
  • School consolidation and rightsizing of staff— Because so many students have transferred to charter and cyber schools over the past several years, the school buildings are underutilized and classes are overstaffed. The plan calls for closing three public schools and rightsizing the staffing  to eliminate the $3 million budget gap this year.  Restoring academic excellence over the next four years will bring students back to the district, and CUSD will regain the necessary funds to further improve its offerings and hire teachers back.
  • Academic performance benchmarks—The plan establishes a series of academic performance benchmarks that must be achieved over the next three years in order for the district to retain the ability to manage itself.  The plan includes provisions for the district to seek external expertise in selecting and implementing practices to meet the benchmarks.
  • Education enhancements—During the initial recovery period, the restoration of education enhancements such as art, music and summer programs will depend on private dollars. Chief Recovery Officer Watkins is securing commitments for certain enhancements and is  working out the details.
  • Property tax collection—The new chief financial officer will be expected to do a better job of collecting property taxes.  The plan also envisions a property tax increase in line with the cost of living index and the eventual addition of property tax revenue from the expiration of the Keystone Opportunity Zone tax abatement program that covers a number of newly developed properties in the school district.
  • Encouraging students to return to the district—As other areas of the plan are implemented to restore excellence to the education and environment of the district, students will want to return to CUSD, which will return tax dollars to the district to pay for school expenses.  Over time this will allow restoration of some of the cuts recommended in the plan.

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 Seven public meetings were held throughout the development of the plan. Learn more.