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PDF November 13, 2012 - CHESTER UPLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT CHIEF RECOVERY OFFICER’S PLAN WILL CREATE ACADEMICALLY RIGOROUS, FINANCIALLY SOUND DISTRICT TO GIVE STUDENTS QUALITY EDUCATION 

PDF October 29, 2012 - CHIEF RECOVERY OFFICER FOR THE CHESTER UPLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT TO HOST MORE PUBLIC MEETINGS TO DISCUSS GOALS, CHALLENGES, SEEK PUBLIC INPUT  

PDF October 16, 2012 - CHIEF RECOVERY OFFICER JOE WATKINS RECEIVES 30-DAY EXTENSION TO DELIVER PLAN FOR CHANGE FOR THE CHESTER UPLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT 

PDF October 8, 2012  - PUBLIC FORUMS IN THE CHESTER UPLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT TO FOCUS ON THE FINANCIAL RECOVERY PLAN PROCESS, RECOMMENDATIONS 

PDF August 17, 2012  - EDUCATION SECRETARY NAMES CHIEF RECOVERY OFFICER FOR CHESTER UPLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT  

Guest column: Chester Upland students deserve great schools

Sunday, November 18, 2012

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.

I have met with students from Chester High School, and spoken with school leaders there. I have also spent time with students from our STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) program and with youngsters from our elementary schools. They are a great group of kids, and they are the reason we are here and why we must turn Chester Upland into a high-achieving school district.

Our kids are smart. They have goals. Like kids in any other school district in Pennsylvania, they want to be doctors and lawyers. They want to own their own businesses. I talked to one student who wants to be a pilot. The students are eager; they are motivated. And we need to give them a school district that will help them achieve their dreams. They have the aptitude, but we’ve got to give them the tools to perform like the bright and creative kids they are.

They have told me about not having art and music or librarians or full-time nurses. They talked about equipment that doesn’t function and about a lack of technology. They said they must use cold gyms because of faulty heating and sit in a darkened auditorium because the lights don’t work. This is unacceptable.

Our kids deserve the same opportunities to succeed as other students. Dramatic changes must happen, and quickly. That’s why I have proposed a recovery plan that must be implemented immediately, even though the changes may be painful to absorb at first. My plan is designed to turn this district around and restore it to academic and financial health. Do we have to close schools? Yes, we do. We don’t have enough students to fill them, and we can’t afford to operate school buildings that we can’t fill. Do we have to lay off teachers? Yes we do, because without students to fill our classrooms and without the financial resources that follow them into our district, we can’t pay for more teachers than we can afford.

We need a recovery plan that fixes the financial challenges facing the school. Not only will my proposed plan plug the $3 million budget gap facing us this year, but we’ll become financially solvent in the long term. I also intend to raise private funds that will give our kids programs like summer school and after-school, and will enhance technology, among other things. I’m working now to create a partnership with charter schools to offer the art and music education that the students crave.

Academically, we’re going to excel. I envision the Chester Upland School District as a place where kids get a first-rate education. We’re going to change the culture in the schools, starting at the top. We’re going to find a great superintendent who will lead the way to academic excellence and sign that person to a five-year contract. We’ll do the same with the chief financial officer. We’re going ask them to change the culture from one of poor outcomes for students to one of success. We’re going to be a district that kids can’t wait to come to each day. We want kids excited about school. That’s the kind of culture we’re going to create.

Our challenges are many. We now have test scores that rank among the worst in the state. We limp along with out-of-date schools, some of which are two-thirds empty.

We have some classes that are too big, and others that are too small. We face a mounting budget gap. We continue to lose kids every year to charter schools and cyber-charter schools. This district has become like a sinking ship, and if we do nothing, it will go down. If we fail to act now, The Chester Upland District will cease to exist. I can’t say it any more clearly than that.

We have the chance now to make this district a great one. This is our singular opportunity to do something good for our kids. We owe them that.
 

Resources

  • Visit our About the Law page to access a brief legislative summary of Act 141, a summary of the process that Chester Upland School District is following as required by the law and a link to the full text of Act 141.
     
  • Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page to access additional background information about the district and information about the timeline leading up to the release of the recovery plan.
     
  • Visit our Public Meetings page for a full listing of public meetings. A video record of each public meeting will be posted on this page shortly following each meeting.


Background: Chester Upland School District

The Chester Upland School District includes the City of Chester, Chester Township, and Upland Borough, all located in the southeastern portion of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The district is governed by nine elected school board members, one of whom is selected to lead the group as president. A superintendent and other senior administrative officials (including a deputy superintendent and a business manager who oversee most non-instructional areas) are appointed by the board. The district’s fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30.

Physically the district is approximately five square miles in area, and it currently operates five elementary schools, a middle school and two high schools serving approximately 2,871 students as of early October 2012. One elementary school is located in Chester Township, and one is in Upland Borough; all other district schools are in the City of Chester.

Children in the Chester Upland School District attend many other institutions as well. The district hosts three charter schools, and there are numerous local and regional private and parochial schools and cyber-charters. District transportation records indicate that in the spring of 2012 the district transported its students to 68 separate sites including its own buildings. This school year the district reports transporting 1,877 students to the district’s public schools and 4,166 students to charter schools, private and other non-public schools, utilizing 52 buses making four runs each day.