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I recently received a letter from a teacher in Chester-Upland, Pennsylvania. I have written about this district many times, as a large charter company owned by a Philadelphia lawyer is draining it of resources and students for his low-performing charter school. The district is like a lamb led to slaughter, with rapacious wolves ready to gobble it up. See here and here and here and here. See Carol Burris on the takeover of the district here. See Peter Greene on the evisceration of the Chester-Upland schools here (also posted on the blog here).
In case you think that Chester Community Charter School is “helping save poor students from failing public schools,” consider that only 7% of the charter’s students were proficient in math, compared to a state average of 45%, and only 17% of its students were proficient in reading/language arts, compared to a state average of 63%.
Why would state and county officials permit a failing for-profit charter school to take over an entire public school district? Is it because the district is overwhelmingly low-income and black and no one cares?
The teacher asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.
My name is XXXXXXXXXX, and I’m a teacher in the Chester Upland School District, which is located in Chester, Pa. Chester is a predominately black, low income, high crime area. We have had 3 students murdered this year, and several others shot. Even though it is a dangerous area, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else because I love the kids, and I want them to succeed. But our leaders are greedy, and our district is going to be sold off to charter schools if we don’t receive some sort of help.
Here is an overview of what has been taking place:
The city and school district are in a financial crisis. Because of the financial situation, the owner of a for-profit charter school in Chester asked a judge to give his charter, Chester Community Charter, permission to take over all of the elementary schools in the district. Here is the article: https://www.inquirer.com/education/chester-upland-charter-schools-expansion-community-gureghian-20191118.html
The judge denied the request, but this past spring the Republican judge approved outside management for all grades in the district. Here is the article: https://www.delcotimes.com/news/chester-upland-ordered-to-open-its-doors-to-charters/article_70e92906-9707-11ea-b5f8-3383e996854a.html
It seems that the entire district is going to be run by one or several different charter schools which would dissolve all public schools in the city. Besides New Orleans, this is almost unheard of in our country.
A few months ago, the district hired a new superintendent with a checkered past. She was recently fired from her position in New Haven, Conn., which you can read about here:
It seems that it is quite a coincidence that Dr. Birks is also a supporter of charter schools. She also became one of the highest paid superintendents in the state which is surprising considering her history and the financial state of the district.
Our school board is being paid by charter schools; there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation. One school board member put out a flyer last December, recruiting community members to come to the courthouse to support the charter schools. Those community members that agreed to show up were provided dinner afterwards, and had their names put into a raffle to receive free TV’s and other devices. It’s hard to see this as anything other than a conflict of interest.
On January 14th, 2021 RFP’s (Request for Proposals) will be held for charter schools to show why they should take over schools in the district. Unfortunately the review board for the RFs is filled with charter school supporters. The community hasn’t had any input about this process. Here are the board members:
Anthony Johnson the board president, receiver Dr. Juan Baughn, Fred Green (who is a board member that rarely attend meetings, and charter advocate for CCCS), Lamont Popley (during the board meeting on December 17th, Baughn said Mr. Lamont Popley was a member of the review board, he’s the principal at Toby Farms. His staff members asked him about this and he said this was the first he heard about being on the review board. He said he hadn’t spoken to Baughn since the spring), 2 other board members, plus Leroy Nunery (former consultant for the school district of Philadelphia’s charter school office), and Jack Pund (he sits on the board of several charter schools, including Agora.)
This would not happen in a white school district. This is racially motivated. This poor community is being taken advantage of, and being sold to the highest bidder, and no one cares. If this community wasn’t poor, and black, people would be outraged with what is going on. But no one is helping. We need help.