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Chester Upland School District confronts the prospect of charter takeover

Ultimately, Arnold wonders, if this is supposed to be a cost-saving measure, then why isn’t the district sharing with the community the exact amount it is looking to save?

“We are, I think, throwing away our best chance at educating our children. And that, to me, is criminal. Absolutely criminal. You don’t do that to young people,” Arnold said.

The charter groups present their visions

Inside the Chester High School auditorium Thursday night, the Chester Upland board convened a public meeting on the potential outsourcing of school management. Presenters from the three groups that responded to the request for proposals — Global Leadership Academy Charter School, Friendship Education Foundation, and Chester Community Charter School — outlined their visions of what the school district would look like under their control.

Though each presentation differed in terms of priorities, each group also had different plans for how much of the school district they are willing to operate.

Global Leadership Academy wants to run Stetser Elementary School and Toby Farms Middle School and turn them into K-8 schools.

Friendship Education Foundation is requesting control over Chester Upland School of the Arts as well as Toby Farms Intermediate School.

Meanwhile, Chester Community Charter School has its eyes set on Main Street Elementary School and Chester Upland School for the Arts, with the goal of educating pre-K to fifth grade students.

Notably absent from the presentations was what would happen to the district’s two high schools. It appeared as if the bidders were reluctant initially to take them under their control.

District Solicitor Jacquie Jones said in an interview Friday that there is no strict deadline when a decision must be made.

“Our receiver is a very deliberative man. And he was very clear yesterday [Thursday] when I spoke with him that he wanted as much feedback as possible. And he was not going to commit to making a decision until he felt like he looked at all the communities that were important. So he was very clear that he wanted to see how things went last night, and know what the community was feeling,” Jones said.

District residents seemed to be disappointed by the options presented to them. They questioned the charter groups about the performance of other schools under their control.

Tasliym Goodman has four children attending schools in the district. She also serves an adviser on the Superintendent Parent Advisory Committee.

Her first impression of Thursday’s meeting was that all options were not explored.

“Just going to charterize the entire public school district was an easy way out,” Goodman said.

Though she was not a fan of any of the proposals, Goodman specifically criticized the presentations by Friendship and Chester Community Charter School.

“They already exist here in Chester, Pennsylvania, and they haven’t really done anything to unify or broker the public school district. In fact, it’s more of a burden at this moment financially,” Goodman said.

Charter schools take away from the “unified fabric of a community” that public school districts offer, she said.

For other parents, the takeover of the school district by charter schools is the bottom line. Kazeem said they threaten public school systems in nearby communities.

“All it takes is for them to start in one place. They charterize Chester, believe me, they’re going to try their best to try to charterize Norristown. They charterize Norristown, their going to try their best to try charterize Allentown. They charterize Allentown, they’re going to try their best to charter on Pottstown. It goes in a full cycle,” she said.

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