Has a school year ever had more turmoil and uncertainty than the 2011-2012 school year in the Chester-Upland School District?
Most of the drama started last spring when the school board began the preliminary budget process with nearly $20 million less than the year before. 49 people came out to the first budget meeting.
As the situation became more clear to the community, a movement started to form, but by then it was September and decisions had been made to consolidate schools and lay off a lot of teachers and support staff.
A local politician with the governor’s ear convinced him to give up $10 million to help ease the pain, but that was like giving a bandaid to an amputee.
Students took to the streets on a couple occasions in protest only to be told to Shut-Up by the State Rep when they gathered in front of his office.
The city elections brought in a bunch of new school board members from the city’s new ruling party, but somehow they didn’t think to put just one more candidate on the ballot who would have easily won (because we vote by party, not by candidate). That one additional board member would have the ruling party in the majority and they would have likely replaced the school board president.
Amusingly, in their first board meeting, due to their propensity to vote among party lines, they almost couldn’t adjourn the meeting because the motion to adjourn had as many yes votes as no votes.
Speaking of the school board president, her frustrations got the best of her when she and a teacher got into a fight in the high school hallway in front of the students. She was later slapped on the wrist and fined $300.
Teachers agreed to work for no pay which got the attention of Michelle Obama and Ellen Degeneres.
The school district and some concerned citizens began to organize and confront Harrisburg for money to keep the schools open for the entire school year. A judge forced the governor to give up about $3 million and he promised that the schools would stay open for the remainder of this school year.
In order to stay open, Chester-Upland stopped paying many bills. The charter schools around Chester are claiming foul because they are owed millions and the judge will not force Chester-Upland to pay them. Somehow, another charter school wants permission to join the madness. Why?
The basketball team beat everyone in their path to earn another state championship which was helpful in creating a distraction from all the other craziness that was going on.
As Acting Superintendent Dr. Tony Watson stated at commencement,
“You have endured the challenges that are common for high school graduates,” said Watson. “Yes, the challenges may have been more profound because of circumstances beyond your control, but you prevailed. … These challenges have made you more prepared than you may see on the surface, but you will prevail. … You are a Clipper and a Clipper will always prevail.”
Personally, I don’t wish that any student anywhere in America is forced to endure the challenges faced by the Class of 2012. It’s not fair.
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