Thursday, December 7, 2017

'Chaos' in the Chester Upland School District

Stop us if you've heard this before.

Chester Upland School District is a mess.

Actually, the word used by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale was "chaos."

DePasquale was in town Wednesday to release the results of the latest state audit of Chester Upland's books.

Or at least that was his hope.

It didn't turn out that way.

That's because DePasquale said things are so bad in Chester Upland that officials were not even able to supply the necessary paperwork his office needed to do the audit.

"Total administrative chaos," is how the auditor general put it.

DePasquale, who has now been in charge of reviewing the books for public agencies in the state for almost five years, says that has never happened before.

The Democrat stopped in our office in Swarthmore Wednesday morning to discuss his dealings with the district.

He noted it's "very rare" to run into this kind of difficulty and lack of cooperation. At one point he referred to the district as the Titanic.

“It is rather rare to find a school district in such disarray that we are unable to complete an audit and leaves doubts about whether the district’s students are getting the education they deserve and need,” DePasquale said in a statement.

“Sadly, with Chester Upland School District, there was so much information the district couldn’t provide that we were unable to come to a full conclusion on the district’s status.”

For their part, the district blames much of the problem on the missing documents on a recent move to new offices.

The auditor general did offer some hope that the new team in control of the district is showing signs of progress at turning things around. Veteran Chester Upland educator Dr. Juan Baughn took over as superintendent when Dr. Gregory Shannon resigned suddenly last December. Baughn was formally named superintendent back in July.

The audit would have covered the years 2013-2016. DePasquale said the district's finances continue to crater Back in 2012 the district had a $2 million balance; now they're staring at a $163 million deficit.

The school district released a statement saying most of the infractions took place in the academic years 2012 to 2016, before the current administration was in place.

DePasquale has referred the matter to the governor's office, the state Department of Education and the Legislature.

He also noted that he believed the district, which has been under state receivership since 2012, would benefit by a return to local control, as they are preparing to do in the city of Philadelphia. Chester Upland has gone through three state receivers since then.

DePasquale also pointed out something that often gets lost in the numbers.

The children and families are Chester Upland are too often getting cheated out of a decent education by bureaucratic bungling.

And have been for a long time.

You can read our story here.

For the full auditor general's report, CLICK HERE.

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