Critics: Documents don't prove charter expansion legal

Posted: December 22, 2013

CHESTER The Chester Upland School District on Friday released hundreds of pages of documents it says prove that Chester Community Charter School was authorized to expand up to the eighth grade, but a group of community critics said the paperwork didn't prove anything.

Members of Concerned Citizens for Chester's Children said the documents did not show that the school board held a public hearing, as required, or voted to allow fifth through eighth grades at the charter school, which opened as a K-4 school in 1998.

"We did not sense that our question was answered. Was the state law followed?" said Joan Duvall-Flynn, who chairs the state NAACP's education committee. "There's no evidence state law was followed in establishing the expansion."

Concerned Citizens had been pressing local and state officials for answers since August, when the state auditor general noted that Chester Community had not provided written evidence of its authority to expand.

Under state law, local school boards are charged with overseeing charters and authorizing their expansions.

The school and district say it followed the law in expanding the school, which, with 3,000 students, is the largest in the district. Officials say the charter has been renewed by the district three times.

Joseph Watkins, the state-appointed receiver for Chester Upland, pointed to a document in the newly released materials that he said showed a 2006 school board resolution renewing the school's charter for grades K-8. Asked if there was a similar report approving its expansion, Watkins said he believed so but could not point to a specific document.

"As the receiver, I've decided I'm satisfied," he said.

A spokeswoman for the school district said it would release more information on the issue next week.

The critics said they were not sure what their next step would be. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale's report was sent to the Department of Education, which is responsible for enforcing charter school regulations, but the department has taken no action.


kboccella@phillynews.com

610-313-8232

@kathyboccella

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