Chester Community Charter School: Parents' Message to PA Department of Education

Remarks from Dr. David Clark, CEO

Feb 09, 2012, 10:25 ET from Chester Community Charter School

CHESTER, Pa., Feb. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Have you ever heard the expression: "No good deed goes unpunished?"

Well, here, at Chester Community Charter School, we are starting to feel that we are the absolute living PROOF of that.

Have we had academic success at Chester Community Charter School? Yes! Have our children learned? Yes!  Have they won scholarships to go to prestigious high schools? Yes! Are they going on to college at rates never before seen in Chester? Yes! Have we done good deeds? Absolutely, positively, Yes!

Today, we will let all of you good parents, all the people in the city of Chester, parents across the state of Pennsylvania, people concerned about quality education across the country, and our elected officials, be the judges.

All we've done at Chester Community Charter School is put together the largest K - 8 Charter School in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with nearly 3,100 students.

We have been successful in doing that, not because we forced parents to bring their children to our school, but because we demonstrated to them, and to all of you, that their children would receive the very best publicly funded education anywhere in this part of Delaware County.

Can we prove that? As you may know, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania participates in a federal program called NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND. To determine whether the State's schools are doing a good job of teaching their students, the Commonwealth administers testing of those students, every single year.

If a school meets and exceeds the federal standard, they say the school has achieved Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP.  Well -- Chester Community Charter School has achieved AYP for three...consecutive...years!  What do you think about that?

Governor Corbett visited our school just nine months ago and praised our students for "demonstrating to other students and parents STATEWIDE that having a choice means having a chance." Has he forgotten that?

In some cities, as you know, the school district is a huge organization and the charter schools are very small, by comparison.  It's not uncommon to see charter schools with a couple of hundred students, or less.

But, not here! Not in Chester!

Here, at Chester Community Charter School, because you, the parents, have made your choice for where you want your children to be educated, we now teach 45 percent of all of Chester's public school children. We also now teach 60 percent of all Chester children in grades K through 8!

And here is something else that the world should know about Chester Community Charter School...our parents are absolutely and completely committed to their children's education. Absolutely! Completely! Every day!

As you know, our parents even get report cards, themselves, grading them on how well they support their students.

As I look around this afternoon, it's clear to me that all the parents here today must be the "A" students!

And did you hear about this?  When the Mayor of Chester decided to give awards for high-achieving students last year, in all of Chester Schools, more than 70 percent of the winning students came from the Chester Community Charter School. The MAYOR was surprised. It didn't surprise us, at all.

And then there was the Heritage Bowl, a couple of years ago, where Chester Community Charter School middle school students competed in a black history contest against high school students. Guess who won the contest!  Chester...Community...Charter...School. That was the first time any middle school, in any year, had ever won that contest.

And how about our graduates? Well, listen carefully to this: 40 percent of the students who graduated from our first 8th-grade class in 2007 are now in college. That's 40 percent of that class now in a university, and we know that only 10.5 percent of Chester adults have ever earned a college degree. Our graduates are the future of the New Chester. They can't be fooled.  They know they're smart, they know they can achieve anything they set their minds on, and JUST like their parents, they won't take no for an answer, when it comes to their education.

And since the Department of Education will be talking about funding for schools tomorrow, let me be clear: Not only do we achieve excellent results at Chester Community Charter School, we also have historically achieved those results with only 75 percent of the funding that's given by the State to the Chester Upland School District.  Better results, at a lower cost!

At the end of the day, however, I want to make it very clear that we don't come here to say bad things about the Chester Upland School District.  We know that 40 percent of Chester Community Charter School parents also have at least one child who goes to a Chester Upland School District school. That's their choice, and we respect that.

Those families, those students, are not our enemies, they are our neighbors. They are our friends and family members and we don't ever want to lose sight of that. We also will no longer allow the Governor, the Department of Education, any elected officials, or any other organization, to try to pit us against each other. We won't be tricked into that kind of negativity in our own community, anymore.

Make no mistake. We do want the Chester Community Charter School to receive the funds it deserves.  But...we also want the Chester Upland School District to provide good education for its students, and to receive its own funding.

But, when it comes to education, and your students go to school in Chester, it seems, as I said earlier, that "No good deed goes unpunished."

We've done a great deal of good together at Chester Community Charter School-- our teachers, our administrators, you, the parents, and your dedicated hard-working students.  But do we get thanks for any of that from our Governor?  Do we get support from the PA Secretary of Education?

Yes or No?

What do you think?

I'm sad to say that you are right. For all of the good work this school has done, what we have gotten from our government leaders is the threat that they are going to cut off our funding, and the threat that they may have to close our school.

Your students have done very "good deeds" academically. They are actually rewriting the academic history of our city, and changing the academic image of students from Chester. But, now, the government wants to punish our school, our families, our students and the whole city of Chester.

This is a SCHOOL rally. Can you spell "unfair?"

Well, this is clearly it.

But we come here this afternoon to send a message, and this is it:  We want the world to know what is happening to this school, to its  hard-working, successful, teachers and principals, to its dedicated board members, led by Chester's very own Judge Spencer Seaton, and its wonderful, wonderful students.

We've come here also to send a message that we will never stop fighting for the education that we know that our children deserve.

We want Harrisburg to know it, the Governor, the State Reps, the Senators and especially Secretary of Education Ronald J. Tomalis, who is holding that meeting that the courts have ordered him to hold, tomorrow, that will decide the future of our school.  Our message to the secretary is simple and direct:  We are not going to accept being treated unfairly, anymore. We don't think it is fair of the government to talk about depriving our children of their rightful educations, simply because they live in the city of Chester.

We'll be watching what goes on in that meeting tomorrow and when we leave here, today, we will be sending messages to Harrisburg and to Secretary Tomalis, by phone, by e-mail and by social media, to let them know how important all of this is to our families and our children.  We'll be inviting all of the citizens of Chester, every tax-paying resident of Delaware County and concerned parents across the state and across the country to keep watch with us on what takes place in that meeting.  We won't let them get away with closing our school.

And we are all very serious about that!!

When you get home, we want you to look for the video of this meeting on YouTube. We want you to share it with your friends. We want you to send text messages, emails about all of this to your elected officials, including the Governor. If you are on Facebook, use it today to get out our message. If you have a Twitter account, send out tweets, including a link to the video.

*View live footage from the rally - Link:

In all of this, we encourage you to be respectful, but, by all means, to be insistent, and don't take "no" for an answer. The truth really is on our side.

When we leave here today, it's not over, and it won't EVER be over until we get a commitment from Harrisburg that our funding is secure and that our school will remain open.

Thank you, as always, for your support and dedication.


SOURCE Chester Community Charter School