March 10, 2021—On Wednesday, the Chester Upland School District’s court-appointed receiver finally released the names of the three bidders who responded to a Request for Proposals (RFP) to take over district schools, along with the names of committee members who will assist the receiver in reviewing these proposals. The information came after parent representatives announced they were filing an emergency petition in court seeking this and additional information.
Parents in Chester continue to demand transparency in a fast-tracked RFP process that could lead to outsourcing of every school in the district, a first in Pennsylvania. Their emergency petition seeks each bidders’ proposals and information on which schools they seek to convert to charters or subject to private management, to allow the public to fully evaluate these plans. Disclosure of the bidders’ names came almost two weeks after bids were submitted.
The bidders are: Chester Community Charter School (previously reported by The Delaware County Daily Times); Friendship Education Foundation; and Global Leadership Academy. Chester Community Charter School (CCCS) has proposed the conversion of two district schools, Main Street Elementary and Chester Upland School for the Arts, to charter schools. CCCS is the district’s current largest charter school operator, and its schools routinely perform worse on standardized tests than other elementary schools in the district.
No details about the scope or particulars of either other submitted bid have been publicly revealed. Global Leadership Academy operates two charter schools in Philadelphia. Friendship Education Foundation operates charter schools in Washington D.C. and Arkansas and also provides education management services.
According to the timetable posted on the district’s website, the first, and only listed, opportunity for members of the public to evaluate the proposals that could transform their school district will take place at presentations in April 2021, with “dates to be determined.” The RFP currently sets a tentative timetable that has the final decision on a provider coming less than a month after these presentations.
“This process could shape education in Chester for years to come,” said Claudia De Palma, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center, which is representing the parents. “Transparency is the bare minimum, but at every turn the receiver has failed to provide for that. Parents and teachers in Chester will not accept radical transformations to their students’ schools without a real and meaningful opportunity to assess the ability of any bidder to improve the quality of education provided to students. Promises which may not be kept are not sufficient.”
The group of CUSD parents and the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organizations, who intervened to participate in the RFP process, are represented by Education Law Center-PA and the Public Interest Law Center.
“This is a fast-tracked process, and parents must have a voice in determining who will be educating their children,” said Maura McInerney, legal director at Education Law Center. “We need a transparent process that is free from conflicts of interest, ensures a rigorous high-quality education, and results in actual costs savings to the district, as the law clearly requires.”
In the update, the receiver also confirmed the members of the RFP Review Task Force, which will evaluate the proposal first. They are four members of the Chester Upland school board (Anthony Johnson, Tyra Quail, Kenneth Washington, and William Riley), LaMonte Popley, the Principal of Toby Farms Intermediate School, Dr. Jaqueline Irving of Eastern University, and LaToya Jones, a parent and one of the petitioners in the emergency motion.