Auditor General DePasquale Says Chester Upland School District is in Major Crisis; Hopeful New Management Can Effect ChangeRecent Audit Identifies Continued, Severe Problems with Operations and Student Education
Auditor General DePasquale Says Chester Upland School District is in Major Crisis; Hopeful New Management Can Effect Change
Recent Audit Identifies Continued, Severe Problems with Operations and Student Education
HARRISBURG (June 6, 2013) – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said an audit of the Chester Upland School District in Delaware County showed the situation in the district is so dire that there is limited hope for the future of its students unless district board members, administrators, teachers and the community support changes to correct management breakdowns that have plagued the district for decades.
“Quite frankly, the Chester Upland School District is sinking and sinking fast,” DePasquale said. “This district is broken and the children have little hope for the future unless everyone involved works together to correct problems with management and academic performance.”
The most recent audit, covering May 2010 through February 2013, discovered significant incidents of noncompliance with state laws and administrative procedures. Specifically, auditors found that the Chester Upland School District:
- Failed to effectively educate the district’s students to achieve targeted graduation and academic performance. For example, the district’s graduation rate for the 2011-12 school year was 43 percentage points below the state goal (42 percent versus 85 percent); the district scored 29 percent in reading proficiency and 34 percent in math proficiency while the statewide goals were 81 percent and 78 percent, respectively. The district has failed to meet targeted graduation and academic performance since 2001.
- Graduated students who had not met necessary credit or course requirements and, in several cases, had transcripts for graduates with course and/or grades that were inconsistent with student quarterly report cards; two students had no report cards on file. The district also erroneously reported the graduation of six students to the Department of Education.
- Failed to properly monitor professional employee certifications, which may result in state subsidy forfeiture. Thirty professional employees — two administrators, 21 teachers, one school nurse and six behavioral health liaisons did not have state-required certification.
- Employed six of the district’s 38 bus drivers (as of September 2011) without having required qualification documentation on file, including three drivers who lacked Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearances.
- Failed its core mission to educate children and properly handle taxpayer funds because of ineffective management.
- Failed to establish a strong accountability system for ensuring the district was implementing the various boards’ (Empowerment Board of Control and elected school Board of Directors) strategies; and the boards failed to monitor whether management was accomplishing its goals.
- Failed to maintain stable upper management — since 2005, the district had seven superintendents, six assistant superintendents and seven business managers.
- Failed to report enrollment data to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for 592 students; potentially resulting in the district receiving an improper state funding subsidy.
- Overspent its budget by more than $44 million for the academic years 2003-2004 through 2011-2012.
- Failed to have documentation for board meetings, receipt of proper state subsidies and reimbursements, contracts and bidding.
- Failed to obtain timely updates of an agreement with pertinent police departments regarding jurisdiction over procedures to be followed in case of an incident on school property.
“Sadly, these are not new findings — the Chester Upland School District has a long-standing pattern of serious operational deficiencies, financial mismanagement and — most troubling — total academic neglect,” DePasquale said. “The bottom line is this: the children of this district are at tremendous risk. Their future is dim unless everyone works together to right this ship.”
The auditor general pledged to work in partnership with the court-appointed receiver, Joe Watkins, as he tries to implement changes.
Chester Upland School District has approximately 4,500 students and employs more than 300 teachers, 200 full- and part-time support personnel and 20 administrators. In 2009-2010, the district received $73.4 million in state funding.
The department’s Bureau of School Audits examines the records of school districts, charter schools, intermediate units, and area vocational-technical schools. The audits — among other things — assess whether or not school districts received the state subsidies and reimbursements to which they were entitled, accurately managed taxpayer funds, and complied with ethics codes.
The audits also determine whether teachers and administrators were properly certified for the positions they held during the audit period.
A full copy of the Chester Upland School District audit is online at: www.PaAuditor.gov/audit-reports.
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