Control of CUSD by Edison Schools, 2001-2005

The Chester Upland School District has been struggling, financially and organizationally, for many years. In 1994, the school district was determined to be the worst performing district in the state of Pennsylvania and placed under state control. A critical period in the history of CUSD is 2001-2005, when the district was controlled by a private for-profit school management company called Edison Schools.

During this time period, Edison ran eight schools in Chester, its biggest client after Philadelphia. Founded in 1995, Edison Schools was originally touted as a method of “school reform” for struggling districts. Strongly supported by conservatives, it aimed to improve student achievement while making a profit. However, it has never been very successful in this mission, and Chester is no exception.

Edison Schools’ contract with Chester Upland School District was set to expire at the end of the 2006 school year, but was terminated a year early. In April 2005, Eboni Wilson, the then-principal of Chester High School, was arrested on charges for corruption of a minor and indecent exposure, after accusations of having consensual sex with a sixteen-year-old student in the school’s auditorium. Later that month, Jayne Gibbs, the then-principal of Edward E. Parry Edison Junior Academy, was placed on paid leave while the district investigated reports that she had given students answers on standardized tests. Gibbs had previously been the principal of Showalter Middle School under Edison during her time in Chester. Showalter had seen great leaps in test scores, so this accusation called into question Edison’s progress in both schools.

Edison’s failure was yet another setback for the long-suffering Chester Upland School District. It is significant to consider this relatively recent failure because placing the Chester schools under the control of private companies is a “solution” being considered to resolve the school district’s current budget crisis.

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