District’s leadership was riding high – 15 feet to be exact
(ATOP A PACHYDERM IN PHILADELPHIA) – Chester Upland School District’s superintendent and chief of staff saw 350 of their high achieving students from a new perspective yesterday. From atop a circus elephant that opens the daily show of the visiting UniverSoul Circus at Fairmount Park, Supt. Gregory Shannon and Chief of Staff Claudia Averette gazed out at their students and other circus goers.
“It was exhilarating,” said Supt. Gregory Shannon. “We were mindful of the 15 foot drop from the top of the elephant but also thrilled to watch our students enjoying a field trip outside Chester Upland’s boundaries.”
Field trips just weren’t possible for many years, given the dire financial straits of the most distressed school district in the state. So when the circus offered to host the students gratis, district officials said yes. The only condition was a ride on the circus pachyderm.
“The students went wild. Neither they nor the teachers knew we’d help open the show, riding on the elephant’s back,” Supt. Shannon said after the event. “All of us in the district, from the students, to the teachers, administrators, staff and parents, are working very hard to turn this district around. At the end of the day it’s got to be about children, and it has got be fun – at least some of the time.”
The students, 50 each from Main Street and Stetser Elementary Schools and the Chester Upland School for the Arts and 200 from Toby Farms Middle School, were chosen for the field trip as an incentive to be exemplary students or as a reward for achievement they have already demonstrated. For many, yesterday’s event was the first circus visit of their lives.
Change is afoot at Chester Upland under the leadership of state-appointed Receiver Joe Watkins and Supt. Shannon, who have started “a new day” at Chester Upland. They’ve instituted rigor in academics and finances, and they have made improving the culture a priority. Respect for each other is key.
Chief of Staff Averette, who is part of Supt. Shannon’s urban turnaround team, has a passion for partnerships with various community groups. In that spirit, she worked with UniverSoul Circus to make it possible for the high achieving students from the elementary and middle to attend the circus. This followed by a visit, the day before from the Auto Dealers CARing for Kids Foundation to Main Street Elementary School. The car dealers’ foundation donated 2200 winter coats, one for each elementary school student in the district.
“Our community is responding to our needs,” said Ms. Averette. “Field trips supplement improved academics in the classroom, and winter coats are one of the ways we are addressing other needs so our students can focus on learning.”
The UniverSoul Circus provides family friendly entertainment in a highly interactive combination of circus arts, theater and music. Shows will continue through Sun., Nov. 9.
For Chester Upland School District, Becky Taylor at 609-240-6886 or [email protected]
For UniverSoul Circus: Hank Ernest at 404-644-6735 or [email protected]