Chester High School made headlines last week. Again.
The school’s principal, Eboni Wilson, was charged on Wednesday with four misdemeanors – two counts of corrupting a minor and two counts of indecent exposure – because, according to a 16-year-old female student, Wilson had consensual sex with her twice last month.
The student and Wilson, 28, were both seen on a surveillance camera entering the school’s auditorium, and when the girl left, her clothes “were in a state of disarray,” according to Delaware Country District Attorney G. Michael Green.
Wilson was hired earlier this year through Edison Schools Inc., a private firm that was first contracted in 2001 to manage almost all of the Chester-Upland district’s schools.
Because of his muscular physique, young age and a childhood rife with many setbacks, the general thought was that he could both control the chaos that is daily life at Chester while relating to students experiencing situations not unlike his own.
Maybe he got too close to one of his students, or maybe, as Wilson alleges, people are conspiring against him by bringing up bogus charges.
Either way, the issue of Wilson’s guilt or innocence, though extremely important, should not overshadow the sad reality that the school now has to look for hope in its failing system. Again.
Both in its economic and administrative decisions, the Chester-Upland School District just can’t seem to get it right.
The district has yet to pay off millions in debt, which has ballooned in the past 10 years from about $2 million to over $35 million, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. And although the district spends about $3,000 more on each student than the state average, its classrooms are still overcrowded and its school materials are still insufficient.
Almost all of the school’s students perform far below academic standards, and many are delinquent in their attendance.
Any motivation some of them still have to succeed is repeatedly diminished by controversies like this one that hurtle them into the limelight and damage their trust.
And that’s what’s most troubling about this mess: the students.
Wilson will be gone soon enough. This summer the school will be audited so administrators can figure out what went wrong financially and the company that both hired Wilson and failed to jumpstart the school had their contract cut a year short and will leave in June.
But the students will have to return next year. They’ll have to trudge back to school in the fall, likely facing a system still so flawed that it stunts almost all achievement. Again.
Of course, they wouldn’t have to. Over the three months school is out of session, school administrators and state officials could begin the daunting process of piecing together a plan that works.
Admittedly, we don’t know what that plan is. Hiring Wilson seemed like it could have been successful and although almost all of those involved with the school now oppose hiring private management firms, that proposal initially had as good a chance as any.
We can only offer a word of encouragement for administrators to focus their energy on helping their students succeed and a solemn hope that scandal doesn’t continue to befall Chester High School.
For the sake of these students, it can’t.