Looking back on 2015, the year included times of joy and sorrow, controversial and uplifting experiences, honors and awards, community achievements and advancements.
Nationally and internationally, top stories included deadly terror attacks twice in Paris, and in San Bernadino, California; the police-involved deaths of Freddie Gray, Walter Scott and Laquan McDonald; mass shootings at schools and office buildings, the European refugee crisis, continued rise of ISIS, legalization of same-sex marriage; Pope Francis’ visit to the United States; the political domination of businessman Donald Trump in the Republican presidential field; banning of Confederate symbols including the flag at the statehouse in South Carolina; a nuclear deal with Iran; and the transformation of Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner.
Other stories included New England Patriots football deflategate; and celebrity deaths including Leonard Nimoy, Ben E. King, Maureen O’Hara, BB. King, Yogi Berra, Natalie Cole on New Years’ Eve; Frank Gifford, Omar Sharif, Bobbi Kristina Brown, Mario Cuomo, Donna Douglas (Elly May Clampett), Percy Sledge, Fred Thompson, Vincent “Don Vito” Margera, Wayne Rogers, Moses Malone, Julian Bond, Lesley Gore, Ernie Banks, and others.
In The Spirit coverage areas, issues related to individual municipalities, education, social events, weather -related problems, and deaths topped the annual news cycle. Yet 2015 also had it’s share of great achievements and community involvement.
The Chester-Upland School District (CUSD) was involved in a seemingly endless court battle involving funding of city charter schools. The district’s complaint charged the charter schools were receiving far too much funding subsidy per child.
In the end, Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Chad Kenney approved an agreement between the CUSD, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and three charter schools calling for the charters to be reimbursed $27,028.72 for each special education student, which reflects a decrease of $12,971.28 from the previously paid $40,000 per child. The district had requested to pay $16,000 per student, which, they argued was more in-line with actual educational costs.
Also in the CUSD, during a hearing on Dec. 1, Kenney ordered extending the receivership of the district on an interim basis and reappointed Frances Barnes as district receiver until June 2016, or whenever the receivership ends. Kenney scheduled hearings for early February to examine the financial status of the district and its academic progress, which will determine if receivership will continue for another three years.
On Dec. 18, an auditor testified that the district has not experienced any mismanagement or fraud since the receivership was put into place in December 2012.
In the Penn-Delco School District (PDSD), several were inducted into the Sun Valley High School Hall of Fame: Linda Cook, Ken Cage, George Dargay, Dr. Rick Dunlap, Jeane Naef McNamara, Jonathan Ross, Christopher Savage, Ginny Seleyo, and special recognition was given to the 1987 Indoor and Outdoor Track Girls’ 3200 M Relay Team State Champions, which included Kristin Amey, Bonnie DiCicco, Kathy Evans and Jackie Lynch.
The William Penn School District (WPSD) was named by the College Board as one of 425 districts nationwide for increasing access to Advanced Placement (AP) coursework while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of three or higher on AP exams.
And, the Charter School for the Arts in Chester promoted Akousa Watts, former principal of the school’s K-8 program, as head of school.
The most closely watched election was the mayoral race in the City of Chester that pitted incumbent Mayor John Linder against state Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland (D-159) who defeated him in the primary election and beat former Mayor Wendell Butler, Jr. in November.
Kirkland resigned his state representative seat only to rescind his resignation, days later in a move that was surprising to some. He claimed he would serve in both capacities “until there’s an ultimate resolution of the 2015-2016 state budget.”
Republican Joe Hackett abruptly resigned his seat in the 161st legislative district in the state House of Representatives and Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky, who had once run against Hackett, won the seat in a special election against Republican Paul Mullen and write-in candidate Lisa Esler.
In Chester Township, 27-year Republican Council member and outgoing Council chairman Bobby May, lost to Democrat Dennis Daye.
And, in Folcroft Borough, the once split Council, transitioned to majority Republican again. Lawrence Penney and Christine Peterson, who swept onto office in 2012 on the Democratic ticket, switched their party and were victorious as Republicans.
In Colwyn Borough, third-degree felony charges of multiple thefts and receiving stole property were filed against Colwyn Fire Chief Gary Brice, Fire Company President Betty Cellini, and former treasurer Lauren Cellini following an investigation resulting in charges that $50,000 was missing.
Former Borough Manager Paula Brown contacted authorities about the alleged mismanagement of the fire company and also the borough. Brown’s efforts also resulted in the borough ending up in the state’s Act 47 Recovery Program for financially unstable municipalities.
In Brookhaven, some residents continued to oppose construction of a new shopping center on what formerly was Chester Water Authority property across from Coebourn Elementary School. Subsequently, the project was approved and ground was broken in December on The Shoppes at Brookhaven.