The beginning of the school year means freshly sharpened pencils, crisp white pages of a notebook, and new beginnings.

For the Chester Upland School District (CUSD), the first school bell of the 2017-2018 school year offers another chance to right the long-time underperforming ship under new leadership.

After serving in the interim role, Dr. Juan Baughn was named superintendent in July.

“I expect to have a focus on student learning,” Baughn told The Spirit in a July interview. “We must make sure that our students are college and career ready, but the difference for me is that I want them to be college and career ready without remediation.”

According to 2014-2015 statistics from US News and World Report, Chester High School had a total of 937 students enrolled, but only a 44 percent graduation rate. Additionally, student performance on state exit exams reveal that many of the students have poor performance in Mathematics and English at four percent and 12 percent, respectively, ranking Chester High a few percentages below the entire district’s proficiency in these subjects. These percentages were matched against the state’s recorded proficiencies of 60 percent in Mathematics and 70 percent in English.

“Chester has gone through a major transformation with its leadership. One of the reasons I think we have been unable to make gains academically is because of the transition of leadership,” said Claudia Averette, coordinator of Special Projects and Programs. “Dr. Baughn says we are back and it’s the year of the child.”

Hoping to get a jump on a fresh start, CUSD hosted close to 6,000 people at a family friendly back to school rally last Thursday afternoon at Eyre Park with representatives from each of the district’s schools, bounce houses, train rides, free pretzels and water ice, a DJ, prizes and school supplies.

  “We want to ensure that every one of our children have what they need to be successful,” said Averette. “It starts with book bags and other materials.”

Students Vuhmeer Flowers and Sariyah White found hanging out in the bounce house a lot of fun.

Students Vuhmeer Flowers and Sariyah White found hanging out in the bounce house a lot of fun.

It was all fun and games for students and their families courtesy of the Chester Upland School District.

It was all fun and games for students and their families courtesy of the Chester Upland School District.

Serenity Acree, 7 gets her face painted as her mother, Lauren Carter, watches.

Serenity Acree, 7 gets her face painted as her mother, Lauren Carter, watches.

Representatives from each of the district’s schools were there with giveaways and information.

Representatives from each of the district’s schools were there with giveaways and information.

Chester Upland staff gives away bookbags.

Chester Upland staff gives away bookbags.

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