Chester Upland School Superintendent Gregory Shannon, who started his tenure in 2013 by knocking on doors to sign up students who had been drifting to the community's three robust charters, announced Wednesday that he is resigning, effective Jan. 3.
He boosted enrollment in the public schools by convincing parents that the beleaguered district was on the road to recovery, with safer and better-run schools offering science and technology programs and more high-level courses. Despite that success, he did not manage to move the needle far in regard to Chester Upland's deeply entrenched financial and academic troubles.
Shannon, 53, said he planned to take a position as "chief of schools" with an educational organization that he declined to name, since his hiring had not yet been announced. He said the organization reached out to him.
"It was an opportunity that afforded me a chance to continue my life's work" for children in urban communities, said Shannon.
His annual salary at the Delaware County district was $215,000.
Shannon previously worked in Philadelphia, where he became a regional superintendent.
Chester Upland has been under some form of state control for more than 20 years because of its fiscal problems and low student achievement. State receiver Peter Barsz said the district hoped to have an interim superintendent in place by the first week in January and a permanent hire by the end of the school year.
Shannon's work "has helped to solidify the district throughout his tenure and is much appreciated." Barsz said. "We wish him the very best in all he does going forward."
Shannon was hired shortly after the former receiver, Joseph Watkins, implemented a new recovery plan to turn around the impoverished school system, which carried a $24 million structural deficit and faced even more losses as charter operators picked off its students.
Shannon hit the streets with enrollment forms and trumpeted 44 reasons to come back to the schools, which he promised were on the way up. He even offered Beats by Dr. Dre headphones to new enrollees.
During his tenure, the district touted improvements in attendance, safety, and academic performance, though its schools were still among the lowest-performing in Pennsylvania. Money remained a problem even after the state cut in half the amount the district has to pay to charters for each of the roughly 3,000 students who attend them.
In addition to growing the enrollment - there were 2,900 students in district schools when he came and 3,200 now - Shannon said Wednesday he was proud that violence declined and academics improved in each of his three years at the helm.
He said he was also proud of having launched the district's Parent University and of restoring some Chester Upland traditions, such as the marching band.
Asked where he had been stymied, he said, "I certainly would have liked to have seen us make broader academic gains. That's always the goal, to make astronomical gains. We made steady academic gains."