There was the sound of chanting in the distance almost as soon as the Community Education Council called its meeting to order Wednesday.

No one was surprised, of course.

The New Hope Academy Charter School had announced weeks earlier that its supporters would march from the school at 459 W. King St. to the York City School District's administration building on the night of the council's November meeting.

The chanting got louder. There were drums.

Perhaps hoping to ease the tension, the district's chief recovery officer, David Meckley, made a joke.

"If it were the York High band, it would be in better tune," he said, earning some laughs.

Soon, several dozen people who'd arrived with the New Hope crowd flooded into the meeting. District security officers ushered new arrivals to seats, then closed the doors when all of those seats were filled.

As members of the council discussed the district's plan to improve its finances and academics, folks outside continued to beat drums and chant the name of their school.

Somewhat ironically, much of the council's discussion focused on the possibility that outsiders will be hired some day to transform the district's struggling schools. In other words, the district's buildings could become charter schools.

New Hope's supporters are fighting to save their school, ordered by the state charter school appeals board to close by Jan. 15.

However, it was officials in the district who first decided to reject renewal of New Hope's charter, triggering a long appeals process that's not over yet.

The state board is holding a meeting in Harrisburg today (Thursday) to address New Hope's request for reconsideration.

Unless the board changes its mind or a court intervenes, the parents of New Hope's 800 students will need to find their children a new school.

Of all the people who marched into Wednesday's meeting, most left before Meckley looked into the seats and invited public comment.

Two people stepped to the mic. Just one spoke about New Hope.

Aida Neely Rodriguez, the mother of a ninth-grader at New Hope, said she's worried her daughter will be bored in the district, lost in a sea of overcrowded classrooms and disruptive peers.

New Hope teachers, she said, are excellent communicators. They help kids identify their strengths, see a life beyond York and overcome challenges.

They "give a damn," Neely Rodriguez said.

"I want to know what York City has to offer for my child," she told the council.

Those fears are legitimate, Superintendent Eric Holmes said in response.

Efforts to improve the district are under way - the very reason the council meets monthly, Holmes said.

The district needs more involved parents - like Neely Rodriguez, he said.

"If you speak out and you get involved, you make the school a better place," Holmes said.

- Reach Erin James at