By David Madden

Philadelphia (CBS) — Pennsylvania education officials have appointed a political activist and Philadelphia minister to guide the Chester-Upland School District out of its latest financial problem.

State Education Secretary Ron Tamilis tapped Joe Watkins just a few days after Chester-Upland was declared distressed. He’ll have broad powers to craft a recovery plan for the district.

Acting district deputy superintendent Thomas Persing is willing to give Watkins a chance.

“Our hope is that he will come in here with an open mind, and see what recent events have happened in the school district.”

Persing insists Chester-Upland has made great strides to get its fiscal and academic house in order. Enough, he claims, to impress the federal judge who’s guiding a lawsuit involving special education.

The Chester-Upland school board could find they don’t like Watkins or his plan. If that happens, they’ll have to go to a Pennsylvania court.