The volunteer group charged with overseeing the York City School District's state-mandated financial recovery plan - which includes rigorous new academic standards - recently got a glimpse of just what it's up against.

George Fitch, William Penn Senior High School's ninth-grade principal, told the Community Education Council at its meeting last week that a vast majority of the 165 freshmen have at least one academic plan because they earned Ds and Fs in their courses.

"We do have a lot of students who aren't making the mark," Fitch said. "We see teachers meeting challenges. We have to hold students accountable."

One could argue teachers definitely are not meeting the challenge if so many of their students are failing.

But that would assume these students want to learn, and their parents or guardians value an education - enough so they see to it their children receive one.

That doesn't seem to be the case in York City, based on Fitch's report to the council.

The high school offers tutoring Monday through Saturday and a "Saturday school" to help students improve their grades, he said.

Although there are about 120 freshmen whose grades are poor enough to warrant academic plans, Fitch said only eight students take advantage of tutoring and only 15 attend Saturday plans.

"That's a pitiful attendance," said Michael Johnson, a member of the Community Education Council.

Yes, it is.

And the response from parents is just as pathetic.

The high school staff has contacted about 80 percent of the entire student body's parents to encourage greater involvement in the district's academic improvement efforts, Fitch said.

However, only a handful of the parents have come to meetings to discuss how they can help their children, he added.

Teams of concerned York community members worked much of this year to design ambitious programs to improve the district's dismal academic record - plans to be managed by the Community Education Council.

But what if students and their parents don't want to take advantage of the opportunities they're presented?

That might be the real challenge for the council.