Kenney names nominating panel for new Philly school board

Former School Reform Commission Chairman Wendell Pritchett will be one of thirteen members of the advisory board that will decide on Board of Education nominees.

Former School Reform Commission Chairman Wendell Pritchett will be one of 13 members of the advisory board that will decide on Board of Education nominees. (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Philadelphia’s new Board of Education started to take shape Tuesday with the naming of a 13-member nominating committee, the latest step toward re-establishing local control of city schools. The board would replace the School Reform Commission that has voted to dissolve itself.

Members of the “Educational Nominating Panel” will meet over the next month and a half and eventually recommend 27 people they consider worthy of serving on the coming, nine-member Board of Education.

Mayor Jim Kenney, who also appointed the nominating committee, will then choose nine board members from that pool of 27 recommendations. City Council does not have any formal say in the process yet, but the city is attempting to pass a charter change that would give Council veto power over Kenney’s picks. Kenney supports the charter change.

The nominating panel includes familiar faces from the education advocacy scene, as well as other business and civic leaders. The most familiar name is likely Wendell Pritchett, the current provost of the University of Pennsylvania and a former chair of the School Reform Commission (SRC).

The SRC — which includes mayoral and gubernatorial appointees — still presides over Philadelphia’s public school system, but voted to dissolve itself in November. The new locally appointed Board of Education will take control on July 1st of this year.

Beyond Pritchett, the 12 other members of the nominating committee are:

Kendra Brooks is a parent activist with Parents United for Public Education, an advocacy group co-founded by Councilwoman Helen Gym.

Bonnie Camarda is the director of partnerships for The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. She is also a board member for Nueva Esperanza Community Development Corporation and Philadelphia School Partnership. The former organization runs charter schools, among other things, and the latter is a major school choice backer.

Patrick Eiding is the president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.  He is also Secretary-Treasurer of the Philadelphia Building Trades Council.

Dan Fitzpatrick is the president of Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. He is the former chairman of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Jamie Gauthier is the executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the mother of two Philadelphia public school students.

Peter Gonzales heads the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, a nonprofit geared toward helping immigrants. He’s also on the board of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Derren Mangum is a public school parent and president of the P.T.A. at C.W. Henry School in Northwest Philadelphia. He works at Opera Philadelphia as the associate director of institutional giving.

Barbara Moore Williams is a former Philadelphia public school teacher and director of teaching development. She’s currently an educational consultant.

Stephanie Naidoff was Philadelphia’s Commerce Director from 2004 to 2008. She’s also served on several boards including the Philadelphia School Partnership and the Fund for the School District.

Ivy Olesh runs the nonprofit Playworks and co-founded the Friends of Chester Arthur, a fundraising group at the public school her son attends. She also helped found a network of “Friends of” groups at schools across the city.

Kimberly Pham is a Temple University student and a member of the National Council of Young Leaders. She’s also part of the Project U-Turn collaborative, a multi-organization effort to improve the dropout rate.

Sean Vereen heads Steppingstone Scholars, a nonprofit focused on helping local students enter college and the workforce.

The nominating panel will meet for the first time on Jan. 19. By the end of February, the panel is expected to deliver to Mayor Kenney a list of 27 names.

Kenney will make his final nine picks for the Board of Education in March, though he has not yet announced a date.

Those hoping to learn more about this process and the new school board can attend one of the following information sessions:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 7:00 p.m. at Parkwood Civic Association, St. Anselm Church, 12670 Dunks Ferry Rd.
  • Thursday, Jan. 18 at 6:00 p.m. at Mantua Civic Association, Grace Lutheran Church, Haverford and N. 36th streets
  • Monday, Jan. 22 at 3:30 p.m. at T.M. Peirce Elementary School, 2300 W. Cambria St.
  • Monday, Jan. 22 at 7:00 p.m. at Max Myers Recreation Center, 1601 Hellerman St.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 6:00 p.m. at Philadelphia Home and School Association, 440 North Broad St.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 5:30 p.m. at Community College of Philadelphia, Center for Business & Industry, 18th and Callowhill streets, C2-28
  • Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 6:00 p.m. at Southwest CDC, 6328 Paschall Ave.

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