Mayor Kenney picks his starting nine for new Philly school board

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Pictured in this WHYY file photo are Mayor Jim Kenney and Joyce Wilkerson. Both Wilkerson and Christopher McGinley  (not pictured) were today named to the 9 member Philadelphia School Board. (WHYY, file)

Pictured in this WHYY file photo are Mayor Jim Kenney and Joyce Wilkerson. Both Wilkerson and Christopher McGinley (not pictured) were today named to the 9 member Philadelphia School Board. (WHYY, file)

Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled his new Philadelphia Board of Education Wednesday — a group of six women and three men including social workers, a pediatrician, several educators, one expert in finance, and another in governance.

As expected, Kenney named Joyce Wilkerson and Christopher McGinley, members of the School Reform Commission who resigned last week in anticipation of being appointed to the new board that will take over from the SRC on July 1.

Two of the nine board members currently have children who attend schools in the district, and one is a charter school parent.

None of the seven new names has a history of activism or is well known in the usual Philadelphia education circles. And unlike most past boards, there are no practicing lawyers. In crafting his board, Kenney bypassed people put forth by the Our City Our Schools coalition, offered specifically for their advocacy on behalf of public schools.

But in announcing his choices, Kenney said that they are “a strong group of individuals with a passion for public education in Philadelphia.”

The new members expressed excitement and trepidation as they prepare to assume their policymaking role in the area that Kenney called more important than any other for the future of the city.

“I am incredibly nervous,” said Mallory Fix Lopez, who has taught English as a second language in public school and college and helps run a restaurant in Point Breeze with her husband. She plans to send her preschooler to the local elementary school, Childs, and is active in its community group.

“I have always been a voice in the wilderness,” said Leticia Egea-Hinton, a longtime advocate for the homeless who was the first in her family to graduate from high school.  “My hope is that we will not only learn, we will listen.”

Learning and listening were major themes among the new appointees, who will begin their orientation and embark on a series of community meetings starting April 25 at Dobbins CTE High School in North Philadelphia.

Only Julia Danzy, among the new members, spoke about a specific issue she’d like to work on: improving coordination between city social services for children and the schools.

“Many of our children have emotional problems, not mental health problems, and unless we can address those, we are not going to be able to move the needle,” said Danzy, a social worker and administrator who is a former deputy commissioner for children’s services in the Philadelphia Health Department. She has also worked for City Council and the state Department of Welfare.

“I’ve seen our educational system assume a lot of responsibilities that rightly belong to other agencies,” she said. “And it’s time for us to begin working together to become a more cohesive body in the education of our children.”

Longtime education observers noted there weren’t many from their milieu in the final nine.

David Hardy, co-founder of Boys Latin Charter School and a school choice proponent, said he didn’t recognize many of the names on the new board.

“There are no advocates on this board, said Hardy. “I’m OK with that.”

“I think having new faces in this space, new ideas, new perspectives in this space is a good thing,” he continued. “The space has been a little too incestuous.”

Others, however, did take issue with a board that features few familiar names from the city’s education activist community.

“It feels like there’s a little bit of disconnect, especially because there were so many amazing community leaders that were put forward by community organizations and advocacy groups,” said Miguel Andrade with the immigrant-rights group Juntos, which was part of the Our City Our Schools Coalition. “It’s just disappointing to see that not a single one of those people was able to be on.”

Lisa Haver of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, known as APPS, was concerned that none of the new members appeared to have children in the most stressed city schools.

Two of the new members, Lee Huang and Angela McIver, have children who attend Penn-Alexander, an elementary school in University City that gets extra help and dollars from the University of Pennsylvania. McIver also has a child at Central High School.

“I don’t see any parents from a struggling school who knows those issues of having a school charterized or closed, or deal with regular underfunding,” she said.

APPS complained throughout the process that the public should have had input into the selection process and at least the ability to get to know the candidates before they were appointed.

“If that process had been opened, we would have had a chance to really vet these people, know who they are, get to know where they stand on public education. We’re not seeing any people that we would identify as public school advocates.

Board members generally demurred when asked their opinions on major education policy questions such as funding and charter schools, saying they needed to hear first from community members.

“I’m going to keep an open mind,” said appointee Lee Huang. “I have a lot to learn.”

At first glance, it appears two of the appointees have direct connections to Philadelphia’s charter sector, which now educates about a third of the city’s public school students.

Maria McColgan has two daughters at Philadelphia Academy Charter School in the Northeast. McIver helped found Mastery Charter Schools, the city’s largest charter network.

McColgan said school choice was a “reasonable option,” but refrained from making any broad statements about charters.

“I think there’s a lot we need to look at, but I don’t have the answers yet,” she said.

McColgan acknowledged that finances are always a major issue for the district, but even that area is a bit of an unknown right now. Kenney has proposed a funding package that would give the district a five-year financial cushion. It’s not yet known whether that proposal will withstand City Council scrutiny. Depending on how the debate unfolds, the new board could take power July 1 with five years of balanced books on its horizon — or a looming fiscal crisis.

The board members will spend the next three months getting to know the district through a series of orientations and learning about each other. The nine members did not meet each other until Wednesday morning of the announcement.

“We had no idea,” said McColgan. “It was a secret reveal.”

Kenney had sole discretion over this first round of school-board appointments. While City Council President Darrell Clarke and several Council members attended the announcement, it’s unclear what say they had in the vetting process. If a proposed charter change goes through, City Council will have veto power over future school board appointments.

Introductions

The below biographies of the new school board members were put together by the Mayor’s Office of Education, with some additions.

Julia Danzy

Julia Danzy has deep knowledge and a strong commitment to the welfare of Philadelphia’s children. Danzy has attended Howard University and has received a master’s in social work from Columbia University and a master’s in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked in the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare, Philadelphia City Council, and has served as deputy commissioner for children services in the Philadelphia Health Department.

 

Leticia Egea-Hinton

As a speaker of English and Spanish, Leticia Egea-Hinton has attended Chestnut Hill College, Alvernia University, and received a master’s in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently teaches classes on social welfare at Alvernia. In her career, she has worked in Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services/Adult Services, Office of Emergency Shelter and Services, and most recently served as the assistant managing director for the Office of Supportive Housing. She has served as an advisory board member at PHMC/Care Clinic and is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and a board member of Trinity Health/Nazareth Hospital. Egea-Hinton was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents.

 

Mallory Fix Lopez

Mallory Fix Lopez has lived in Philadelphia for 15 years, having moved here to pursue bachelor and master degrees in education. During her graduate work, she studied teaching English to speakers of other languages and concentrated in curriculum, instruction, and technology in education. She has both taught and volunteered in Philadelphia public schools in social studies and English as a second language. More recently, she has served as the ESL director and program founder at the Garces Foundation and taught at Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and currently the Community College of Philadelphia. Lopez also helps run a restaurant in Point Breeze along with her husband, a chef. She’s worked extensively with the community group at George W. Childs School and plans to send her oldest child there. Lopez is a first-generation college graduate who attended public schools in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

 

Lee Huang

Lee Huang has lived in Philadelphia for more than 26 years. He earned a bachelor of science degree in economics at the Wharton Business School and a master’s in public administration from the Fels Institute of Government, both at the University of Pennsylvania. He has worked at The Enterprise Center and currently serves as the senior vice president and principal at Econsult Solutions. He has served on the board of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia Advisory Board, and the Urban Affairs Coalition Impact Development Roundtable Committee Leadership. He has three children, two of whom attend the Penn Alexander School and one who will attend Penn Alexander. Huang is also a current member of the Philadelphia Water Rate Board. He runs a blog called “The Musings of an Urban Christian.”

 

Maria McColgan

A mother of two, Maria McColgan has taught at three different Philadelphia public schools. She received a bachelor of arts and master degrees in education as well as a medical degree from the Temple University School of Medicine. She currently works for the CARES Institute at Rowan University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. She previously worked at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children while pursuing training in child abuse pediatrics. She has served on the boards of the PA Children’s Trust Fund, Philadelphia Academy Charter School, and Prevent Child Abuse (of which she was the founding chairwoman). McColgan’s husband, Joseph McColgan, is a former congressional and City Council candidate who now heads SS. John Neumman and Maria Goretti High School in South Philadelphia. McColgan’s brother, Val DiGiorgio, chairs the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.

 

Wayne Walker

Wayne Walker is the president of Walker Nell Partners Inc., an international business consulting firm with a focus on corporate governance, turnaround management, corporate restructuring, and bankruptcy matters. Walker has extensive experience as a board member of large and complex organizations, including Habitat for Humanity and the National Philanthropic Trust.

 

Angela McIver

Angela McIver has been a resident of Philadelphia for 25 years and has three children who attend Philadelphia public schools. She holds a history degree from Hampton University, a master’s degree in education from Temple University, and a doctorate in mathematics education from the University of Pennsylvania. She has served on the board of the University City Arts League and currently serves on the board of the nonprofit How I Decide. She has taught in the Norristown Area School District; directed the Upward Bound Program at both Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania; directed the Mastery Charter Thomas School transition; and founded the Trapezium Math Club. This research-based company focuses on helping children build strong foundational math skills through engaging after-school programming. McIver also helped found Mastery Charter Schools, according to an online bio.

 

Chris McGinley

Chris McGinley, the product of Philadelphia schools, comes from a family of educators. He currently serves as coordinator for the Educational Leadership Program at Temple University where he is an associate professor. McGinley became a mayoral appointee to the School Reform Commission in January 2017 and helped shepherd significant progress for the district, including a new contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the decision to return the district to local control. He has experience as a Philadelphia public school teacher, principal, and district level administrator. He has also served as a superintendent in Lower Merion and Cheltenham. McGinley earned a bachelor’s degree from Temple University in elementary education, a master’s in special education from Antioch University, and a doctorate in organizational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. He has served on the boards of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Research for Action, and the National Adoption Center.

 

Joyce Wilkerson

Joyce Wilkerson has an extensive career in public service. She most recently served as a mayoral appointee and chair of the SRC, where she oversaw milestones such as the creation of a new teachers contract and the return to local control. Wilkerson started off in Philadelphia as an attorney with Community Legal Services, and she later served as chief of staff to Mayor John Street. She helped to stabilize the Philadelphia Gas Works and chaired the board of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. She is currently a member of the board at the Merchant Fund, Scribe Video Center, Brandywine Workshop and Committee of Seventy. Wilkerson earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that unlike similar previous panels, there are no practicing lawyers on Philadelphia’s new school board.

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