The School Reform Commission has two new members. Farah Jimenez and Bill Green were sworn in as commissioners at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Green is chairman of the five-member volunteer panel.
They were sworn in by Family Court Judge Kevin Dougherty, who reminded them that "education is the vaccine against violence." Dougherty said that with the addition of Green and Jimenez, he believed that "we are truly on the right path. We have two great advocates."
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. was in attendance, as were family members of each.
Green's City Council seat is now officially vacant. His resignation took effect when he took the oath of office for the SRC.
After the swearing-in, Green said his priority would be to help implement Hite's newly-released Action Plan v.2.0, an ambitious plan to fix the Philadelphia School District.
And while the district's fiscal situation is a concern, Green said, "money is not the only solution" to boosting schools. As he has in the past, Green said that the district cannot improve without major changes to the teachers' contract. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has been without a contract since August, and negotiations are proceeding slowly.
Now that the SRC is back to full strength - it has been operating with only four members since October - it's time to get things going, Green said.
"I know Dr. Hite is out of patience," the chairman said. "We'll be guided by his timetable."
Going into budget 2014-15 season, there is a renewed sense of urgency around the teachers' contract, Hite said. The nearly-broke district has budgeted on over $100 million in savings from its unions over five years.
"We don't have time to continue with the status quo," said Hite.
Jimenez, who presented Green with a school-themed pen set "because he's got a lot of things to sign," joked that she was receiving equal parts congratulations and condolences from people when they heard about her new role.
But she's optimistic, she said.
"The district is poised for transformation," said Jimenez.
The new members' work begins immediately. The SRC meets tonight in a public strategy session about ethics.
As an aside: now that there's a vacancy on Council, it's up to Council President Darrell Clarke to call a special election to fill Green's at-large seat. Asked who should replace him, Green said he didn't know. But, he said, there's no need to rush. Clarke could keep the seat vacant for as long as he likes, and should wait until the right candidate comes along.