Wednesday, July 16, 2014
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Praise and reproach from Nutter on SRC nominations

Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Green was selected by Gov. Corbett to head the School Reform Commission. At left is Farah Jimenez, who was selected as an SRC member. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer )
Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Green was selected by Gov. Corbett to head the School Reform Commission. At left is Farah Jimenez, who was selected as an SRC member. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer )
Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Green was selected by Gov. Corbett to head the School Reform Commission. At left is Farah Jimenez, who was selected as an SRC member. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer ) Gallery: Praise and reproach from Nutter on SRC nominations

Gov. Corbett on Friday remade the School Reform Commission - and possibly the Philadelphia School District - in announcing two new choices for the panel.

Corbett will nominate City Councilman Bill Green, a Democrat, and social-services advocate Farah Jimenez, a Republican, to the SRC. If approved by the state Senate, Green would have to resign his Council seat and would become SRC chair.

But even as the governor praised the nominees, Mayor Nutter stepped into the fray. He lauded Jimenez, but called Green's selection "quite frankly, perplexing."

The mayor said he was concerned about Green's votes against some education funding measures and his published views on public education."

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  • Sources with knowledge of the discussions said that when Nutter learned that Green was likely to be tapped for SRC chairman, he balked and threatened to blame the district's budget woes on the governor if Corbett went forward with the nomination.

    Corbett chose Green anyway. The governor and his team, one source said, "just reached the conclusion that there was nobody they could pick that had their world view that Nutter was going to be happy with."

    Nutter and Green have long been at odds. Nutter said his objections were about policy, not personalities.

    "If your record has not been one of significant, strong, long-term support" for public schools, the mayor said, "that gives one concern."

    In the past, Green has suggested that "radical and transformative" changes were needed in the district - more charters, fewer district schools, vouchers, more academic and social supports. Recently, however, he said his views on the district had evolved.

    Nutter, who said he had recently spoken with Green, said he "did not hear a tremendous amount of evolution."

    Green was taken aback.

    "I'm disappointed in that reaction," Green said in an interview. "As I said when the governor made the announcement, I look forward to working with Mayor Nutter on something that we agree on - providing a free, quality education to Philadelphia's children."

    Others praised Green.

    Officials from the Philadelphia School Partnership, an organization that has quickly amassed millions to help expand successful schools, said the SRC candidates were good.

    "Bill Green is an outstanding choice to chair the commission," Mark Gleason, head of the group, said in a statement. "He has a proven record of achievement on Philadelphia City Council, where he has championed the cause of public education as one of the fundamental drivers of the city's economic development and prosperity."

    Corbett said he was confident that Green and Jimenez were up to the jobs.

    "With these two nominations, I believe we are adding fresh talent and true dedication to the School Reform Commission as we move toward assuring every child in Philadelphia an education worthy of their talents and dreams," the governor said at a news conference in his Center City office.

    Corbett, who has drawn sharp criticism for the deep cuts to education during his term, said his focus was on moving forward.

    "It's not about how much we spend. It's about how well we invest it in education," he said, adding that "the school-funding crisis here in Philadelphia is not new."

    Corbett and Green said one of the most urgent tasks ahead for the SRC was settling the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract. The district is banking on about $100 million in concessions from its largest union, some of which must cover this school year's bills.

    Asked whether he believed the SRC should move to impose terms on the union, as the state takeover law permits, Green said: "The SRC has broad powers to do what it needs to do to provide a quality education for our children, and it should use all of the powers that it has to ensure that it is doing the best it can for the city of Philadelphia."

    PFT president Jerry Jordan said the union "has concerns" about Green.

    "At a time of unprecedented financial crisis, we hope that he has reconsidered his past support of vouchers and charter-school expansion that would drive millions of dollars away from Philadelphia's public schools," Jordan said in a statement.

    Green would replace Pedro Ramos, who resigned in October because of a family emergency. Jimenez would take the place of Joseph Dworetzky, whose term expires this month.

    Attention now moves to the Senate confirmation process. Green and Jimenez are expected to meet with legislators in Harrisburg and could be approved in time for the next SRC voting meeting, scheduled for Feb. 20.

    Green does not have to resign from Council until he is confirmed.

    Under the City Charter, the president of Council must initiate a special election to fill any vacancies on the 17-member Council for the balance of the four-year term.

    Council President Darrell L. Clarke, speaking to reporters outside his office Friday, said it was premature to discuss a special election to fill Green's seat.

    "At this point," Clarke said, "we don't have a vacancy."


    kgraham@phillynews.com

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    Inquirer staff writer Bob Warner contributed to this article.

    Kristen A. Graham and Jeff Gammage Inquirer Staff Writers
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