Phila. School District names new principal for Penn Alexander School

Michael T. Farrell, who worked both in the Philadelphia School District and in charter schools, has been named principal of Penn Alexander School in West Philadelphia, the district announced Wednesday.

Farrell will replace founding principal Sheila A. Sydnor, who is retiring at the end of this academic year.Sydnor, who began her career in the district as a teacher in 1975, was chosen to lead Penn Alexander in 2001 after a national search.

"The Penn Alexander School is one of the brightest spots in the School District of Philadelphia as a result of Sheila Sydnor's stellar leadership," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said in the announcement. "For more than four decades, she has led Philadelphia students towards excellence, both inside and outside of the classroom. We are excited that Michael Farrell will build on the school's tradition of success and wish Ms. Sydnor well in retirement."

Farrell is the founding principal of Mastery Charter Schools' Thomas Elementary School in South Philadelphia, which opened in 2013.

He has experience as an assistant principal, school leader, special-education coordinator, and teacher at several district schools, including the Science Leadership Academy.

Hite chose Farrell in consultation with a committee of teachers, the school's advisory council, the Home and School Association, representatives of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the University of Pennsylvania, and district officials.

The committee provided feedback and information during a three-month process that included interviews and visits to the school.

The Penn Alexander School was created through a partnership involving the district, Penn, and the PFT. Penn provides assistance for the K-8 school at 4209 Spruce St.

Nominated by the U.S. Department of Education to be a national Blue Ribbon School, Penn Alexander was honored by the district for its academic performance on the district's 2014-15 School Progress Report.

martha.woodall@phillynews.com 215-854-2789 @marwooda