Gov. Wolf nominates Estelle B. Richman to SRC

Former state Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman.

Two weeks after word spread that Gov. Wolf would tap former state Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman for a seat on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, he made it official.

Wolf announced Friday that he would nominate Richman to fill the unpaid post on the five-member panel that Feather Houstoun vacated Oct. 14.

As a governor's pick, Richman, 73, must be confirmed by the state Senate. It is unclear when that may occur. The Senate is in recess and is not scheduled to return until Nov. 16. And Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf's spokesman, said he was not sure when the governor would submit Richman's nomination for consideration.

"I have worked with Estelle in many capacities, and she is one of the most dedicated and qualified individuals I know," Wolf said in a statement. "Estelle's experience is unmatched and her breadth of knowledge and grasp of a diverse array of policy issues make her a perfect fit for the School Reform Commission."

Richman, who spent three decades in public service for the state, city, and federal government, recently retired from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a senior adviser.

She has strong family ties to the field of education and holds a master's degree in community psychology with a certification in school psychology.

"I have had an interest in children for my entire professional career," Richman, of Philadelphia, said Friday. "Education for me holds the key to whether a child has a future or will have to struggle for most of their life. I look forward to trying to change the myth that large city schools can't work."

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. praised the governor's choice.

"Estelle Richman is a terrific choice to join the School Reform Commission," he said. "I look forward to working with her to improve learning opportunities for children across the city."

He said Richman "has a lifetime of experience fighting for and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, and her commitment to improving the lives of our citizens in Philadelphia and across the commonwealth is unmatched."

State Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D., Phila.) echoed those sentiments.

"There is probably no one who has handled more complicated agencies and problems in Pennsylvania than Estelle Richman," he said. "She is one of the best public administrators I have seen - and I've seen a lot."

Hughes said during Richman's tenure as public welfare secretary, she demonstrated a clear ability to work with both sides of the aisle in Harrisburg.

"I think the SRC should be abolished," Hughes said. "But if we're going to have one, she is who we need over there."

Under the law that led to the state takeover of the district in 2001, the governor selects three SRC members and the mayor appoints two.

With SRC Chair Marjorie Neff set to leave Nov. 3, Mayor Kenney is expected to announce his choice soon. Mayoral appointments to the commission do not require confirmation.

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