As a Philadelphia resident, a former member of the School Reform Commission, and a parent of children who attended Philadelphia public schools, I am encouraged by the sustained, steady progress that the School District of Philadelphia has made in recent years. Reading scores and graduation rates are on the rise. There are no longer any “persistently dangerous” schools. And the district now has contracts with each of its unions. There is still work to be done to ensure that every child can attend a quality school in Philadelphia, but I am confident that the School District is headed in the right direction.
To ensure that we stay the course, it is time for Philadelphians to lead. Our city’s success depends on the success of our schools; it is high time that Philadelphians take full responsibility for our education system.
Today, that means applying for the new school board — or nominating someone else. If you are (or know someone who is) a resident of Philadelphia, a registered voter, and passionate about education, please take the time this week to submit your name and explain why you or your nominee would be a good addition to the board.
I am one of 13 members of an educational nominating panel tasked with recommending a list of board candidates to the mayor next month. By law, we have just 40 days to create a final list — and the clock started on Jan. 19. The panel’s members represent the diverse perspectives, talents, and experiences that make Philadelphia great. We are former teachers, public school parents, activists, attorneys, youth organizers, faith leaders and more.
In the coming weeks, we will read through applications, interview Philadelphians who are passionate about shaping the future of education, and ultimately recommend 27 names to the mayor for his final selection. As we review candidates, the Mayor’s Office of Education is conducting a robust outreach effort, including community sessions, which will help us collect information from Philadelphians in every zip code about what they want to see in their future schools and Board of Education members.
We on the nominating panel are eager to meet and hear from those who are ready for this great challenge: overseeing a public school system that educates 200,000 children with a $3 billion budget.
Our goal is to present Mayor Kenney with a diverse slate of nominees, who will bring relevant expertise and personal experience to the significant and often difficult decisions that await our new board. We will look for candidates with a strong sense of ethics and accountability, passion for public education, solid judgment, and commitment to the long-term success of our students and schools. A board composed of people with diverse training and experience, who are able to work well together with others, is most likely to enable us to achieve such success.
As residents of Philadelphia, the nominating panel members are personally committed to doing our very best to ensure that our city’s children are in good hands. But the list we propose in a few short weeks will only be as strong as the pool of submissions that we receive.
The deadline to apply to the board, or nominate someone else, is Feb. 7. I encourage residents to submit names through the City of Philadelphia’s website as soon as possible.
This is an exciting time for public education in Philadelphia, with so many options for Philadelphians to get involved. You can join your local school advisory council, home and school association or friends-of group, or volunteer with one of the city’s many excellent educational nonprofits. During this rare window of opportunity, though, I hope many of you will consider joining the brand-new Philadelphia Board of Education and ensuring that our entire school system continues to build on its hard-won success.
Wendell Pritchett is chair of the educational nominating panel and provost of the University of Pennsylvania.