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CEO choice coming up; more shifts in leadership at District

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The School District remains on track to appoint a new CEO by the end of the calendar year. Interim CEO Tom Brady has not applied for the position – but says he would be open to staying on in the post if the search comes up empty.

Brady has a multiyear contract with the District as chief operating officer – the position he moved to Philadelphia to take on last spring – and is currently expecting to return to that position when the CEO position is filled.

Meanwhile, more leadership change was in the works, with Gov. Rendell nominating Heidi Ramirez to fill the slot on the School Reform Commission vacated by former SRC Chair James Nevels. Ramirez is director of the Urban Education Collaborative at Temple University’s School of Education and has a doctorate in the sociology of education from Stanford University. Teacher education and teacher quality are among her special interests.

“She has made education her life,” Rendell commented. “She cares very deeply about this.”

Ramirez is of Costa Rican and Irish-German heritage. She is the first Latina to be appointed to the SRC since the body was created in 2002. In accepting the nomination, she said, “I’m honored, and I think I have a real obligation to represent Latinos in a respectful way.”

She has lived in Philadelphia since 2005. Ramirez became a member of the Notebook’s leadership board earlier this year.

Rendell said that he nominated Ramirez partly on the suggestion of Mayor-elect Michael Nutter, who is also expected to put his stamp on education policy (see Nutter’s to do list). Ramirez’s nomination requires approval by the Pennsylvania Senate, and that may not take place till early 2008.

With the appointment, Gov. Rendell has made his second pick of the year for the five-member SRC, as well as having promoted SRC member Sandra Dungee Glenn to serve as SRC chair. Denise McGregor Armbrister took office in the spring.

While his influence over the SRC has grown with these appointments, Rendell said he does not see himself as having a day-to-day role in the governance of the School District. “On the big decisions, I expect to be consulted,” he said.

With the shift in leadership at the Commission, the SRC came out with a statement of its priorities. At the top of the SRC’s agenda is the CEO search, and a candidate pool has been recruited by the Hollins Group, an executive search firm.

The “leadership profile” for the position, developed out of feedback from a series of community meetings, calls for a candidate who is an educator and capable of “high level execution of the best ideas and programs.”

“The next CEO should be characterized more as the ‘head coach’ rather than the ‘star’ of the leadership team,” the profile reads. It also calls for “specific knowledge of the history and current conditions of the School District of Philadelphia.”

An advisory group consisting of as many as 40 community stakeholders has been invited to take part in interviews of the finalists for the CEO position.