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Much still unresolved with SRC

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

Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission can now muster a quorum, but there’s still no word on when it will resume business.

On Tuesday, the SRC indefinitely postponed its scheduled Wednesday meeting, the second such cancellation this month. By not meeting, the commission delayed action on approximately 29 pending resolutions dealing with issues ranging from operations to procurement.

According to District spokesperson Fernando Gallard, a joint District-SRC analysis showed that “there would be no negative effect if we were to wait two to three weeks to act on these resolutions.”

Tuesday, Mayor Michael Nutter appointed Wendell Pritchett to fill one of three vacant seats on the five-member board, giving the commission the minimum number of members needed in order to take formal action.

Pritchett will be filling the remaining 18 months on the term of former chair Robert Archie, who resigned on Monday.

The SRC has not yet rescheduled Wednesday’s cancelled meeting, which will be the first for Pritchett. The next meeting on the SRC’s official calendar is not until October 12.

Before it can meet, the SRC will need a new chairperson.

For weeks, there has been speculation that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett would name Pedro Ramos, whom he appointed to the commission last month, as chair. Ramos, however, must first be confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate. At the moment, Senate hearings on Ramos’ nomination are not scheduled until next month.

A Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesperson did not return a call for comment. District spokesperson Gallard said he had no information about when a new or acting chairperson might be named.

“It could happen at any time,” he said.

Monday, Commissioner Johnny Irizarry resigned several hours after Archie submitted his resignation.

Nutter still must appoint someone to fill one of those seats. Mark McDonald, the mayor’s spokesperson, reiterated on Wednesday that there is no timeline yet for that decision. McDonald did say, however, that any new appointee would be filling Irizarry’s term, which, like Archie’s, began in April 2009 and was slated to run til April 2013.

Before Tuesday’s appointment of Pritchett, the commission only had two acting members, Denise McGregor Armbrister and Joseph Dworetkzy, both of whom were appointed by former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Multiple reports have surfaced that Gov. Corbett will tap Feather Houstoun, the former head of the William Penn Foundation, to replace Armbrister when her term expires in January. Corbett has declined to comment.

Despite the uncertainty on the SRC, the District faces any number of major challenges and policy decisions in the coming months. To resolve an ongoing budget gap, District officials are still seeking tens of millions of dollars in concessions from labor unions – and issuing layoff notices when they don’t get them. As part of the District’s ongoing facilities master planning process, dozens of school closings are expected to be announced in October.

Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery intends to stay the course, said Gallard.

“He has made it very clear that he will move forward with the initiatives that are currently on the books,” said Gallard. “We will continue to work with the SRC. We see at this time no changes.”