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Committee of Seventy: Governor should form panel to fill SRC seats

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

The sudden resignation of School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos has many asking who his replacement will be. For others, his departure raises the question of how the five-member panel should be selected, especially because the term of another commissioner is set to expire in about three months.

Joseph Dworetzky, who was named to the SRC by former Gov. Ed Rendell, will reach the end of his term in January 2014. Dworetzky has been an outspoken commissioner, unafraid to challenge his fellow SRC members and the District. Back in May, he voted against a stripped-down budget that eliminated nearly everything from schools except a principal and small number of classroom teachers. He also objected to a number of Superintendent William Hite’s proposals to close schools.

At the news of Ramos’ resignation – his term was also set to expire in January 2014 – the Committee of Seventy, a government watchdog group, promptly sent a letter to Gov. Corbett urging him to appoint a nominating panel that would help fill the chairman’s post and replace Dworetzky.

“These are deeply troubling times for the city’s public schools, with unresolved contracts with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, an ongoing fiscal crisis that led to massive personnel cuts and extreme unpredictability about the future of public education in the state’s largest city. Over 200,000 students and their families have been adversely impacted by the chaos and uncertainty,” wrote Zack Stalberg, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, in the letter to the governor.

"These problems present you with a real opportunity for a public process in the exercise of your SRC appointment power.”

The current process for filling SRC seats is that the governor appoints three of the five commissioners and the mayor appoints two. Gubernatorial appointees need to be approved by the Pennsylvania Senate.

Here is a list of the remaining commissioners and when their terms are due to expire.

Commissioner Term expires Appointed by
Wendell Pritchett January 2017 Mayor
Sylvia Simms January 2017 Mayor
Feather Houstoun January 2017 Governor
Joseph Dworetzky January 2014 Governor