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Wolf’s education transition committee has heavy Philadelphia presence

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

Half of the members of Gov.-elect Tom Wolf’s 18-person transition committee for education issues have Philadelphia ties, including co-chair Pedro Rivera, the Lancaster superintendent.

Rivera was born and raised in Philadelphia and spent 13 years in the system as a teacher, principal, and director of human resources before heading to Lancaster in 2008. There he has drawn attention for improving student achievement and the district’s financial position.

Other members with Philadelphia ties include Lisa Nutter, CEO of Philadelphia Academies (and wife of Mayor Nutter); Darlene Callands, CEO of African Americans for Educational Opportunities; Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; and former State Rep. Kathy Manderino.

Adam Schott is the policy director for the Philadelphia-based group Research for Action, and he also is a member of the Board of Education in Lancaster.

Jamira Burley, a graduate of Overbrook High School and Temple University, was the head of the Philadelphia Youth Commission until earlier this month. She has taken a position with Amnesty International to work on preventing gun violence. The Rev. Kevin Johnson recently stepped down as head of Bright Hope Baptist Church.

Jim Hardy, a social studies teacher at Kensington Health Sciences High School and founder of the Kensington Soccer Club, is the only working teacher on the panel. There are two principals.

Hardy said he was excited that Wolf chose a teacher to help inform the policy debate and was "honored to be chosen from among the many thousands" in the state.

None of the members could speak yet to the committee’s product and influence, but Hardy said that he hoped to bring the perspective of someone who is working closely with youth in an underserved urban neighborhood both in school and in the community.

He has moved to the neighborhood in which he teaches. The soccer club he founded five years ago now operates year-round and works on many aspects of students’ lives besides soccer, including literacy and leadership.

"Time and again, I’ve seen the amazing transformation young people can undergo when they have a safe and caring school environment, teachers who are allowed to teach and given the resources they need, high academic expectations and support, quality extracurricular programs, and community organizations that augment and support the work done in schools," he said.

The nine other members of the committee are:

  • Co-chair John Sygielski, president of Harrisburg Area Community College.
  • Joe Bard, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools.
  • Mike Crossley, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
  • Larry Davis, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Janine Macklin, engagement and grants manager at Urban Pathways K-5 College Charter School in Pittsburgh.
  • Rich Milner, a professor and director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Greg Taranto, principal of Canonsburg Middle School, outside of Pittsburgh.
  • Sonia Vazquez, principal of Donegan Elementary School in Bethlehem.
  • George White, director of the Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders at Lehigh University.

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