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McGinley, Wilkerson resign from SRC; mayor names Neff and Fran Burns

The moves were made as the School District transitions to governance by the new Board of Education.

Darryl Murphy

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

Christopher McGinley and Joyce Wilkerson have resigned from the School Reform Commission, and Mayor Kenney has named Marge Neff and Fran Burns to succeed them. Gov. Wolf appointed Estelle Richman as the new chair. SRC members cannot be named as members of the new school board. This indicates that McGinley and Wilkerson are likely to be among the nine new school board members. The mayor must name the new members by April 5.

Following is the text of the District’s press release:

PHILADELPHIA — School Reform Commission (SRC) Chair Joyce Wilkerson and fellow SRC Commissioner Dr. Christopher McGinley have submitted resignation letters to Mayor Jim Kenney. Governor Wolf has named current SRC Commissioner Estelle Richman to serve as Chair of the School Reform Commission.

“I want to thank Joyce and Chris for their service and I am honored by Governor Wolf for his appointment,” said newly named SRC Chair Estelle Richman. “I am ready to work hand in hand when the new Board of Education is named to ensure a smooth transition that provides stability, continuity and maintains the progress and momentum we have fought so hard to achieve.”

Both Wilkerson and McGinley are nominees for the new Board of Education and must resign in order to be considered by Mayor Kenney for the new nine-person board that the Mayor will formally name in the coming days. Links to their resignations letters can be found below:

Commissioner Joyce Wilkerson’s Letter

Commissioner Dr. Christopher McGinley’s Letter

Mayor Kenney has appointed two names familiar with Philadelphia public schools to fill the remaining terms of Wilkerson and McGinley. Former SRC Chair Marge Neff and former School District Chief of Operations Fran Burns will serve for the remainder of the SRC term, which ends on June 30th of this year.

“In this time of transition from the SRC to the new Board of Education it is important to have two voices on the SRC who are ready on day one. Marge Neff and Fran Burns need no introduction to the issues that face the School District of Philadelphia,” said Mayor Kenney. “I thank them for once again serving the students and families of our public schools.”

“I have enjoyed working with SRC Chair Joyce Wilkerson and Dr. Chris McGinley and I am thankful for their hard work, leadership and service to the children, parents and advocates of Philadelphia’s public schools,” said Dr. William Hite Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.

“I applaud Mayor Kenney for his choice of Marge Neff and Fran Burns to serve on the SRC during this important transition period. They are committed public servants and strong public education advocates who have the experience and expertise to support a smooth changeover to the new Board of Education. As we make the transition to local control, our focus will remain on improving early literacy, increasing graduation rates and maintaining our hard-fought fiscal stability,” added Hite.

Chairwoman Neff, a former Principal at the National Blue Ribbon Julia R. Masterman High School, was appointed as a member of the SRC by former Mayor Michael Nutter in July 2014 to complete the term of former Commissioner Wendell Pritchett. She was named Chair by Governor Wolf in March of 2015 and served until October of 2016. “I am proud to be able to continue to serve the students of Philadelphia and I look forward to supporting a smooth return to local control,” said Neff.

Fran Burns is a lifelong city resident who served as the district’s Chief of Operations from 2013 to 2017. She previously worked as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) and has more than 20 years public sector experience in operations, management and public finance. She currently is a Senior Advisor to Econsult Solutions and teaches classes in public administration at her alma mater, Villanova University. “The School District has made great progress under Dr. Hite and I am honored by Mayor Kenney’s appointment to serve during this important transition,” added Burns.

Burns helped guide the District through many challenging situations, including the renegotiation of major procurement and labor contracts, and a comprehensive analysis of the District’s capital needs. She also received the 2017 COO Distinguished Service Award from the Council of Great City Schools and under her leadership, the district was named a National Green Ribbon School for the district’s work on their Green Futures initiative.

Burns and Neff’s first SRC meeting will be the April 19 budget hearing.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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