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Nominating Panel recommends 27 Board of Education candidates to mayor

Eight current board members are on the list; new candidates are expected to vie for one open spot.

Members of the school board listen to comments from elected officials during the first Board of Education meeting in 2018. Board Vice President Wayne Walker (second from right) is the only current board member who did not seek another term.

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

The Educational Nominating Panel sent its recommendations of 27 candidates for the Board of Education to Mayor Kenney. Members voted on their selections at a public meeting Wednesday after deliberating behind closed doors.

Of the 27 names, eight are current board members, and Kenney is expected to reappoint all of them. There is one open seat due to Board Vice President Wayne Walker’s decision to step down for personal reasons.

The City Charter requires the Nominating Panel to send the mayor three names for each opening, and he has 10 days to request additional candidates from the panel if he wants more choices. During the first board member selection in 2018, the mayor did ask the panel to send him more names, but at that time, he was appointing an entirely new board after the city regained control of the School District from the state.

After the mayor makes his picks, City Council must approve the appointments, a step that is new this year.

The next school board term will begin on May 1.

The advocacy group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) has protested the nominating process for its secrecy, noting that Philadelphia is the only school district in the Commonwealth that doesn’t elect its board members.

The new candidates – besides the eight current board members who are expected to return – are listed below with short biographies provided by the Mayor’s Office.

Dr. Valerie Adams-Bass
Valerie Adams-Bass is a professor and researcher specializing in youth development and education. She lives in Philadelphia and is an assistant professor of Youth and Social Innovation for the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Valerie attended public schools in Philadelphia and earned her master’s degree in education from Temple University and her doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She has consulted for the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s Center for Youth Development and Foundations Inc. and has served as a site and program coordinator for school-based programs through the University of Pennsylvania Center for Community Partnerships.

Ameen Akbar
Ameen Akbar is a native Philadelphian and graduate of District schools and has dedicated his career to youth and talent development and fostering positive school experiences for students. Ameen worked for 14 years at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School in various capacities providing case management, mentoring, and service-learning opportunities to returning out-of-school youth. While at YouthBuild, Ameen led the program’s redesign to successfully introduce a restorative approach to school climate and student behavior. He is now a senior associate at Grovider, supporting organizations to develop learning and development strategies. He continues to support youth development as the lead facilitator of Universal Companies’ BoysToMen program and as an assistant basketball coach at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School. Ameen earned his bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University.

Sarah-Ashley Andrews
Sarah-Ashley Andrews is a product of Philadelphia public schools. She attended W.B. Saul High School before attending undergraduate classes at Bloomsburg University and eventually earning a Bachelor of Arts in biblical studies with a minor in human services from Lancaster Bible College. Since returning to Philadelphia, she has been a staunch advocate for living mentally well, managing anger, and educating youth and adults on suicide through in-school programming and partnerships. Sarah-Ashley is completing a master’s degree in counseling psychology at Lincoln University.

Dawn Ang
As an immigrant from Singapore, Dawn Ang has lived in Philadelphia since 1998. Her oldest son is a recent graduate of Philadelphia public schools, and her younger son is currently enrolled in a public school. Dawn has been a fierce supporter of children with special needs, her one son having special needs of his own. She has organized funding and events for various nonprofit organizations, including $2 million in grants and the International Moebius Syndrome Foundation’s largest conference to date.

Dario Bellot
Fluent in both English and Spanish, Dario Bellot earned his Bachelor of Arts in international business and his Master’s in Business Administration in Argentina before taking business classes at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Dario has served as Finance Director of a multi-billion-dollar company, Senior Vice President of Administration for Congreso de Latinos Unidos, and is currently the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. He has also served various nonprofit organizations, including several public charter schools, the Mayor’s Commission of People with Disabilities, and the Seybert Foundation for Poor Boys and Girls.

Alison Cohen
Alison Cohen is a proud Philadelphian and a product of public schools. After graduating from the University of Virginia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she became a consultant on environmental issues and ultimately co-founded and currently runs Bicycle Transit Systems, a company that leads the nation in deploying and managing urban bike-share systems. Alison has experience overseeing large budgets and working with public agencies. She lives with her wife and three young children.

Susan DeJarnatt
As a Philadelphia resident since 1974 and a Philadelphia public school parent, Susan DeJarnatt is deeply committed to providing every child with equitable access to a high-quality education. As a law professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, Susan has written extensively on school reform and its impact on Philadelphia. She has also served as a faculty adviser to the Student Discipline Advocacy Service and, formerly, to Temple’s Youth Courts practicum. As a board member of the Education Law Center, Susan has written extensively about the need for integrity, disclosure, and elimination of conflicts of interest within nonprofits. Susan is a graduate of Temple University’s School of Law and Oberlin College. Her son and daughter both attended District schools.

A.J. Ernst
A.J. Ernst has worked in Philadelphia and New Jersey schools for over a decade and is now the Dean of High School Academy for Girard College. A.J. has taught middle school science, served as Director of Culture for Young Scholars Charter School, and is the co-founder of Arete Preparatory Academy. A.J. currently serves on the board of Young Involved Philly. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College and his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, where he is finishing his doctoral degree.

Cindy Farlino
Cindy Farlino was the Principal of Meredith Elementary from 2008 to 2016, and more recently has served as a project manager for the Picasso School-Wide Arts Integration Project. She is actively involved in the School District of Philadelphia’s Facilities Lead Paint Council. Cindy has experience with the School District of Philadelphia as a parent, teacher, assistant principal, and director of instruction. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Boston University and her master’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Cheryl Harper
Cheryl Harper attended Philadelphia public schools and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Cheyney University, as well as a master’s degree and superintendent’s letter of eligibility from Arcadia University. For the Philadelphia School District, Cheryl has served as the Director of Employment Services, Head Start Instructional Facilitator, and School Assistance Team Case Manager. She has also served the Camden School District as the Executive Director of Human Resources and is now the Student Teacher Site Director for Drexel University’s Department of Education.

Tremaine Johnson
Tremaine Johnson has lived in Philadelphia for 14 years and has worked in and alongside school systems in various roles for nearly two decades. Currently the DEI Partner for Catalyst:Ed, an education nonprofit, Tremaine has also worked in Camden’s education system as the Deputy Director of JerseyCAN, and as the board liaison for Camden City School District. In Philadelphia, Tremaine served in multiple leadership roles within Teach for America, including executive director of Teach For America Greater Philadelphia. Tremaine has worked directly in district and charter schools as an English teacher, program coordinator, grant writer, and director of admissions. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Gavin Keirans
Gavin Keirans attended Philadelphia public schools as a child and has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Penn State University. Now a Partner at Riptide Partners, a management consulting business, Gavin has previous leadership and management experience as the Vice President for the Madison Square Garden Company, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Altice USA, and Management Consultant for Accenture. He is the founder and president of the Philadelphia Catholic League Service Corps and was the Executive Director of New Leaders Council Philadelphia from 2012 to 2015.

Chad Lassiter
Chad Lassiter is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work in Charlotte, North Carolina, before receiving his master’s in the same discipline at the University of Pennsylvania. His career began as a school-based therapist at Palumbo Elementary School in Philadelphia. He went on to be a social worker at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. In the same organization, he served as a behavioral interventionist and researcher. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University and served as the Executive Director of Red Cross House and Recovery for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. He has also served on various mayoral committees and has been a member of the board of the Community College of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Prison System, and has served on the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males.

Dr. Donna Laws
Donna Laws has extensive experience as a legislative staffer and in the field of supportive housing services. She is currently a case manager for a transitional housing program and has worked in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Donna earned her doctoral degree in Human Services Administration and Social Policy Analysis from Walden University and attended graduate school at Lincoln University after graduating from Temple University. She currently serves on the education committee of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence, served for 11 years as an Executive Committee Member for the Philadelphia NAACP, and was on the Board of Trustees for Lincoln University from 2010 to 2019.

Nina Liou
Nina Liou has lived in Philadelphia since 2002, and for over 20 years has been a consultant on affordable housing with specific emphasis on public housing and neighborhood revitalization. The parent of two students in District-run schools, Nina served for four years as the president of the Bache-Martin Home & School Association and was the founder of the Friends of Bache-Martin. She is a board member for Community Ventures. Nina has a bachelor of business administration degree and a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s degree in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rosybell Maria
Rosybell Maria began her K-12 education in Philadelphia public schools. As a first-generation low-income student, she earned dual degrees in international relations and modern languages from Seton Hall University. Her education has taken her to Rabat, Morocco, as a student and to Milan, Italy, as a U.S. Student Ambassador. Recently, she served for nearly two years as a scholarships officer for the Philadelphia Foundation, advancing growth and improvements in the Foundation’s scholarship funds and processes. Passionate about supporting other first-generation and low-income students, Rosybell is now a master’s of public administration degree and master’s of education degree candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, a Fellow at the University’s ImpactED program, and a coordinator for the University’s Office of Global Support Services.

William Peebles
William Peebles graduated from Philadelphia public schools and has since been involved with public schools as a PTA president, treasurer, volunteer, and general member. He was the program director for the Education Leading to Careers and Training (ELECT) program at the School District of Philadelphia, which helps teen parents complete their high school education. He has also worked as Director of the Diversity Apprenticeship Program and more recently as a Contracting Officer overseeing career training for 1,300 at-risk youth. He is a member of the Philadelphia Workforce Board and the University of Pennsylvania Economic Inclusion Committee.

Andrew Stober
Andrew Stober earned his bachelor of science in business administration degree from Northeastern University before receiving his master’s degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He has served on the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Temple University Institute of Survey Research, and the Passyunk Square Civic Association. He was the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Chief of Staff in the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities and was Vice President of Planning and Economic Development for the University City District before becoming the Manager of Public Partnerships at Waze. His son attends a Philadelphia public school.

Dr. David Thomas
David Thomas is the Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, Dean for the Division of Access & Community Engagement, and Executive Director for the Institute for Community Engagement and Civic Leadership at Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). David’s work at CCP over the last decade has created new pathways to college and credit-bearing opportunities for high school students in Philadelphia. David was previously the National Director of School Support Services for Victory Education Partners and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Wilmington University, St. Joseph’s University, and Peirce College. David attended Philadelphia public schools and earned his doctoral degree in education from Wilmington University, his master’s degree in education from Temple University, and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cairn University.

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