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Panel names eight candidates for two Philadelphia school board vacancies

A view of the Philadelphia City Hall from Market Street in downtown Philadelphia.

Philadelphia City Hall. On May 16, a city panel sent eight candidates to Mayor Jim Kenney for two school board vacancies. He has 10 days to ask for more names; otherwise, he has 20 days to make his picks for the board.

Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images

Philadelphia’s Education Nominating Panel on Monday recommended eight candidates to Mayor Jim Kenney to fill two vacant seats on the nine-member Board of Education.

The eight – two more than required – include a college student, several district parents, the founder of a suicide-prevention organization, a former teacher who is now a pastor, a partner in a consulting business, a charter school parent, an education activist, and the head of a community development organization. 

The panel, headed by former city solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante, chose the eight from among 62 applicants. The panel held two executive sessions and interviewed candidates in small groups before choosing the eight finalists, according to Sarah Peterson, a city spokeswoman.

According to the City Charter, the names now go to Mayor Jim Kenney, who has 10 days to request more candidates, or 20 days to make his selections if he doesn’t ask for more names. The City Council must give “advice and consent” regarding Kenney’s choices.

The eight nominees are: 

  • Sarah-Ashley Andrews, a graduate of Philadelphia’s W.B. Saul High School who earned a B.A. in biblical studies from Lancaster Bible College and works as a physical therapist. She founded Dare 2 Hope, a suicide prevention nonprofit.
  • Elyse Castillo, a public health student at Temple University and the LGBTQ+ parent of three district students. Castillo has served on the board’s Parent and Community Advisory Council and other district-related groups. 
  • Jerome Glover, a district graduate and parent who is associate pastor of Enon Tabernacle Church. He taught in the district for more than 10 years and also served as an assistant principal in Delaware County.
  • Daniel Hopkins, a district parent and political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose research focuses on systemic racism in large bureaucratic organizations. 
  • Gavin Kerians, who also attended city public schools and is a partner at Rox Strategy, a management consulting business. He also worked for Madison Square Garden, Altice USA, and Accenture. He is founder and president of the Philadelphia Catholic League Service Corps. His wife is a special education teacher in the district.
  • Chau Wing Lam, a charter school parent who currently directs the Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders, a principal training organization that works with district, charter, and religious schools. She formerly worked in the district’s administration. 
  • Pep Marie, the coalition coordinator for Our City Our Schools, a co-founder and researcher at the Philly Participatory Research Collective. Marie has also been a chapter leader in the Philadelphia Student Union. Marie graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.
  • Bill McKinney, the executive director of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation. He chaired the School Reform Commission’s task force to address drop-out rates for Black and Latino male students, and also used to work at The Food Trust. He has a doctorate in urban anthropology from Temple.  

According to the City Charter, the panel must submit three names for each open seat, but in this case it “opted to submit eight names to ensure that the Mayor had a diverse pool of candidates,” Peterson said.   

The 13-member Education Nominating Panel is appointed by the mayor. Four members represent the public at large, while nine represent constituencies specified in the City Charter, including higher education, organized labor, parent-teacher groups, and community groups. 

At Monday’s virtual meeting where the panel released the names of the eight finalistss, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools co-founder Lisa Haver called the panel “a travesty” because it conducted much of its business regarding the candidates in secret. 

The panel perpetuates “the disenfranchisement of the people of the city,” she said, adding that Philadelphia is the only school district in Pennsylvania where members are appointed by the mayor rather than elected. “We do not have local control; we have absolute mayoral control,” Haver said.

The Philadelphia Board of Education oversees a district with 216 schools and more than 100,000 students, and funds more than 70 charter schools with another 80,000 students. Its 2021-2022 budget totals $3.2 billion

Board members are unpaid. 

The school board approves the district’s budget, but cannot raise revenue for its operating budget. It is dependent on the city and state for most of its funds.

Dale Mezzacappa is a senior writer for Chalkbeat Philadelphia, where she covers K-12 schools and early childhood education in Philadelphia. Contact Dale at dmezzacappa@chalkbeat.org.

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