Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney appointed two new members to the city’s Board of Education on Tuesday: Sarah-Ashley Andrews, a family therapist who founded a suicide-prevention organization; and Chau Wing Lam, a former district administrator, charter school parent, and official of the Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders.
They will fill vacancies on the nine-member board left following the resignations of Angela McIver and Maria McColgan. The appointees must be confirmed by City Council.
The board had been operating with just eight members since McIver’s resignation last July until this month, when McColgan’s resignation left the board with only seven serving members. Kenney’s appointments of Andrews and Chau Wing mean the board still has only one male member, attorney Reginald Streater.
In a statement, Kenney said the two “have dedicated their careers to supporting children and families, and I know that they will each make important contributions to the Board’s leadership and Philadelphia’s public schools.”
Andrews graduated from W.B. Saul High School before attending Bloomsburg University, where she studied mass communications, before earning a degree in biblical studies, with a minor in human services, from Lancaster Bible College. She also has a master’s degree in counseling from Lincoln University. She now works for TAG Inspires, which provides therapeutic counseling.
Andrews was previously a social worker with the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, a nonprofit public health agency.
After a friend died by suicide a decade ago, she founded Dare 2 Hope, which has educated more than 4,500 young people on suicide awareness and prevention, according to Andrews’s biography on the TAG Inspires site.
She also co-hosts the weekly “Black in Therapy” podcast, dedicated to “normalizing mental wellness in the Black community,” according to the bio.
In a statement released by the mayor’s office, Andrews said that in addition to being a product of the school system, she is “a product of advocates who fought for my educational opportunities” who now stands “committed to educational equity for every student in Philadelphia.
“I am concerned about the whole child, how we can challenge and change unfair systems and norms, and advocate for life-changing educational opportunities,” Andrews said in the statement.
Chau Wing is currently the Director of Operations for the Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders, and spent six years working for the district in its Office of Evaluation, Research, and Accountability, according to her biography on the organization’s website. The academy trains principals for leadership in district, charter, and archdiocesan schools. Before that, she worked for the firm Public Financial Management advising governments on management and budget practices.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she also served as the assistant director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research. She started her professional life teaching English in a middle school in Japan. Her bachelor’s degree is in psychology and her master’s degree is in social policy and practice, both from Penn.
Chau Wing is a charter school parent, as was McColgan, who she is replacing.
“Public education is the backbone of our society,” she said in a statement. Education achievement must be measured by more than test scores, she added, noting that at “high quality schools, children discover passions, integrate learning, resolve conflict, dream big, and most importantly, they matter.”
Chau Wing said that on the board she will draw from her experience in public finance, policy, leadership development and change management.
Mayor Kenney selected the appointees from a list of eight nominees recommended by the Educational Nominating Panel on May 16. Those eight were chosen from 62 applications, according to the mayor’s office.
The Philadelphia Board of Education is the only one in Pennsylvania that is appointed rather than elected. The mayor also appoints the nominating panel, which this year was led by former city solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante.
Critics of the nominating panel, including the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, say it lacks transparency and undermines the democratic process in Philadelphia. The organization filed a right-to-know request for the names of all 62 applicants.
“People have a right to know who applied, and we have a right to know who the panel rejected,” said Lisa Haver, the alliance’s co-founder.
Dale Mezzacappa is a senior writer for Chalkbeat Philadelphia, where she covers K-12 schools and early childhood education in Philadelphia. Contact Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org.