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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney

Credit: Ilana Wurman

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced Philadelphia’s new nine-member board of education tasked with overseeing and improving the Philadelphia School District starting July 1.  

Out of the nine members of the new school board, seven of them hold connections to Penn. Kenney favored candidates with experience in education, teaching, and social services.

BOE members Julia Danzy and Letitia Egea-Hinton received graduate-level degrees in government administration and social work, respectively, at Penn. Mallory Fix Lopex, a linguist, has taught in the University’s English Language Program. Lee Huang received his undergraduate degree from the Wharton School and his master’s degree from the Fels School of Government. Angela McIver received her doctorate from the Graduate School of Education at Penn, and Joyce Wilkerson received an undergraduate degree from Penn. 

Two of the new BOE members had served on a School Reform Commission. Since 2001 up until this January, the Philadelphia School District was governed by the School Reform Commission rather than the board of education. In June, the SRC will be disbanded.

Kenney selected the nine members out of 27 final candidates who were nominated by the Education Nomination Panel, a group of appointed Philadelphia leaders that included Penn Provost Wendell Pritchett. Those 27 finalists came from a pool of about 500 candidates. 

With the eighth largest student enrollment count in the nation, the district is predicted to create almost a $1 billion deficit by the fiscal year 2022. In 2019, the board will be dealing with a predicted $105 million deficit, reported. Philadelphia residents will have to deal with a tax increase proposed by Kenney to help combat the school district’s growing deficit. 

Despite all these obstacles, there has been much hope for the new board. Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said he was pleased with the BOE’s promise to focus on educational equity, according to the Philly Inquirer.

Education watchers had polarized views on the new school board. City Council members Jannie L. Blackwell and Blondell Reynolds Brown praised the racial diversity and range of career fields represented. But Philadelphia Student Union member Julien Terrell told that the BOE did not reflect the Philadelphia population— some members were parents who sent their children to affluent schools such as Penn Alexander.

However, the board has already begun their work such as setting up community listening sessions.