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Philadelphia to restart wastewater testing program in light of recent rise of COVID-19. cases Credit: Maya Pratt

The Philadelphia school board is set to have a full nine-member board once more, as Mayor Jim Kenney recently named two appointees: Sarah-Ashley Andrews and Chau Wing Lam. The school board manages the Philadelphia School District and its $3.9 billion expenditure budget.

A total of 62 people applied for the two school board positions, and Kenney chose the two appointees from a group of eight finalists. The Philadelphia City Council must approve Kenney's nominees before the two members can sit on the school board. 

Andrews is a family therapist and former social worker from Philadelphia who founded Dare 2 Hope, a suicide prevention nonprofit. She is also a member of Kenney’s Reconciliation Steering Committee, which was founded to work towards racial equity in the city following the George Floyd protests.

“I am a product of North Philadelphia and the public school system. I am a product of advocates who fought for my educational opportunities. I am proud and ready to serve on the Board and stand 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 within the city of Philadelphia,” Andrews said in a statement.

Lam is the director of operations for the Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides training for principals. She previously served on an advisory panel for Pennsylvania on cyber charter school authorizations and is currently a charter school parent. Lam previously worked in the office of superintendent William Hite in the School District of Philadelphia. A College graduate who majored in psychology, Lam went on to earn her master’s in social policy from Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice.

“Public education is the backbone of our society, and our collective goals for education are much more complex than PSSA and Keystone scores," Lam said in a statement. "At high quality schools, children discover passions, integrate learning, resolve conflict, dream big, and most importantly, they matter. My career has been dedicated to ensuring that all young people have pathways to success that do not depend on background or origin."

In a recent statement, Kenney said that the appointees "have dedicated their careers to supporting children and families, and…they will each make important contributions to the Board’s leadership and Philadelphia’s public schools.” 

If confirmed by City Council, Andrews and Lam will replace Angela McIver, who resigned last year, and Maria McColgan, who vacated her seat on the board last month. The School District of Philadelphia is facing many challenges — including learning gaps from COVID-19, a shortage of teachers, and unsafe, outdated buildings — which the new school board members will play key roles in addressing.