Longtime educator and former Mastmeran high school principal Marjorie Neff will fill the vacancy created by the resignation late last week of School Reform Commission (SRC) Commissioner Wendell Pritchett.

Mayor Michael Nutter announced Neff’s appointment on Monday — the first business day since Pritchett tendered his resignation on Thursday, one day before municipal offices closed for the Independence Day holiday — from the panel that oversees Philadelphia’s public schools.

He offered, “Marjorie Neff will bring her experience and knowledge as a school district administrator, teacher and parent to her service on the SRC. As a proud public school parent myself, I know that Marjorie understands from a grass-roots [perspective] what it takes to educate our children.”

Reached by phone on Monday, Neff said her 38 years of experience in education bring to the commission “one more lens [through which] to look at the issues.”

Neff is the former principal of Samuel Powell Elementary School in West Philadelphia. She holds a Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility from St. Joseph’s University, an Elementary Principal’s Certification and Special Education Certification from Temple University, where she also received her Master of Education degree. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Westminster College.

Neff recently retired as principal of the Julia R. Masterman School Laboratory and Demonstration School, which the U.S. News & World Report ranked as Pennsylvania’s top high school in 2013 and 2014.

The veteran educator, who was at the helm when the school earned the National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, acknowledged serious work and financial challenges ahead for the school district.

“I promise to carry out my duties and responsibilities as honestly and diligently as possible on behalf of the students, parents and teachers who have enriched my life for so many years,” she stated in a prepared statement. “They deserve better than what they’re facing today. I can only say I will do my best.”

In a farewell letter posted on the school’s website, Neff wrote, “I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with you during the past eight years. Even in the most difficult times, I felt blessed to have had the chance to do this work. This is a very special community that I am honored to be a part of. Best wishes to all of you. I look forward to working with you in the future. Look for me on the auction committee!”

Pritchett’s departure means that a majority of the SRC will have turned over in the last year. Commissioners Sylvia Simms and Feather Houstoun are the only commissioners who were serving on the panel a year ago. The five-member panel is appointed by the mayor and governor, who appoints the majority.

SRC Chair Pedro Ramos resigned with an unexpired term in October, and Joseph Dworetzky’s term expired on Dec. 31. SRC Chair William “Bill” Green and Farah Jimenez took the oath of office in February. Neff is scheduled to be sworn in mid-August, said Raven Hill, a School District of Philadelphia spokesperson.

Neff will serve on the panel that hired and directs her former boss, School Superintendent William Hite Jr. She said she looks forward to helping Hite find additional revenue in support of school programs and hires that can drive improvements.

“I’ve been very impressed with Dr. Hite’s ability to collaborate,” she said, “and I’m looking forward to that aspect [of the work].”

 

Contact staff writer Wilford Shamlin III at (215) 893-5742 or wshamlin@phillytrib.com.

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