Two members of the School Reform Commission, Joyce Wilkerson and Chris McGinley, resigned from the board on Thursday.
Both Wilkerson and McGinley are among the 45 potential appointees for the new Board of Education and must resign from their current positions before entering the formal process for Mayor Jim Kenney to consider appointing them to the new nine-person board. Kenney will announce the new members of that board no later than April 5.
There’s talk that Wilkerson and McGinley are basically shoo-ins to be selected by Kenney for the board. His office hinted at that sentiment after their resignations were announced.
“Nominees need to go through a final vetting and disclosure process, and their participation in the process would be considered seeking appointment — something current SRC commissioners may not do,” said Ajeenah Amir, Kenney’s spokeswoman.
“The mayor has said throughout this process that we’d need a level of continuity to the BOE. We’re very interested in them for this reason, in addition to their qualifications. But the mayor will be meeting with all final candidates and announcing all appointees at once next week.”
Kenney on Thursday appointed Marge Neff and Fran Burns to replace Wilkerson and McGinley on the SRC until the commission’s term ends June 30. Gov. Tom Wolf has named current Commissioner Estelle Richman to replace Wilkerson as chair of the SRC.
“In this time of transition from the SRC to the new Board of Education it is important to have two voices on the SRC who are ready on day one. Marge Neff and Fran Burns need no introduction to the issues that face the School District of Philadelphia,” Kenney said. “I thank them for once again serving the students and families of our public schools.”
Karel Kilimnik, co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, said she was “surprised” when word surfaced about the change.
“Even though the switch is being done at the last minute, nothing was said,” Kilimnik said. “This is going to be an appointed board, so basically what is happening is you have these people kind of being moved around like players on a chess board. You take one out, you put one in.”
Kilimnik, addressing the city’s school board selection process, said she believes the city is suffocating the residents’ voices to choose who will be on the board.
“The mayor is totally responsible for this. The citizens, the taxpayers have nothing to say about this. We are being disenfranchised again,” she said.
“This is how they operate, nobody finds out anything. The decision will go way beyond their interim term. And the public has no way [to] comment. It’s kind of called politics as usual. Some people have it more easily than other people and there really needs to be an elected school board.”
The alliance released a statement saying the “mayor expects the public to pay the bills, including another increase in property taxes, but to have no say in how the money is spent.”
The group said the stakeholders and taxpayers are expected to play the “role of passive observers.”