The State Senate approved the nominations of City Councilman Bill Green and People’s Emergency Center executive director Farah Jimenez to the School Reform Commission in a vote of 44-2 this afternoon. Sens. Vincent Hughes and Andrew Dinniman were the dissenting votes.
Gov. Corbett nominated both Green and Jimenez to the five-member panel last month. Green will fill the chair position left vacant by Pedro Ramos, who resigned in October, citing family issues. Jimenez will fill the seat left vacant by Joseph Dwortezky, whose term expired in January.
The Philadelphia School Partnership said, in a statement released after the confirmations, “Governor Corbett was thoughtful and deliberate in selecting Bill Green and Farah Jimenez for the School Reform Commission. The new commissioners are dedicated public servants who have shown commitment to results for students and families rather than any one particular ideology, and reflect the governor’s emphasis on ideas and leadership over partisan credentials.”
Some, however, have expressed their concerns, particularly with Green's selection as chair. After Corbett had announced his nominations, Mayor Nutter issued a statement calling the nomination “quite frankly perplexing given his votes against some education funding measures and his published views on public education.”
In an interview last week with the Notebook, Green said that he and Superintendent William Hite’s goals for the School District of Philadelphia “are completely in sync” and that “whatever has to be done to have 100 percent good schools, if I have the power to do it, I’ll do it.” That includes, Green said, being prepared to use the SRC's special powers to impose a contract on the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, if an agreement fails to be reached in negotiations.
The advocacy group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools had pushed for public testimony on the nominations. When the District was handed over to the state's control in 2001 and the SRC was created to govern it, a state law required Senate approval for the governor’s nominees, but it did not require hearings with public comment. However, Senate Republicans had considered a request from the advocacy group to hold hearings, but those hearings did not happen.
Lisa Haver, a leader with the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, traveled to Harrisburg today for Corbett’s budget address, unaware that the nominations would be confirmed. She had not heard anything about their request being denied. Upon hearing the news, Haver said she was disappointed and felt “disenfranchised” because public testimony was not allowed.
“We were shut out," said Haver. "I am disappointed that Councilman Green, as an elected official from Philadelphia, didn’t stand up for us and say that the people in my city have something to say about who is running our schools.”
“[But] we’re going to keep going to the SRC meetings no matter what. We have to deal with whoever is there."