Two new members have been appointed to the School Reform Commission – Estelle Richman and Joyce Wilkerson. Gov. Wolf appointed Richman, a career public servant and former secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare, to the commission in October. Mayor Kenney named Wilkerson, who was former Mayor John Street’s chief of staff, in November. Wolf has appointed Wilkerson as the chair.
Richman will fill the vacancy left by former Commissioner Feather Houstoun, and Wilkerson will replace SRC Chair Marjorie Neff. Both Houstoun and Neff resigned before their terms were set to expire in January 2017.
As a gubernatorial appointee, Richman must be approved by the Pennsylvania Senate before she can join the panel. But Wilkerson, as a mayoral appointee, joined the commission immediately, participating in her first SRC meeting in November.
Commissioner Sylvia Simms’ term is also set to expire in January. Kenney will name her replacement.
Superintendent William Hite said he “looks forward to working with” both appointees “to improve learning opportunities for children across Philadelphia.”
Both Richman and Wilkerson have long histories in government work, though neither has focused her career specifically on K-12 education.
“Estelle Richman has a lifetime of experience fighting for and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, and her commitment to improving the lives of our citizens in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth is unmatched,” said Hite.
Richman has served as Philadelphia’s managing director, director of social services, and commissioner for public health, as well as former Gov. Ed Rendell’s secretary of public welfare. She also was senior adviser to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Wilkerson worked in John Street’s City Council office and was his chief of staff when he was elected mayor in 2000. She led the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority for two years before returning to Philadelphia. She now works for Temple University as a senior adviser for community relations and development.
“Joyce Wilkerson’s record of public service and years of experience will be a tremendous asset on the School Reform Commission,” Hite said.