There is still time to apply to sit on the Philadelphia Board of Education

Exterior of The School District of Philadelphia building.
School District of Philadelphia. (Emma Lee / WHYY)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who is looking to fill three vacancies on the nine-member Board of Education, extended the application deadline by three days, to Dec. 6. 

“We’re pleased that more than 60 Philadelphians have applied to serve our students in this important capacity,” Kenney said in a statement, noting the deadline was moved “to make sure all interested candidates have the opportunity to be considered.”

Under the city charter, the Education Nominating Panel must vet candidates and submit three names to the mayor for each vacancy. 

The Board of Education was revived in 2018, when the district was returned to local control after 17 years under the state School Reform Commission.

One of the current vacancies dates back to May, when member Christopher McGinley resigned for personal reasons. McGinley was one of the original members appointed by Kenney in April, 2018. 

But amid the pandemic, Kenney made no move to replace McGinley throughout the summer. Then Ameen Akbar, who had just joined the board in May, announced in October that he was leaving immediately to care for his father, who is in declining health.

Last month, Lee Huang said that he would leave due to new work responsibilities after he was named president of his firm, Econsult Solutions. He said he would serve until a replacement is seated.

All the remaining six board members are female. 

Wendell Pritchett, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania and a former member of the School Reform Commission, heads the nominating panel. It will hold a meeting to submit its nine recommendations to the mayor on Dec. 16. 

The meeting will be held virtually, and members of the public can submit written testimony using this form.

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The mayor will offer his selections to the city council for approval on Dec. 21. The mayor has the option to ask the nominating panel for more names, but mayoral spokesperson Deana Gamble said, “We hope that won’t be necessary.”

The new members will likely be seated in January and will serve a term concurrent with the mayor, who leaves office at the beginning of 2024.

Anyone interested in applying for a board seat can do so here. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.

The nominating panel convened on Nov. 17. Its meeting was not public, though a recording of that meeting has since been published on YouTube.

Lisa Haver, of the watchdog group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Education, renewed her objections that the process is conducted largely behind closed doors. 

“This is an important public position that controls a $3 billion [school district] budget,” she said. “Why can’t everybody know who is applying? It’s like we wait for the puff of white smoke.” 

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