Philly board selects advisory group to help search for new superintendent

Exterior of the School District of Philadelphia building.
Thirteen members from the community were chosen by the Philadelphia’s Board of Education to help find a replacement to lead the city’s public schools. (Emma Lee / WHYY)

Philadelphia’s Board of Education released the names of 13 members who will sit on the superintendent search advisory committee: They are faith and business leaders, activists and a principal — and they will be charged with helping to find the city’s next public school leader.

Superintendent William Hite announced late September that he would step down in August 2022, staying through the process to find a replacement to lead the more than 120,000-student school district. The search started in October, with efforts to get public feedback going through November across councilmanic districts.

“On behalf of the entire board, I want to share how grateful and excited we are to work with the advisory committee, which will help us evaluate and review final superintendent candidates, and provide insight and input during the process,” said Leticia Egea-Hinton, vice president of the school board.

The official job listing was released last Friday, by Isaacson, Miller, the search firm the board hired to help with the selection process. Interviews are set to begin in early 2022, with the board moving from five to two finalists between January and February.

Advisory committee members:

Rebecca Allen is a student board representative for the district and a junior at Central High School. She is the alliance chairperson for the Philly Black Students Alliance, and the Vice-President and founder of U.N.H.E.A.R.D., which stands for Uprooting Negligence by Habituating Equity and Anti-Racism through Real Discussions. The group leads discussions about anti-racism, inclusion, and diversity. She is also a member of the Nexus team, which builds relationships at Central through restorative justice practices.

Ernie Bennett is the district’s leader of SEIU 32BJ, which represents approximately 2,000 district employees. He is also a member of the Men United Against Violence Network and the Veterans Multi-Service Center.

Virginia Field is a kindergarten teacher at William H. Loesche Elementary School, where she also mentors practicum students, serves as a member of the building committee, and supports the Cradles-to-Crayons program. She comes from a family of public school educators — her parents and sister all taught in the district — and her daughter and son are graduates of the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush.

Regina A. Hairston is the president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Her son graduated from Overbrook High School and her daughter attended Harambee Charter School.

Cindy Lee Hauger is operations director at Project Based Learning, Inc., where she is responsible for human resources, finances, and fundraising functions. Her husband has worked in the district as a teacher and principal for over 25 years. They have two children currently attending district schools — Science Leadership Academy at Beeber — and a child who graduated from The Workshop School.

Ayesha Imani is head of school at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School and Executive Manager of Imhotep Institute Charter High School, where she teaches in intergenerational African-centered learning communities. She attended district public schools for her K-12 education, and all of her children and grandchildren have also attended Philadelphia district and charter schools, including the C.W. Henry School and Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School. 

Pep Marie is coalition coordinator of Our City Our Schools, or OCOS, which is a growing education justice coalition, made up of two dozen youth, parent, school staff, and community organizations that work together on issues of investment, governance and funding to transform the district’s schools. Marie is also a graduate of the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, also known as CAPA, and the Philadelphia Student Union. 

Marina Nunez is a bilingual family advisor at Hispanos Unidos para Niños Excepcionales (HUNE), a nonprofit organization that provides free bilingual English and Spanish training, technical assistance, and individual assistance to families of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities, and to professionals who work with children. Her oldest son graduated from Lankenau Environmental Science Magnet High School, and her two youngest children attend High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA). 

Armando Ortez is a student board representative for the district and a senior at Northeast High School, where he takes dual enrollment courses at Community College of Philadelphia. At Northeast he also participates in track and lacrosse, and recently attended Access Engineering, an enrichment program presented by University of Pennsylvania students to introduce high school students to engineering.

John W. Spencer is the principal of John F. McCloskey School and a member of Teamsters Local 502/Commonwealth Association of School Administrators (CASA). He is a second-generation principal in the district, and an alumnus of Germantown High School. All of his children have attended district schools, including one who graduated this year.

David E. Thomas is vice president of strategic initiatives and community engagement at Community College of Philadelphia, where he designs, implements, and leads the strategic initiatives and programs of the college. He is an alumnus of Central High School, and his son graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School. Dr. Thomas is a board member of Youthbuild Philadelphia Charter School and a steering committee member of Project U-Turn. 

The Rev. Mark Tyler is senior pastor at Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. His youngest two children were educated in the district, including Julia R. Masterman School and Science Leadership Academy. 

Christiana Uy is senior director, legal and paralegal, at PREIT Services, LLC, the management affiliate of Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT). She has two sons attending the A.S. Jenks School and another son who will enter the district next year. Uy is a member of the Parent and Community Advisory Council to the Board of Education, and also participates in A.S. Jenks’ Home and School Association. 

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