Philadelphia school board member Maria McColgan says she will resign in May

School board member listens to community members at a local high school.
Outgoing Philadelphia Board of Education member Maria McColgan shown at a listening session at Murrell Dobbins High School in North Philadelphia. (Emma Lee / WHYY)

Philadelphia Board of Education member Maria McColgan announced Thursday that she will resign in early May.

McColgan, who was appointed to the board in 2018 by Mayor Jim Kenney, serves as chair of the policy committee. Neither she nor Board President Joyce Wilkerson gave a reason for her exit, or disclosed what she will be doing next. McColgan’s resignation will be effective May 6.

In response to McColgan’s announcement, Kenney asked Philadelphia’s Educational Nominating Panel to provide candidates for McColgan’s spot on the school board, as well as another vacancy created when board member Angela McIver stepped down from her role last summer.

The panel, chaired by former city Solicitor Sozi Tulante, convened April 4 to fill McIver’s position. But in order to give Philadelphians more time to apply for the board seats, the panel extended the application deadline to April 29. It is charged with providing Kenney with three names for each vacancy.

“We are looking for dedicated, effective leaders to be champions for our city’s schools and student success,” Kenney said Thursday.

The last members appointed to the board by Kenney were Lisa Salley, Reginald Streater, and Cecelia Thompson in 2020. 

The group holds public meetings at the beginning and the end of its nominating activity, but its deliberations about the candidates it is considering are private.

Some community members have criticized the process for a lack of transparency.

Lisa Haver, a founder of the advocacy group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, reiterated her group’s ongoing opposition to the manner in which the panel operates.

“People have a right to participate in the same way they participated in the superintendent search,” she said. “They have a right to participate in the search for public officials who are going to vote on a $3.9 billion budget.” 

Haver noted that when the panel initially convened, “they said we’re picking at least one, or one at this time,” raising the possibility that there would be more vacancies. Now, she said, “We need to know if two is the number. They’re not hiring employees, they are choosing people to serve on a governing body. There is no legal reason for them to be in executive session.”  

Kenney thanked McColgan for her service. “I appreciate her years of leadership and thank her for her contributions and commitment to the board,” he said in a statement. “I wish her the best in her continued service to children and families.”

Four years ago, McColgan, a pediatrician who lives in Northeast Philadelphia, was one of the first nine members Kenney appointed to the school board after the city succeeded in returning the district to local control after 17 years under a state-dominated School Reform Commission. She sends her children to charter schools, and her husband is the principal of Philadelphia’s Neumann Goretti Catholic High School. Her brother, Val DiGiorgio, is the former head of the state Republican Party.

Philadelphia is the only district in the Commonwealth where the school board is picked by the mayor, rather than elected. Pennsylvania’s 499 other school districts all have elected boards.
Senior writer Dale Mezzacappa contributed to the reporting

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