Who will be on the Philadelphia Board of Education?

A view of the Philadelphia City Hall from Market Street in downtown Philadelphia.
The mayor’s Education Nominating Panel is expected to release its list of recommended names for future board members at a public meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. (Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images)

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This week, Philadelphia residents will get their first glimpse at whom Mayor Cherelle Parker could name to the Board of Education.

The 13-member Education Nominating Panel is expected to release its list of 27 potential candidates at a public meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Philly’s school board is appointed, not elected, meaning Parker has the power to remake the entire board if she chooses.

Her picks will have the power to approve new charter schools, oversee the district superintendent, vote on contracts and major spending items for the district, and drive the conversation around local education issues. Tuesday’s panel meeting will be residents’ first look at whom Parker trusts to sit on the board.

The panel will recommend 27 candidates to Parker for consideration for appointment — three names for each of the nine board seats. It’s unclear if any of the current board members have reapplied for their positions. Sharon Ward, Philadelphia’s new deputy chief education officer, declined to say Monday whether any current board members are on the list.

Though the panel has been meeting quietly and mostly in executive session since convening on Feb. 1, there have already been some signals that big change is coming. Last week, longtime board member and Vice President Mallory Fix-Lopez unexpectedly announced her resignation, citing a medical procedure and the time demands of the position.

According to a statement from Parker’s office announcing the upcoming meeting, the panel received applications from 121 people.

The panel considered those applications and conducted more than 60 interviews, Ward said. Parker will consider each one and make nine appointments with the advice and consent of City Council members following a public hearing.

Each board member’s term is four years and runs concurrent to the mayor’s. Once chosen, any new members will start in their role on May 1. Board members are only allowed to serve three full terms.

In these early days of Parker’s tenure, critics and advocates have paid close attention to her commitment to transparency in government. Her handling of the school board nomination process has been sharply critiqued by individuals including Lisa Haver, cofounder of the education advocacy group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools and an outspoken advocate for deeper public inclusion in city government.

Haver told Chalkbeat the “whole [nominating] process was a sham,” and said Parker’s administration has not sufficiently included the public in the consideration of new board members.

“This is a completely closed process in which the public has absolutely no say,” Haver said. She pointed out unlike other school boards in the state, Philadelphia’s board is not elected meaning “constituents are already disenfranchised here.”

“Given that, the mayor should be doing everything she can to make this as open a process as possible,” Haver said.

In response to Chalkbeat’s questions about transparency, Ward said the Parker administration has been following the process established in the city’s Home Rule Charter, which she said is “very prescribed.”

“We have encouraged folks to speak out and to talk a little bit about what they want to see in a school board panel and what they would like to see in the school district,” Ward said. She said members of the public who want to add their thoughts should do so at the meeting tomorrow or online.

How to get involved

If you want to give feedback on the candidates for new school board members, the city has opened a public comment period which runs from March 5 to May 1.

People can sign up to speak at tomorrow’s public meeting or submit written comments.

The board is also currently looking for new, nonvoting student representatives for the 2024-25 school year. Current ninth and 10th grade students who are interested in applying or learning more can find information about the application process here.

Carly Sitrin is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Philadelphia. Contact Carly at csitrin@chalkbeat.org.

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