BY TONY WEST/ City Councilman Bill Green and housing expert Farah Jimenez have been picked by Gov. Tom Corbett to fill two vacancies on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. The Governor made the announcement at his office in the Bellevue this morning after a hasty detour from a scheduled stop at Central HS to avoid protestors.
In a rare bipartisan move, Corbett, a Republican, tapped in Green a Democratic elected official. Jimenez, who heads a West Philadelphia agency that serves homeless families, is a Republican. SRC positions are unpaid.
“Bill Green and Farah Jimenez are strong civic leaders who share my commitment to putting our students first,” Corbett said. “I am confident they will bring a high level of passion, energy and spirit of service to support Philadelphia students and perform the critical work of the SRC.”
The two nominees must be confirmed by the State Senate. Upon confirmation, Green will become the new chairman, replacing Pedro Ramos, who quit last October. Jimenez will fill the shoes of Joseph Dworetzky, whose term has expired. Both will serve for five years – placing Philadelphia’s schools and their problems clearly in Corbett’s lap as he enters his fourth year in office.
The five-member SRC is an unusual creature: a state agency in charge of a local school district. It was founded in 2001 after decades of chronic low performance, underfunding and budget gaps in the Philadelphia School District. Thirteen years later, all these problems persist. Some Philadelphia leaders are now calling for control of the School District to be brought back home to the city.
That won’t happen in 2014, though. The SRC’s new members must hit the ground running, as the 2014-15 budget now looming ahead promises to be even more painful than the current one, which has stirred dissent across the city.
Green graduated from Auburn University before obtaining his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He has founded several businesses, represented top Fortune 500 companies and start-ups as a corporate lawyer, and served as president of VistaScape Security Systems. He is currently Of Counsel at Duane Morris LLP. Green resides in Chestnut Hill.
“Bill has demonstrated leadership abilities with a passion for education that will guide him in his service as Chairman of the SRC,” Corbett said.
Green’s father, William J. Green III, was a member of the US House, chairman of Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee, and Mayor of Philadelphia; his grandfather also served in the first two of these roles.
“Superintendent William Hite and the School Reform Commission are working to build a system of public schools that has adequate resources as well as the policies in place for students and teachers to thrive,” Green said. “I am both honored and humbled to have the opportunity to join them in their essential work.”
Jimenez is president and CEO of the People’s Emergency Center, a comprehensive social-services agency that serves women and children experiencing homelessness, through housing, case management, and counseling services and five on-site education centers that develop parenting, life skills, employment, financial literacy and technology skills.
Before arriving at PEC, Jimenez spent 13 years at the helm of Mt. Airy USA, a nonprofit real-estate development corporation, where she led efforts to transform that neighborhood’s blighted commercial corridor into a dining and retail destination. Jimenez graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1996 with a JD and earned a bachelor’s in history and urban studies at Penn in 1990.
“The future of our city and region depends upon high-quality schools that prepare every student for success in the workplace or college,” Jimenez said. “I look forward to working with the commonwealth, the city and all of our stakeholders to meet this challenge.”
Mainstream civic leaders quickly rallied behind the Governor’s appointees.
The Philadelphia School Partnership, a broad-based coalition of major public and private bodies, released a statement hailing Green as an “outstanding choice” for SRC Chairman. On City Council, PSP stated, Green “has championed the cause of public education as one of the fundamental drivers of the city’s economic development and prosperity.” PSP commended Green as “a thoughtful observer and analyst of School District fiscal matters.”
Jimenez, noted PSP, has dealt with “a wide range of community and civic issues,” noting she serves on the Commonwealth’s Homeless Children’s Education Task Force.
It is too soon to know how critics of Corbett’s school policies will react to his new appointees. As of this morning, they were far from satisfied with the Governor’s education record.
More than 100 parents, teachers and community leaders gathered outside Central HS to blast Corbett, who had planned to stop there to present Central and two other Philadelphia high schools with academic-achievement awards. These critics said any achievements these schools can claim came no thanks to but Corbett.
“It’s outrageous that the Governor would come to Philadelphia and use our schools as a photo op, when his administration has done so much damage to public education,” said Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education, one of the speakers at this morning’s rally.
In his first gubernatorial visit to a Philadelphia public school, he visited Central to present academic achievement awards to students at Central, Carver and Masterman HSs. All three saw dramatic drops in spending under Corbett, who took office in 2010 at the moment federal funding dried up as a consequence of Washington’s own budget wars. Central, for example, has lost $1.4 million in funding.
The rally called upon Corbett to restore nearly $1 billion to public education when he releases his state budget in February.
“When we had a fair funding formula for education, we saw real academic progress. Under Corbett, our schools are heading in the wrong direction,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan. “Our teachers, counselors and non-instructional staff are stretching themselves too thin to provide our children with an education — we need more resources now.”
The coalition that held today’s rally was convened by Rev. Alyn Waller, pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.