Letter to the officers and members of the School Board nominating panel

phila city hall

Wendell Pritchett, Chair
Jamie Gauthier, Vice-Chair
Bonnie Camarda, Secretary
All Members of the Nominating Panel

cc: Mayor James Kenney
Otis Hackney, Mayor’s Office of Education
James Engler, Deputy Mayor

February 6, 2018

Dear Chair Pritchett, Vice-Chair Gauthier, Secretary Camarda, and Members of the Nominating Panel,

The clear message from the people who voted for the 2015 referendum in calling for the dissolution of the School Reform Commission, and who organized and fought to make that happen, was: no more secrecy, no more shutting out the public when it comes to deciding issues about our public schools.

The Nominating Panel is an independent body. It must operate independently of the mayor. The Nominating Panel is a governmental body, and as such must comply with the letter and the spirit of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.

The new school board must be made up of those who believe in public education and in spending public dollars on maintaining a thriving school system dedicated to meeting the needs of the children, not the bottom lines of private companies. The school board must be made up of individuals who believe in open communication with district stakeholders. The school board must be made up of those who will treat all district employees with respect.

The only way to ensure that those who serve on the board will best represent the needs of the community is to have them present themselves to the community. The public must be able to express their concerns about candidates based on their history, experience, public statements and possible conflicts of interest.

The mayor told reporters last week that “there will be plenty of transparency”. The problem is that there is no transparency now. That sets the tone for the new school board. A body born in secrecy will not be given a mandate to conduct its business in the open.

The only way to do that is to hold public meetings of the Nominating Panel, as required by the PA Sunshine Act. School board members are not employees of the school district. They are public officials and as such must be available for public review.

Panel hearings would be the only time that the public can raise issues about the future of the public schools, how the governance of the school district will become more transparent and responsive, and how members of the school communities can have more say about the future of public education in Philadelphia.

We demand that the Nominating Panel obey all provisions of the Sunshine Act, operate independently of the Mayor’s office or any other political or governmental entity, release all applications for public review, announce a schedule of public meetings and conduct all deliberations in public.


Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik, APPS

Neighborhood Networks of Philadelphia
District 1199C, NUHCCE, AFSCME
University Community Collaborative
Philadelphia Student Union
215 People’s Alliance
Parents United for Public Education
Working Educators Caucus of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
Norma Elmarzouky, Member, Our City Our Schools Coalition
Socialist Alternative
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