The first installment of Philadelphia School Board nominee reports


SB nominating panel
The Philadelphia School Board Nominating Panel

Sarah-Ashley Andrews

The nominating panel states:

Sarah-Ashley Andrews is a product of Philadelphia public schools. She attended W.B. Saul High School before attending undergraduate classes at Bloomsburg University and eventually earning a bachelor of arts degree in biblical studies with a minor in human services from Lancaster Bible College. Since returning to Philadelphia, she has been a staunch advocate for living mentally well, managing anger, and educating youth and adults on suicide through in-school programming and partnerships.

Sarah-Ashley Andrews is the founder of the non-profit Dare 2 Hope, an organization that educates young people and adults on suicide prevention through in-school programing and partnerships. She is a licensed minister who educated herself about suicide and mental illness and her own personal struggle with anger management. Her school program is called iDare 2 Be. Ms. Andrews founded Dare 2 Hope in 2013. There is little information on its website—no names of staff or a phone number for the organization. The only way to contact the organization is via email through the blank form on the webpage. There is a Gallery of pictures with no captions. The website does provide the number for the national suicide hotline. The organization has a Go Fund Me page and an Instagram page.

Jenne Ayers

The Nominating Panel states:

Jenné Ayers currently serves as an associate at Ballard Spahr LLP. She earned her bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University in government, with health policy as a secondary field. She also has a law degree from Yale Law School. She is a board member for the League of Women Voters, Philly Set Go, the Philadelphia Chapter NAACP Youth Council and is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Ayers has worked on political campaigns for Joe Khan, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. She was born and raised in North Philadelphia and graduated from Julia R. Masterman in 2006.

Ms. Ayers is an associate in the Public Finance Department of Ballard Spahr, a law firm that has offices in 15 cities across the U. S. She was admitted to the PA Bar in 2017 and has been at Ballard Spahr since June of that year. She was a candidate for City Council At-Large in 2015.

Ms. Ayers longest employment (1 year, 9 months) was as an associate consultant for The Bridgespan Group, the social impact group for Bain and Company.

Bain and Company is a global management consultancy firm that states it is committed to corporate education reformBridgespan provides services to nonprofits, foundations, philanthropists, investors on social impact bonds. Their website states: “We work with clients to identify social issues where market-based investments can be an effective tool for creating change. Our unique approach puts maximizing social impact first, while supporting decisions about strategy and investment opportunities with data-driven analysis.”

Tonya Avella Bah

The Nominating Panel states:

Tonya Bah was born in Philadelphia and attended Simon Gratz High School and, later, Temple University. She has worked in the U.S. Senate, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the Department of Homeland Security, and the Philadelphia hospitality industry. She is also affiliated with several Philadelphia organizations, such as the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, Win the City, and Opt Out Philly (through the Caucus of Working Educators).

Tonya Bah describes herself as a parent activist, motivational speaker, educator and community leader. She has lived and worked in both Philadelphia, Prince George’s County and Washington DC. Ms Bah is a widow and mother of autistic twins, one of whom has physical and intellectual disabilities. She is currently employed as Urban Outreach Consultant for Clean Water Fund. Among her civic and neighborhood associations are Home and School President for Widener Memorial School, member of Wagner Middle School SAC, Philadelphia Home and School, Opt-Out Philly, Neighborhood Networks, Caucus of WE, Concerned Citizens for Change and city-wide efforts for social justice and racial and economic equity.

Dario Bellot

The Nominating Panel states:

Fluent in both English and Spanish, Dario Bellot earned his bachelor of arts degree in international business and his master’s in business administration in Argentina before also taking business classes at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Bellot has served as finance director of a multi-billion-dollar company and senior vice president of administration for Congreso de Latinos Unidos and is currently the chief financial officer and chief operating officer at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. He has also served various nonprofit organizations, including several public charter schools and the Seybert Foundation, and served on the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities.

Mr. Bellot has served as the finance manager for Mars Electronics International, Inc., Bristol Myers Squibb and as a financial analyst Dow Chemical. In 2012, he was one of three individuals nominated for CFO of the Year Award 2012. The award is given by the Philadelphia Business Journal in cooperation with the Business School of Drexel University.

He has served as interim President of Congreso de Latinos Unidos of Nueva Esperanza, Inc., Vice Chair of the Mayor’s commission of People with Disabilities, chair of the Board of the Seybert Foundation in 2017Seybert Foundation in 2017 and PA CareerLink Philadelphia, Vice Chair of Philadelphia Resource Parents Association. He has served as treasurer of The Pan American Association of Philadelphia, Greenwoods Charter School, and Pan American Academy Charter School, which is managed by Congreso, the organization for which he was senior vice president. Nueva Esperanza, Inc. (NEI) for whom he was Treasurer of the Board, founded Esperanza Academy Charter School. Nueva Esperanza, Inc. has provided administrative and management services to Esperanza Academy and Esperanza Cyber Academy. Esperanza Academy has also been a sub-recipient of federal grants through NEI and has received sub grants from the organization under the Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program. The issue is whether this candidate, who has served as an official with schools that have benefited from receiving public funds for non-public schools, can serve the best interests of the stakeholders of the public school system and the taxpayers of the city and state.

Suzanne Biemiller

The Nominating Panel states:

Suzanne Biemiller attended Williams College and later received her master’s degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Since 2012, she has served as a trustee of Community College of Philadelphia. She has also served as chair of the PICA Board, the fiscal oversight board of the City of Philadelphia. In her professional life, she has worked as a senior program officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts, first deputy chief of staff for the City of Philadelphia, and chief of staff at the American Board of Internal Medicine, where she designed conflict of interest policies.

Suzanne Biemiller has worked in both public and private sectors. As Deputy Mayor, she led the unsuccessful effort of then-Mayor Michael Nutter to privatize the Philadelphia Gas Works. She also served briefly as Chair of PICA, the board appointed to oversee the city’s finances. Biemiller now works as Senior Policy Advisor for Econsult Solutions Inc, whose website says it “..provides businesses and public policy makers with economic consulting services in urban economics, real estate economics, transportation, public infrastructure, development, public policy and finance, community and neighborhood development, planning, as well as expert witness services for litigation support.” Econsult has several contracts with the City of Philadelphia; this could be perceived as a conflict of interest.

She also serves as Principal at the Highland Strategies, the consulting firm she founded in 2017. From 2014-2016, Biemiller served as Chief of Staff to the CEO of American Board of Internal Medicine, a $56 million non-profit organization with 225 employees. As Senior Program Officer at Pew Charitable Trusts from 2005—2008, Biemiller helped to implement a “welfare-to-work” transitional jobs program. From 1998 to 2003, she served as Program Officer at the Venture Fund. Biemiller also serves on the board of trustees of the Community College of Philadelphia, and developed governance policies and grant-making structures for the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lenfest is a leading promoter of charter schools in Philadelpia.

 Laura Boyce

The Nominating Panel states:

As an alumnus of Teach for America, Laura Boyce has attended Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the Relay Graduate School of Education. She has taught at West Philadelphia High School and Simon Gratz Mastery Charter High School, served as principal of the Cooper B. Hatch Family School and Uncommon Schools Camden Prep in Camden, and most recently led teacher development in Philadelphia through a William Penn Foundation grant. Boyce and her husband look forward to sending their future children to their neighborhood District-run school.

As student, teacher and administrator, Boyce has been an active player in the corporate reform movement. She began her teaching career as a Teach for American corp member. She received a degree in Principal Training from the unaccredited Relay Graduate School of Education. The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) has funded Relay programs for the school district.

After a 4-year stint at West Philadelphia High, Boyce taught for two years at Mastery Gratz, a Renaissance charter in Nicetown which has experienced significant academic problems as a charter. Boyce served as a Turnaround Principal as part of then-Governor Chris Christie’s privatization of Camden’s public schools from 2013 to 2015; from 2015 to 2017 she worked as School Leader for the Uncommon Schools charter company. Boyce now works in Philadelphia as Instructional Practice Director for Teach Plus. (Former US Secretary of Education John King is one of the 5 board members of Teach Plus.) In June 2015, the SRC accepted a $1,775,411 grant from Teach Plus (see Resolution B-5), funded through the William Penn Foundation, for coaching services at several district schools. (See Resolution B-5, June 2017, SRC Resolution Summary)  This may constitute a conflict of interest that an employee of a company which has contracted for services with the district would serve on the board which oversees contracts and grants for the district.

 Stacy Dutton

The Nominating Panel states:

Stacy Dutton came to Philadelphia to pursue and complete a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Pennsylvania and has since been deeply rooted in the city. She has served as a peer review panelist for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, worked with the Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, and more recently served as a board member and current executive director of the Lantern Theater Company. She has also served as president and chief investment officer at the Park Agency Inc. and managing partner at Brandywine Global Investment Management.

Ms. Dutton is on the board of Intercultural Journeys, an organization that seeks to promote understanding in pursuit of peace among people of diverse faiths and cultures through dialogue and the visual and performing arts.

Ms. Dutton has a background in investment management. In addition to the investment firms mentioned above, she was an equity research analyst at Morgan Stanley.   She was co-founder and COO of Hygrove Partners, a value-based long-long-short equity hedge fund. She is Executive Director of Lantern Theater Company She was named Business on Board Member of the Year by the Arts& Business Council of Greater Philadelphia.

Her father and mother are partners in the Washington law firm of Dutton & Dutton. Mr. Dutton, a former Assistant Secretary of State, was a special assistant to President John F. Kennedy.   In 2010 Ms. Dutton worked in the Democratic primary campaign of Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-7th District) for the United States Senate.

Folasade Olanipekun-Lewis

The Nominating Panel states:

Folasade Olanipekun-Lewis earned an economics degree from the City University of New York, a law degree from Temple University, and a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania. She has called Philadelphia home for more than 25 years and is a current trustee of the Free Library and former member of the Philadelphia Water Rate Board. She has also served on the boards of the Philadelphia Ballet and Urban Affairs Coalition. She was the chief financial officer of both the School District of Philadelphia and the Office of the City Council President. She has also served as the city treasurer, deputy commerce director, and the chief administrative officer at the Philadelphia International Airport. She currently serves as the regional director of government and airport affairs at American Airlines.

In addition to her position at American Airlines, Ms. Olanipekun-Lewis is an adjunct lecturer at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania where she teachers a course in Critical Issues in Public Finance. She describes the course as one that considers contemporary issues affecting the fiscal state of local governments and the policies/initiatives that seek to address such, including privatization/public private partnerships; reformation of municipal pensions; and tax policies aimed at promoting economic growth.

Ms. Olanipekun-Lewis has served in many city government capacities including director of finance for the Philadelphia Parking Authority before the state took it over. As at the Chief Financial Officer for City of Philadelphia, City Council President, Darrell L. Clarke, Ms. Olanipekun-Lewis provided oversight on Council initiatives such as the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) program relating the reassessment of taxable realty, proposed divestitures of the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works, Aviation five-year capital enhancement program, and fiscal matters of the School District of Philadelphia. Olanipekun-Lewis was CFO for the school district under CEO Paul Vallas. This was a time when the district sold off the administration building at 21st and the Parkway, outsourced many district services including private management of public schools, expanded the number of charter schools.   Vallas left the district with a $73 million deficit. A federal audit of the district in 2010 found “widespread misuse” of $138.4 million in grant funds from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2006, a time frame when she was CFO. There is some concern with her interest in public private partnerships and the degree to which she embraces the privatization “reforms” implemented by Vallas.

Susanna Greenberg

The Nominating Panel states:

The mother of a preschooler, Greenberg attended J.S. Jenks Elementary and Central High School. While practicing law in Philadelphia, she joined the board of trustees at Independence Charter School and served as board president for two years, until last summer. She received a bachelor’s degree in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale University and a law degree from New York University. She has taught in public schools both as an all-subjects and English language learner teacher. She has also served on the board of Young Involved Philadelphia and currently lectures at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Susanna Greenberg is a clinical supervisor and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Before joining Penn, she worked at Ballard Spahr where she represented clients in antitrust class actions and a variety of other complex litigation, including pro bono matters related to immigration, property, education, and family law. While there, she also helped draft and review contracts for the Philadelphia Education Fund’s Teacher Residency Program which is a partner with the unaccredited Relay Graduate School of Education. She was a summer associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in NYC.   As a legal intern at the New York City Department of Education Office of New Schools, she researched and monitored the legal role of charter school authorizer in New York state. She taught for one year and Meridian Public Charter School and one year at Garfield Elementary School in Washington D.C.   Prior to that, she was an aide to the deputy campaign Manager for Ed Rendell. Her primary interests include education reform, urban policy, and civic engagement.

 Lee Huang

The Nominating Panel states:

Lee Huang has lived in Philadelphia for more than 26 years. He earned a bachelor of science degree in economics at the Wharton School and a master’s degree in public administration from the Fels Institute of Government, both at the University of Pennsylvania. He has worked at the Enterprise Center and currently serves as the senior vice president and principal at Econsult Solutions. He has served on the board of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia Advisory Board, and the Urban Affairs Coalition Impact Development Roundtable Committee Leadership. He has three children, two of whom attend Penn Alexander School and one of whom will attend Penn Alexander. Huang is also a current member of the Philadelphia Water Rate Board.

Lee Huang has no experience or background in education. He is a parent of two children at Penn Alexander School. At Econsult Solutions, where he is currently employed as Senior Vice President, Huang “…has led projects examining commercial corridors, affordable housing, neighborhood change, transportation financing, MWBE procurement, real estate development, economic development, tax policy, economic and fiscal impact, transit-oriented development, financial modeling, tax increment financing, waterfront development, discrimination in lending practices, higher education, workforce development, technology, historic preservation, and recreational amenities.” Econsult currently has several contracts with the city, which may be seen as a conflict if Huang were selected for the board.

Huang is a graduate of Wharton School in 1995 with dual certification in Accounting and Management. In 2006, Huang earned his Masters of Public Administration at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, where he also received certificates in Public Finance and in Economic Development and Growth.

Chad Lassiter

Nominating Panel states:

Chad Lassiter received a bachelor’s degree in social work in Charlotte, North Carolina, before receiving his master’s in the same discipline at the University of Pennsylvania. His career began as a school-based therapist at Palumbo School in Philadelphia. He went on to be a social worker at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In the same organization, he served as a behavioral interventionist and researcher. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University and currently is the executive director of Red Cross House and Recovery for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. He has also served on various mayoral committees and has been a member of the board of Community College of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Prison System, and has served on the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males.

A graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, Lassiter majored in social work. From the time he was an undergrad, Lassiter says he recognized that social work was not a diverse profession. In order to attract more black males to the field, he and a cohort of colleagues from the Class of 2001 collaborated with Walter D. Palmer, a lecturer at the School of Social Policy and Practice, to establish Black Men at Penn. The organization also provides anti-racism training as well as violence prevention and intervention workshops all over the country.

In 2010, Walter Palmer Leadership Learning Charter School, with Lassiter’s support, engaged in a legal fight with Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and the SDP Charter Office over disputed funding for the school. On December 31, 2014, the School abruptly closed its doors, leaving hundreds of students to find new schools in the middle of the school year. The SRC had voted to revoke its charter in April, 2014 for “subpar academic output and worrisome fiscal health.”

Mallory Fix Lopez

The Nominating Panel states:

Mallory Fix Lopez has lived in Philadelphia for 15 years, having moved here to pursue both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. During her graduate work, she studied teaching English to speakers of other languages and concentrated in curriculum, instruction, and technology in education. She has both taught and volunteered in Philadelphia public schools in social studies and English as a second language (ESL). More recently, she has served as the ESL director and program founder at the Garces Foundation and taught at Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and currently Community College of Philadelphia.

 Ms. Fix Lopez is the founder and owner of Language ConnectEd, a consulting firm for scientists and scholars. This firm provides professional development to international scientists, including at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, for the Biomedical Postdoctoral Program (Penn), for the Department of Neuroscience at Perelman (Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania), and for the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (Japan).

She is a state certified teacher who worked for several years at Edison High School as a bilingual social studies teacher. She is the owner of On Point Cuisine LLC, a BYOB bistro at 1200 Point Breeze Avenue where they do monthly fund raisers for Childs Elementary School.  She is a volunteer with NICE (Neighbors Invested in Childs Elementary), a group advocating for their local neighborhood school. She is currently full time English faculty at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Fix Lopez designed the curriculum for the Free Library’s English-as-a-Second-Language cooking class and is the former coordinator and program founder of Chef Jose Garces’ ESL program. Her educational experience is with teaching adult learners, including teaching university-level ESOL to graduate students.

Maria McColgan

The Nominating Panel states:

A mother of two children, Maria McColgan has taught at three different Philadelphia public schools. She received a bachelor of arts degree and a master’s degree in education, as well as a medical degree from the Temple University School of Medicine. She has worked at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children while pursuing training in child abuse pediatrics. She has served on the boards of the PA Children’s Trust Fund, Philadelphia Academy Charter School, and Prevent Child Abuse (of which she was the founding chairperson). She currently works in the pediatrics department at Cooper University Hospital.

Dr. McColgan serves as Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine in the Drexel College of Medicine. She also directs the child protection program at St. Christopher’s Hospital.  McColgan serves on the board of the PA Children’s Trust Fund, where she focuses on prevention of child abuse and neglect, as well as overseeing grant making.  She is also a board member and chair of the fundraising sub-committee for the Philadelphia Academy Charter SchoolShe is a member and community education sub-committee member of the Philadelphia Adverse Childhood Experiences Task Force.  According to her LinkdIn bio, ACE works to “develop and implement strategies to educate communities about the effects of adverse childhood experiences, as well as implement policies and practices to integrate trauma informed care into various professions.”

Angela McIver

The Nominating Panel states:

Angela McIver has been a resident of Philadelphia for 25 years and has three children who attend Philadelphia public schools. She holds a history degree from Hampton University, a master’s degree in education from Temple University, and a doctorate in mathematics education from the University of Pennsylvania. She has served on the board of the University City Arts League and currently serves on the board of the nonprofit How I Decide. She has taught in the Norristown Area School District, directed the Upward Bound Program at both Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, directed the Mastery Charter Thomas School transition, and founded the Trapezium Math Club. This research-based company focuses on helping children build strong foundational math skills through engaging afterschool programming.

The official bio does not say in what capacity McIver directed the Mastery Charter Thomas School transition, whether as consultant or administrator for the school district or employee of Mastery Charters. Mastery Charters took over management of the former Thomas Middle School at 9th and Jefferson Streets in South Philadelphia in 2009. Mastery expanded the school from a middle school to a K-12.

She serves on the board of How I Decide, whose mission is “to equip youth with skills to be better decision makers throughout their lives”.

Akil Parker

The Nominating Panel states:

Akil Parker earned a bachelor of science degree in finance from Morgan State University, completed graduate coursework at Point Park University, and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Lincoln University. He has served as a learning coach, academic adviser, and history and math teacher. He has two children who have attended public and private schools in Philadelphia. He is involved with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations.

 Akil L. Parker has worked as a math teacher at various charters, including two that were closed by the SRC: World Communications and Delaware Valley. In addition, he worked as a math teacher at Upward Bound programs at U Penn for adults (Jan 2008-Jan 2010) and at Temple for high school students participating in program (Jan 2007-Jan. 2009). Parker currently teaches Mathematics at Overbrook High School. He told the Philadelphia Tribune that he would resign from that job in order to take the unpaid position on the board. He did not indicate whether he would seek employment elsewhere.

Roberta Trombetta

The Nominating Panel states:

Roberta Trombetta received her bachelor of science degree in business administration from Drexel University before earning her law degree from Temple University. In her professional career, she has served as the managing director of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and chief of operations for the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, Family Court Division. She has also served as the chief executive officer of Carson Valley Children’s Aid and is currently the founder of C.B. Community Schools. Trombetta and her three sisters were all educated by the Philadelphia School District and attended Lamberton School.

Trombettta was Chief Executive Officer at Arise Academy when the SRC voted not to renew its charter due to the school’s failure to meet financial, academic and organization standards. The SRC voted initially to not renew the charter, which had an enrollment of 100 students, in April, 2012, but Arise was given a one year reprieve. The SRC again voted to close the school when Trombetta and the school’s administrators failed to rectify the school’s problems. Arise did not appeal, and the school closed in June, 2015.

Trombetta is currently President and CEO of C.B. Community Schools, a private school in Manayunk for students with social and emotional issues, which she founded in January 15, 2015. This is essentially the same program see administered at Arise Academy but without the historical and financial baggage.

The school’s website states that it is “the first private competency-based community school in Pennsylvania specifically created for educating and loving young people who are living or have lived in the care of the child welfare system; many in foster care, many in congregate care, many returning from institutional care and many living couch to couch.”

Trombetta has no other educational training or experience. She holds degrees in business administration and law.

 Patricia Wellenbach

The Nominating Panel states:

Patricia Wellenbach is currently the president and CEO of the Please Touch Museum. She serves on the board of Thomas Jefferson University and the Pennsylvania Women’s Forum. Previously, she has served on the boards of the Reinvestment Fund, Avenue of the Arts Inc., Fringe Arts, La Salle University, the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Boston College and completed the health-care executive certificate program at the UCLA Anderson School of Business.

In 2007 she founded Sandcastle Strategy Group for which she served as President/CEO until January 2013. The company provided management consulting services to clients primarily in the nonprofit sector. From 2007-2008, Ms Wellenbach was Managing Director for Business Development and Strategy for Granary Associates.

She was appointed as CEO of Green Tree School and Services, in 2013, a nonprofit, state-licensed agency that provides education, therapeutic and clinical support to children ages 5-21 with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Severe Emotional Disability.

In 2015, Green Tree went through two organizational shakeups and came within two days of declaring bankruptcy. Wellenbach located funds to keep the organization running, but she resigned shortly after. She has been on the Board of Directors of the Nonprofit Repositioning Fund where she chaired the audit committee and was a member of the executive and governance committees. The fund was started by Jeremy Nowak. Nowak served on the board of Mastery Charter Schools from 2001-2008. In 2012, the William Penn Foundation, which he heads, gave a $15 million grant to the Philadelphia School Partnership, a leading promoter of privatization of public schools.

Wellenbach serves or has served on numerous boards, including Thomas Jefferson University where she is an officer of the board and member of the executive and compensation committees; she also chairs the clinical affairs committee. She was the lead director representing Abington Health in the 2015 merger with Thomas Jefferson University, which resulted in the creation of a health system with $2.5B in annual revenue.

 In September 2016, Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney appointed Wellenbach to the Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Board. Ms. Wellenbach currently serves as the Please Touch Museum President and CEO. Wellenbach is also a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors, Women Corporate Directors, the Forum of Executive Women, and the Pennsylvania Women’s Forum.

Also see:

Will Econsult Solutions be a foot in the door for early childhood “Pay for Success” in Philadelphia?| Wrench in the Gears – March 9, 2018