After working under former mayor Michael Nutter as chief education officer in the School District of Philadelphia, Dr. Lori Shorr has returned to Temple to teach in the College of Education.
During her time as chief education officer, the state made cuts that affected the school district’s functions—like cutting classes and staff deemed “nonessential” like librarians, most nurses and assistant principals.
Despite those cuts and the current budget impasse at the state level, by the end of Shorr’s term, the education offices raised the graduation rate.
“It was a very difficult eight years in terms of education, because of all of the cuts that happened. It was a lot of difficult times,” Shorr said. “Even through that, we were able to get the 13 percent increase in high school graduation rate. And I think that that’s probably the thing I feel the best about.”
Shorr’s decision to teach at Temple as an associate professor of urban education instead of returning to either of her alma maters of Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pittsburgh was because of Temple’s commitment to being a “gateway” for students out of the school district of Philadelphia, she said.
“You’re going to get a lot of students [from Temple] who are from Philly and want to stay in Philly,” Shorr said. “I’m interested in changing for the better what’s happening here in Philly.”
Gregory Anderson, dean of the College of Education, said he got to know Shorr through meetings with the school district. He also said he had similar plans for Shorr to come to Temple after her term as chief education officer completed.
“I really got to appreciate her breadth of knowledge and how networked she was,” Anderson said.
“Her personality of being an open-minded, respectful and smart facilitator and whenever I see people like that I keep them in the back of my mind to come to Temple,” he added.
Shorr is currently teaching two sections of urban education in human development and community engagement, a new major in the College of Education. In the next few years, she will be teaching graduate-level classes, she said.
“I believe it’s important to read the [education] theory, understand the theory but you also have to understand how it gets implemented on the ground if you want to make real impact,” Shorr said.
“I think that giving context, giving examples of what’s happening here in Philly, giving history—and I think that I approach the work differently now that I’ve been close to where it’s been implemented,” she added.
Shorr worked at Temple within the vice provost and president’s office from 1994 to 2001 and said she is happy to return with her expertise—she has 15 years of experience working at the city and state levels.
Shorr added she still feels she needs to help the School District of Philadelphia and always will.
“It’s nice not to wake up in a cold sweat about, ‘Are we going to be able to open school?’ It’s nice that that’s not on my shoulders and I don’t feel the responsibility,” Shorr said.
“Now I feel like I can be part of the solution but I don’t feel like I’m going to wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning anymore,” she added. “Well, maybe I will, but I’m hoping not to.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick