The School Reform Commission held a meeting on Thursday and discussed the possibility of voting to dissolve itself by year’s end.
Dozens of protesters filled and disrupted the auditorium in the School District of Philadelphia headquarters during the three-hour meeting, with signs reading “SRC your time has expired.”
The SRC replaced the School District of Philadelphia’s school board in 2001 to be a temporary measure, when Pennsylvania took over the public school system. The SRC has since been responsible for preparing the district’s operating budgets, appointing a superintendent, along with all other traditional duties of school boards.
The SRC is chaired by Joyce Wilkerson, the senior adviser to the President at Temple for community relations and development. Other members include former Democratic councilman-at-large, William J. Green, president and CEO of the nonprofit Philadelphia Education Fund, Farah Jimenez, Temple’s coordinator for the Educational Leadership Program, Christopher McGinley and Estelle Richman, the former senior adviser to the secretary for Housing and Urban Development. Each member is appointed by the governor or mayor.
“There has been significant attention, however, directed towards the dissolution of the SRC,” Wilkerson told the crowd. “Our hope is to provide the public with information regarding the complexity of this issue. Tonight’s presentation is purely informational. Tonight there will be no decisions, deliberations, or timelines discussed.”
The SRC asked to hear from the district’s Acting General Counsel Miles Shore about the framework that formed the SRC, and the legality of the potential disbandment of the commission.
To be dissolved, the SRC must vote itself out of existence.
“If and when the School Reform Commission is dissolved, it would be replaced by a board of public education,” Shore said. “There will be nine members of an appointed school board.”
Shore said there will be a 13-person nominating board — appointed by the Mayor of Philadelphia — that will make three recommendations of candidates for each position. The Mayor would be receiving 27 total recommended candidates for him to choose from.
If the SRC is disbanded, school employees would regain the right to strike, Shore said
“The school employees would regain the right to strike, but for the professional employees, the length of the strike is limited by the requirement to complete the full instructional year of 180 days,” Shore added. “So, in effect, a teacher’s strike would probably not last more than 10 days. For example, the teachers would then be ordered back to work.”
After Shore’s presentation, the SRC listened to Philadelphia residents’ concerns about the district and the SRC itself for two hours. The first speaker was Samuel Dennis, a senior at the Science Leadership Academy in Center City. Protesters rallied behind him as he spoke.
“We still currently have a lot of work to do when it comes to a completely structured education reform,” Dennis said. “We work and we will continuously work for dissolution of the SRC. We wait long and fight hard to get our new school board.”
Protesters standing behind Dennis began to shout, “Tick, tick, tick, tick” with raised signs for over a minute as Wilkerson tried to move onto the next speaker.
Wilkerson was appointed as the chair of the Commission by Mayor Jim Kenney in November 2016. McGinley was appointed shortly after in January 2017, also by Kenney.
Wilkerson told the Inquirer after the meeting that the SRC needs to “look seriously at the issues.”
“Before I joined the SRC, I said I thought local control was important,” Wilkerson told the Inquirer. “I believe in that direct accountability.”
Wilkerson previously told The Temple News in January that she would refrain from voting on any issue that involves the school district and the university to avoid a conflict of interest between the two.