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July 10, 2014, 6:26 pm

SRC aims for new schools chief by fall

If School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos has his way, students enrolled in the Philadelphia School District and their parents should know who the new superintendent is before schools open in September.

That’s provided the newly assembled Superintendent Search Team can finish its work in the next eight months.

“There is no greater responsibility for the SRC than selecting the right superintendent,” Ramos said through a statement released by the SRC. “We believe we can complete the search before September, and we will continue until we have the right leader for our district and our system of schools. We will not settle.”

Lorene Cary, Joseph Dworetzky, Feather Houstoun, and Wendell Pritchett will join Ramos as members of the search team, with Pritchett serving as search team leader. Its executive advisors are Lori Shorr and Edward Williams; Fred Ginyard, Kenneth Kring and Robert Wonderling, the president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, will round out the team. And that team certainly has its work cut out for it, given the high-profile dismissal last August of controversial former superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

After her dismissal, Ackerman humiliated and infuriated school and city officials by filing for unemployment – after she was paid $905,000 in her severance package. The SRC, in its settlement with Ackerman, stated it would not resist her attempt to claim unemployment.

All parties involved in the search for a new school district leader promise a diligent, well-executed search that will focus on certain core criteria.

“Effective community dialogue and input will be critical in the selection of our next superintendent,” said Pritchett. “It is important that the search team is transparent and inclusive in its efforts to select the best candidate to sustain and accelerate the positive academic gains of our children we have experienced.

“The search team must, at the same time, be respectful of the privacy interests of persons who are not prepared to be a candidate, or are not under consideration as finalists for the position.”

Count Mayor Michael Nutter as one of those impressed with the SRC’s move to create the search team.

“I commend the SRC on striking a balance between the need for true public engagement and the importance of moving quickly…this community engagement process will help the SRC to learn from parents, students, and stakeholders about what is needed at the school level as they take on the vitally important task,” Nutter said. “The community engagement process will provide invaluable input to be used throughout the selection process and beyond.”