Author, founder of Art Sanctuary hailed as ‘asset’
Philadelphia native Lorene Cary, author and founder of the Art Sanctuary, has been appointed to the School Reform Commission.
Her appointment rounds out a commission left with three vacancies following the recent resignations of Chairman Robert L. Archie Jr., and member Johnny Irizarry. A third vacancy remains as Pedro Ramos, appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett earlier this year, awaits approval by the state Senate.
Mayor Michael Nutter announced Cary’s appointment late Monday afternoon in a statement released by his press secretary.
“Lorene Cary is a nationally recognized writer, she has a tremendous education background, but for me what is truly outstanding is that she has an incredible passion for the well-being of children; she cares very personally about parents and she’s very much focused on supporting teachers,” Nutter said. “She will be a tremendous asset to the School Reform Commission and the children of Philadelphia.”
Cary could not be reached for comment, but was quoted in the mayor’s announcement.
“My parents were both Philadelphia public school teachers; I attended elementary school here; our children have spent about half their school life in District schools; and as a writer and arts organization director, I’ve worked with schools and with kids, parents and grandparents who know that a good education is their only real hope for success,” she said. “I am grateful to be called to serve them on this committed and talented team.”
The appointment was praised by the state Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis.
“I believe her experience will be beneficial to the school district and the commission,” he said. “I look forward to working with her and her colleagues in the coming months as we address many of the critical issues facing the district.”
Under rules established in 2001, when the state took over city schools, the mayor appoints two members of the five-member commission and the governor appoints three.
That left just two members — Denise McGregor Armbrister and Joseph A. Dworetzky — after Archie’s and Irizarry’s resignations in early September. Both men stepped down in the wake of a far-reaching scandal surrounding the departure of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman and efforts to turn Martin Luther King High School into a charter school.
Nutter filled one slot on Sept. 20, with the appointment of Wendell E. Pritchett, chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden.
Cary is a well-known novelist and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.
Her novel, “The Price of a Child,” was the inaugural One Book One Philadelphia selection in 2003. A senior lecturer in creative writing in the English Department of the University of Pennsylvania, Cary founded Art Sanctuary in 1998 as a means of using African-American art to enrich the city and region, to bring the arts to schools and to build and strengthen a network among artists. She was awarded the Philadelphia Award in 2002.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Cary has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Penn. She also won a Thouron Fellowship and earned an M.A. in Victorian literature from Sussex University in the United Kingdom. She graduated from St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H. and later taught at the school.
Cary lives in East Falls with her husband, the Rev. Robert C. Smith, rector of the Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd. The couple has two daughters.