Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Philadelphia: The SRC just got an SRC

The governance of Philadelphia schools is a tricky thing. A few years back, the state took over the city's schools and put them under the guidance of the five-member School Reform Commission. The governor appoints three SRC members; Philadelphia's mayor appoints the other two.

Got that?

Given recent controversies about the district, there's been a new reform movement afoot. Mayor Nutter and Ed Secretary Ron Tomalis responded Tuesday with their own plan:
Speaking at a news conference at district headquarters, Nutter and Tomalis announced the appointment of two "executive advisers" to work directly with district leadership and the School Reform Commission until a permanent superintendent is chosen to replace Arlene C. Ackerman.

They also said a working group of business experts is being formed to advise the SRC on changes in matters of operations and administration.

Nutter chose Lori Shorr, his top education official, for one of the adviser jobs; Tomalis picked Edward Williams, a retired district chief academic officer. The two will have offices inside district headquarters and officially began work Tuesday.

The city and the state will each appoint an "adviser" to monitor a body of officials already appointed by the city and the state. The School Reform Commission, in essence, just got its own School Reform Commission.

Maybe this is a "this time we really mean it" move. But if the joint state-city oversight of the schools isn't working out satisfactorily, why would adding another layer of joint state-city oversight improve things? And if it fails—who, really, wants to bet on success when it comes to the Philadelphia school district—will Nutter and Tomalis appoint an SRC to monitor the SRC that monitors the SRC? At some point you've got to stop fiddling with the administrative structure and just get down to the hard task of educating children.

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