May 1, 2024 - News

New Philadelphia school board takes office amid controversy

Illustration of Philadelphia City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: BasSlabbers/Getty Images

Philadelphia's new Board of Education takes over Wednesday amid a power struggle between Mayor Cherelle Parker and the City Council over one of her appointments.

Why it matters: The conflict raises questions about how well legislators will work with the new school board and mayor.

State of play: Joyce Wilkerson is expected to be sworn in along with the eight other board members at 10am at City Hall despite failing to receive approval for her nomination from the council.

Between the lines: School board members are appointed by the mayor but must receive a vote of consent from city legislators before their terms begin.

Catch up quick: City Council approved Parker's school board nominees last week, except for Wilkerson, the longest-serving board member.

But Parker appointed Wilkerson anyway, saying in a released statement that she asked Wilkerson to remain on the board "until such time when I appoint a new member" because no one had been confirmed to replace her.

  • Parker spokesperson Joe Grace maintained Wilkerson's appointment wasn't new because she was a member of the outgoing board.

Behind the scenes: A campaign against Wilkerson's nomination was mostly led by charter school supporters, per the Inquirer.

  • Dawn Chavous, a spokesperson for a charter school coalition and wife of Council President Kenyatta Johnson, was reportedly involved in the effort to derail Wilkerson's nomination, which Chavous has denied, per the Inquirer.

The intrigue: It remains to be seen whether Wilkerson can stay on the board indefinitely without legislators' approval.

  • Grace declined to say when the mayor would make a new board appointment.

Details: The other school board members are Reginald Streater, ChauWing Lam, Sarah-Ashley Andrews, Crystal Cubbage, Cheryl Harper, Whitney Jones, Joan Stern and Wanda Novales.

What they're saying: Johnson would not say whether legislators will take additional action over Wilkerson's appointment.

Councilmember Isaiah Thomas released a statement, saying Philly schools have been "inadequate under [Wilkerson's] leadership."

  • "I am ready to work with the 8 nominees who City Council confirmed to serve Philadelphians in a transparent and accessible manner."
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