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Mayor’s Appointees Quit Philadelphia School Reform Commission

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The faces are changing fast within the Philadelphia School District. Earlier this month Dr. Arlene Ackerman stepped down as Superintendent. Now two members of the School Reform Commission have decided it’s time to go.This morning, a representative for SRC Chairman Robert Archie Jr. emailed us a statement that read, in part: “Now that schools have opened successfully, a budget has been adopted for the fiscal year and an acting superintendent has been appointed, I have determined that I should conclude my service on the School Reform Commission.

Late this afternoon, the Mayor’s office announced SRC board member Johnny Irizarry is also leaving. Mayor Michael Nutter said: “I am very much appreciate the service of Bob Archie and Johnny Irizarry through very difficult and challenging times.”

“It’s sad all of this is happening and detracting from the education of the kids,” said Jay Cohen.

Cohen says he has two children in the district and serves on the Home and School Association. He says the district shake-ups represent a bigger problem. “The SRC doesn’t represent parents they’re not elected,” said Cohen. “Maybe it’s time the SRC is elected.”

The Mayor is responsible for appointing two replacements. Governor Tom Corbett has control over the other three seats. The real power lies with the teachers, says Philadelphia teachers Union President Jerry Jordan. He doesn’t expect the recent resignations to have a negative impact on the district as a whole.

The departures of Archie and Irizarry, along with a previous vacancy on the five-seat board, leave the SRC without a quorum and the ability to conduct business.

Nutter says he hopes to fill the seats “soon,” and added that he had not pressured Archie to resign.

Still, the spotlight on the SRC increased in recent months, after the Philadelphia school district revealed a surprise budget shortfall of $629 million that needed to be plugged and after the SRC bought out the contract of controversial Philadelphia schools superintendent Arlene Ackerman, a move that cost taxpayers $905,000 (see related story).

In a statement issued on Archie’s behalf by a Montgomery County public relations firm, Archie notes that he has served as SRC commissioner and chairman for nearly 2½ years and says, “Now that schools have opened successfully, a budget has been adopted for the fiscal year, and an acting superintendent has been appointed [related story], I have determined that I should conclude my service on the School Reform Commission.”
(Read Robert Archie’s full statement below.)

Meanwhile,  Mayor Nutter’s office has yet to release the results of its probe into another controversy surrounding Archie, the awarding of a charter contract this year for Martin Luther King High School.

Shortly after Archie’s announcement, Philadelphia schools activist Helen Gym said that it had been time for a change of leadership at the SRC.

“This was an SRC that had failure upon failure piled upon it,” Gym told KYW Newsradio today.   “You can point to things like the ugly departure of Dr. Ackerman, you can talk about a 629-million-dollar deficit that they had no clue and no plan to really address very well.   I mean, there were so many failures.”

Reported by Mike Dunn, KYW Newsradio; Jericka Duncan, CBS 3

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Statement of Robert L. Archie Jr. On Resignation from School Reform Commission

Over the last several months, I have had multiple conversations with Mayor Michael Nutter and members of his Administration on issues related to the School District of Philadelphia. Indeed, during my entire tenure, I have
tried to work closely and collaboratively with the Mayor and his staff in achieving the best educational program for the children of the Philadelphia Public Schools.

The Mayor and I have also had recent conversations involving the future management structure of the public school system.

Upon being chosen to serve on the School Reform Commission, my goal was to work for the children and families of Philadelphia for two years. I have served as Commissioner and Chairman for almost two and one half years. Now
that schools have opened successfully, a budget has been adopted for the fiscal year and an acting superintendent has been appointed, I have determined that I should conclude my service on the School Reform Commission. The Mayor should have the opportunity to carry out his educational programs and objectives with a new group of appointees to the Commission. Accordingly, I am resigning as Chairman and as a member of the School Reform Commission, a very distinguished and hard working-body of volunteers, effective immediately.

When I was appointed to this position, I took the oath with my family and friends standing beside me. As a lifetime resident of Philadelphia and a graduate of the Philadelphia public school system, I have been committed to Philadelphia and its schools since the early fifties, first as an honor roll student, then as a substitute teacher and periodically as the school district’s co-bond counsel.

When asked by the Mayor and Governor Rendell to serve, I happily volunteered my service to the School Reform Commission hoping that my service would promote educational opportunities for all the children in the School District of Philadelphia. I am glad that I was able to do so.  There have been many obstacles, not the least of which involves the
budgetary issues facing the School District this fiscal year and next.  During my tenure, my fellow Commissioners and I have provided, to the best of our ability, certain solutions to the many challenges facing the School District. I am also extremely proud of our many achievements, including the creation of the Imagine 2014 strategic plan, the integration of traditional public schools with charter programs, the progressive teacher contracts, and the revised expulsion process. I am satisfied that I have given the best service of which I am capable to the citizens of Philadelphia. At all times, I have acted in their sole interest and it has been a privilege and an honor to do so.

I wish Mayor Nutter, Acting Superintendent Nunery, the public school system staff and the School Reform Commission every success as they continue to serve the children of the district.

(End of statement by Robert Archie)

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Leroy Nunery, Acting Superintendent, Regarding the Resignations of Robert Archie and Johnny Irizarry

I wish to express my sincere gratitude for the distinguished service rendered by Robert Archie and Johnny Irizarry as members of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. With uncommon dedication and always with dignity, they contributed countless hours of their time and effort to help advance the School District of Philadelphia, the city and its youth.

Together they supported the District’s strategic plan, Imagine 2014, and encouraged the solid implementation of an aggressive school reform agenda. Under their leadership, academic growth and gains continued to rise for the ninth consecutive year. Both were charged by the Mayor to create and chair the Task Force on the African-American and Latino Male Dropout which was successfully published last year and is now being implemented. We are grateful for this and for all their contributions to school reform.

Although they will now leave the SRC, we will continue to benefit from their counsel and know we can count on their support in the years to come. Once again, I thank and wish them well.

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