By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia schools are indeed returning to local control, now that the state has signed off on the dissolution of the School Reform Commission.

It is official — Philadelphia schools will return to local control next July, now that the state education secretary has approved the School Reform Commission’s vote last month to abolish itself.

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The SRC will be replaced by a nine-member school board appointed by the mayor. What happens now? Deputy Mayor for Policy and Legislation Jim Engler says a 13-member nominating panel is being assembled, to submit school board candidates to the mayor.

“We look to finalize the members of the nominating panel in the early part of January, and then they have up to 40 days to submit names to the mayor. So we plan to finalize the mayor’s appointments to the board by early to mid-March,” said Engler.

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The move ends 16 years of state control for Philadelphia schools.

In a statement, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said “the district has made financial and academic improvements during the tenure of the SRC.”

Gov. Tom Wolf, in a statement, said local control with state support will make Philadelphia schools stronger.

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“This is an important next step to return our schools to local control,” said School Reform Commission Chair Joyce Wilkerson in a statement. “We thank PDE for their diligence and for their decision to move the process forward.”