Corbett nominates Pedro Ramos to the School Reform Commission

Posted: June 17, 2011

In a surprise move, Gov. Corbett on Thursday nominated Pedro A. Ramos, a Democrat and former city school board president, to the School Reform Commission.

Ramos, 46, will fill the seat that opened when David F. Girard-diCarlo, a Republican, resigned this year. If confirmed by the state Senate, he would serve until 2014 in the unpaid position.

Ramos - a lawyer, graduate of the district, and public-school parent - sat on the school board from 1995 through 2001. He was president for two years, until the board was dissolved and the district taken over by the state.

"Pedro Ramos has a strong and well-deserved reputation as a leader in Philadelphia's educational community, and he understands the many challenges facing our state's largest public school system," Corbett, a Republican, said in a news release. "I'm confident Pedro will bring the same level of determination and dedication to the School Reform Commission's important work."

As a member of the school board, Ramos forged positive relationships with former state Education Secretary Charles Zogby, now Corbett's budget secretary, and others in Republican Gov. Tom Ridge's administration.

The Corbett administration reached out to him about the position, Ramos said in an interview.

The district is at a critical juncture, facing a $629 million budget gap, Ramos said, adding that he is now in a position to help. His children, who were 4 and 1 when he was first appointed to the board, are now 19 and 16. Ramos' younger daughter is finishing her junior year at Masterman, the prestigious district magnet school.

"I think it's a combination of the opportunity to be a part of a partnership among the state, the city, and the School District," Ramos said, "and that I think I can make a big difference."

He acknowledged that the district had changed greatly in his absence and that there would be a "learning curve" as he joined the SRC. "But I have experience and knowledge that make the learning curve less steep," he said.

Ramos declined to comment on speculation that he might be named chairman.

Revelations about closed-door meetings and a possible conflict of interest of the current chairman, Robert L. Archie Jr., led Mayor Nutter to direct the city's chief integrity officer to investigate why an Atlanta charter-school company withdrew from plans to operate Martin Luther King High School this year. That report is pending.

The five-member SRC is made up of three gubernatorial appointees and two mayoral appointees. Archie was a Nutter pick who was made chairman by Gov. Ed Rendell.

Janet Kelley, a spokeswoman for Corbett, said there were no current plans to make Ramos chair.

Ramos made himself accessible to reporters while on the school board and saw engaging with the public and press as part of the job. Archie, in particular, has been reluctant to answer reporters' questions.

"I try to answer even if the answer is, 'I can't answer,' " Ramos said. "It's the public sector. The public wants to understand. It's been my view in the public positions I've held that it's important to communicate as well as you can the situation that you face and the magnitude of the challenges."

Ramos, a former Philadelphia city solicitor and managing director, is a graduate of Hunter Elementary, Conwell Middle, and Central High Schools. He earned degrees at the Universities of Pennsylvania and Michigan.

He is a lawyer with the firm of Trujillo, Rodriguez & Richards, where he leads the government, education, and social-sector practice.

Ramos was the lead attorney representing the district in its response to a U.S. Department of Justice complaint over racially motivated attacks on Asian students at South Philadelphia High in 2009. A settlement was reached this year.

On the school board, Ramos helped negotiate the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' contract in 2000. He was also one of the city's negotiators on school funding with Ridge and Gov. Mark S. Schweiker.

Ramos cannot take his seat until the Senate votes, and it's not clear when that might happen.


Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, kgraham@phillynews.com, or @newskag on Twitter. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.

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