City makes moves to 'stabilize' schools

Posted: October 05, 2011

IN THE LATEST example of expanding oversight of the Philadelphia School District by the city and state, Mayor Nutter yesterday announced two efforts to help "stabilize" district operations.

The chief education officer, Lori Shorr, and district veteran Ed Williams will work with Acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery and the district's senior staff as "executive advisers" until a permanent schools chief is hired.

Nutter said that Shorr and Williams would provide "real-time, two-way communication" involving the district, the state and the city.

The news comes in the wake of recent shake-ups of leadership in the district and the School Reform Commission. Nutter cautioned to stay focused on education. "We have no more time for adult foolishness," he said. "This is a time for educational excellence for children. That's our role, that's our job, that's our mission."

Williams, who was chief academic officer for former Superintendent Paul Vallas before retiring from the district in 2004, said he plans to focus attention on creating a plan to help with the transition from one superintendent to another.

"The people who are internal, they tend to get washed out when a new superintendent comes in," he said. "Even if we were to hire a new superintendent today, we would not have any data to pass on to that superintendent about what's working well and what's not working well."

Nutter also announced creation of a "financial, operations and systems working group" composed of "highly skilled" business, education and nonprofit experts who would advise the SRC of best practices regarding contracts, personnel and administrative matters.

The "working group," as Nutter called it, will draw on expertise in the private, education and nonprofit sectors, he said.

The practice is not typical but has been done in other districts, said Craig Carnaroli, executive vice president at the University of Pennsylvania, who will head the committee. "If we can get some short-term things that would help in the stabilization mode, that would be good," he said.

State Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis said the partnership demonstrates "a tighter working relationship" among state, city, SRC and district leadership.

Nunery said he gave the deal his "ringing endorsement."