Nutter's novel SRC selection: Author, educator Lorene Cary named to round out schools panel

Posted: October 11, 2011

LORENE CARY, appointed yesterday by Mayor Nutter to the School Reform Commission, recognizes that she has a lot to learn in the role.

The University of Pennsylvania professor, novelist and local arts advocate brings to the table unconventional experience with the school district, much of which she gained through the Art Sanctuary, an organization she started in 1998 that works to educate and to effect change through contemporary African-American art.

Through the Art Sanctuary's after-school and arts-education programs, Cary said, she has worked extensively with district schools and children.

"To see children flourish who had not been flourishing," she said, "you cannot help but feel just crazy to make it happen for more children."

Despite her familiarity with district schools and her connection to the arts, Cary said, she isn't joining the SRC with priorities in mind.

"I'll be one person on a team," she said. "I think I need to learn a lot and move forward."

Cary acknowledged that when Nutter approached her about joining the SRC, she wondered whether she would make "a good fit."

"Nobody brings everything," she said. "I bring what I bring, and I'll give it as much commitment and care and attention as I possibly can."

In a statement yesterday, Nutter praised her education background and her passion.

"She cares very personally about parents, and she's very much focused on supporting teachers," he said.

Cary acknowledged that she does not have the same level of financial expertise as other members of the SRC, a group that regularly votes on contracts and makes other decisions related to the district's roughly $2.4 billion budget.

"That's not why I'm being brought on," Cary said of the SRC's financial decisions. "What I will have to do is just work very hard to be a team member in that case, but not a leader."

Cary's appointment, Nutter's second, fills the five-seat SRC for the first time since February.

Interim SRC Chair Wendell Pritchett, whom Nutter appointed last month, said that Cary has strong leadership skills. The two were colleagues when Pritchett taught at Penn.

"She's worked with youth in the city for a long time," Pritchett said. "She understands what their challenges are and what their needs are."

Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, who met Cary in the late 1970s and later served on the Art Sanctuary's board, said Cary's honesty and open mind would serve her well on the SRC.

"She really knows how to work with people and get people to work together," said Sinkler, a former books editor at the Inquirer and at the New York Times. "She has amazing judgment."

Chief Education Officer Lori Schorr, recently appointed to serve as an executive adviser to the district, agreed.

"Lorene brings a spirit of openness and energy to everything she does," Schorr said in a statement.

Cary expects to be sworn in before the SRC's next meeting Oct. 26.

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