District advocate Sylvia Simms tapped to join SRC

Sylvia Simms founded Parent Power six months ago to get parents more involved in their kids' education.
Sylvia Simms founded Parent Power six months ago to get parents more involved in their kids' education. (JIMMY VIOLA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: January 29, 2013

SCHOOLS community advocate Sylvia Simms laughed with a giddy gusto into the phone Monday afternoon.

"I'm still excited! I'm still excited!" she said.

A few hours earlier, Mayor Nutter announced that he had appointed Simms, 52, to the School Reform Commission.

"Simms will bring her experience and knowledge as community leader, parent, former school-district employee and graduate to the children and school community," Nutter said in a statement. "Sylvia will bring an incredibly important and unique perspective to educational advocacy to the School Reform Commission."

Simms, a Simon Gratz High grad, said that the Mayor's Office called her in October, on her birthday.

"It's a big job. I was honored that he would ask me to serve on the SRC," said Simms. "I just knew that I could bring something different to the board. I can be the parent, family and community voice."

She'll fill the vacancy left by departing SRC member Lorene Cary, who has been on medical leave since September. Cary, 56, did not seek reappointment "due to health considerations," according to a statement.

Simms is the outreach project coordinator for Broadband Adoption, a Comcast initiative that aims to bridge the digital divide of a lack of Internet access in urban communities. Previously, the North Philadelphia resident was a part-time bus attendant for the district, helping special-needs students get on and off buses.

Her daughters, 35 and 23, are graduates of University City and Dobbins high schools, respectively, and her granddaughter, 11, attends Peirce Elementary.

Simms founded the advocacy group Parent Power in 2009. She was asked to serve on the superintendent-search committee last year, alongside the SRC and chief education officer Lori Shorr.

"I saw Sylvia in action [on the committee] and was impressed with her," Shorr said. "Sylvia brings a wealth of lived experience to the discussion of what's important for students in schools."

Phil Goldsmith, an interim schools CEO in the early 2000s, said he didn't know Simms personally, but "I salute the mayor for his choice."

"The concept of naming someone like that is terrific, having someone with a totally different view," he said. Three SRC members are lawyers, and one has served in high-level government roles. "Someone right there in the trenches who is there [in the schools] each and every day."

On Twitter: @ReginaMedina

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