PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Education activists are calling for more transparency in how Mayor Jim Kenney picks new school board members. Several groups are demanding that the selection by the mayor’s Education Nominating Panel be done in public.
The panel is sifting through more than 60 applications to serve on Philadelphia’s Board of Education. The panel this week is expected to present Mayor Kenney with nine candidates from which he’ll pick three to fill the vacancies on the city’s nine-member school board.
Retired teacher Lisa Haver, who founded the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, wants the panel’s deliberations to be done in public.
“The mayor chooses the nominating panel with no public scrutiny,” she said. “Now the nominating panel is attempting to choose school board members without any public scrutiny.”
Haver said especially since Philadelphia does not have an elected school board, the public should be permitted to watch and give interactive testimony as the panel deliberates. Haver said when the panel convened online last month, that didn’t happen.
“All panel hearings must include an opportunity for public testimony as the meeting on November 17 did not. That was not a public hearing. That was a live TV show,” she said.
The Alliance, the Our City Our Schools Coalition and other groups say the closed door violates the Sunshine Act and that not all 13 panel members are registered voters in Philadelphia.
Deana Gamble, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said in a statement the panel meets in accordance with the Sunshine Act, it will take public testimony at its next meeting on Wednesday, and all members are registered voters in the city.
Haver said the groups are considering a legal challenge to the process.