A retired U.S. Army officer who began a second career in public education said yesterday that he would get right to work on the district's problems when he takes the helm July 1 as interim chief executive officer of the Philadelphia public schools.
Thomas M. Brady, 56, who was hired as the Philadelphia schools' chief operating officer in March, said he was confident that he would be a contender for the permanent position when the commission conducts a nationwide search for a successor to Paul Vallas, who is leaving next month to head New Orleans' public schools.
But rather than worrying about his future prospects, Brady said, he will be focusing on the immediate needs of the district: dealing with looming budget deficits and continuing the educational improvements that Vallas started.
"We have a short-term mission, and that's taking care of the school district of Philadelphia," Brady said.
He said he would work with Vallas over the next few weeks.
Brady spoke to reporters after the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted 3-0 to approve his appointment to the district's $275,000-a-year top job during a tumultuous commission meeting. Sandra Dungee Glenn angrily walked out of the meeting before the vote, saying she was incensed that she had not been told in advance the commission planned to act on the interim appointment.
"I feel very much disrespected as a commissioner," she told James Nevels, the chairman, who introduced the Brady motion. "This is not any reflection on Mr. Brady or his capabilities," Glenn said.
But she noted that Brady had joined the district only six weeks ago, and that she needed to know more about him before she could vote for him.
Several audience members cheered Glenn's remarks and applauded her exit. A few angrily denounced the commission, and one community activist said: "$275,000, and we don't even know who he is!"
Nevels' resolution did not appear on the meeting's printed agenda. Commission member Martin Bedarek said he, too, was surprised by Nevels' resolution but commission member James Gallagher said he was expecting it. (Gov. Rendell's appointment has not yet reported to take the fifth seat on the board.)
"I am aware of it, because we have been discussing this transition, it has to be, for five or six weeks," Gallagher said. "We need the leadership of a new CEO immediately because we are managing a $2 billion enterprise that serves children."
Nevels said later that he had said publicly last week that the commission expected to make the appointment yesterday.
Brady said that although he was surprised by Glenn's departure, he did not feel that her anger was directed at him.
Brady had been considered the likely choice for interim CEO after Vallas announced this spring that he would be leaving at the end of the current school year.
The man who once was the commanding officer at Fort Belvoir in Virginia said he decided to enter public education after serving as the president of a parent-teacher association at his son's high school in Virginia.
He began his education career with the Fairfax County Public Schools in 1999 as assistant superintendent for the Department of Facilities Services and later served as the district's chief operating officer.
Fairfax County, which has more than 165,000 students, is the 12th largest school district in the country. Philadelphia has about 174,000 student.
Until joining the Philadelphia School District this spring, Brady was the chief business operations officer for the public school system in Washington, D.C.
In other action, the commission yesterday turned down the applications of eight proposed charter schools and postponed acting on 11 others until October for opening in the fall of 2008.
And the commission took the first step toward returning to schools artwork that had been taken in 2004 and put in storage, inventoried and evaluated. Schools must submit safety and security plans to a district committee that will make recommendations to the commission.