Sylvia Simms, a longtime parent advocate and former member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, has been chosen to lead an organization that represents parents seeking more charter schools and educational choice.
The appointment of Simms as the first executive director of Educational Opportunities for Families is scheduled to be announced Tuesday.
The organization was founded in 2014 and is supported by the Philadelphia School Advocacy Project, the political-action arm of the Philadelphia School Partnership. The partnership is a nonprofit that has raised and distributed $80 million to city charter, parochial and public schools since its 2011 inception to support the expansion of seats in high-quality schools.
Simms takes the helm as Educational Opportunities for Families prepares to launch "an aggressive new initiative to engage more parents in support of school reform, particularly in North Philadelphia," according to a statement announcing her selection.
Thirty-four of the schools with the lowest scores on the district's School Progress Report are in North Philadelphia.
Simms, 56, a North Philadelphia mother and grandmother, said she founded the group Parent Power in 2009. "When this new opportunity presented itself, it was pretty much what I was doing anyway," she said.
Simms served on the SRC, whose members are unpaid, from 2013 until this January. She declined to disclose the salary she will receive for leading Educational Opportunities for Families.
On the SRC, Simms cast several critical votes to approve or renew the operating agreements of charters.
In her new role, Simms said, she wants to create opportunities for parents and community members to talk and ensure that families, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, have high-quality schools for their children.
"For me, when I see families and the community involved, the children in the school do better," she said. "Why not have the families involved so we can then talk about what is the best option for that school?"
She said she would focus on North Philadelphia first. "Hopefully, what we do here, we can take it and spread it across the city," Simms said.
"We always talk about having high-quality schools close to where you live," she said. "There are no high-quality schools close to where I live, so what are we going to do about that?"