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Farah Jimenez resigns SRC seat; Gov. Wolf will not appoint a replacement

Farah Jimenez, "a strong voice" for Philadelphia children, is leaving the lame-duck SRC. She did not disclose in a letter to Gov. Wolf why she was doing so abruptly.

SRC member Farah Jimenez (center) resigned her seat Wednesday. Gov. Wolf will not replace her.
SRC member Farah Jimenez (center) resigned her seat Wednesday. Gov. Wolf will not replace her.Read moreSTEVE FALK / Staff Photographer

Farah Jimenez resigned her seat on the lame-duck School Reform Commission, effective Wednesday.

Jimenez, the CEO of the education nonprofit Philadelphia Education Fund, was appointed to the commission by then-Gov. Tom Corbett in January 2014. She said she was leaving to devote more attention to her day job.

Gov. Wolf said he would let Jimenez's seat remain vacant. The panel will cease to exist June 30.

Jimenez said she had thought about leaving the SRC for some time, even before the commission's November vote to dissolve itself. After consulting with SRC Chairwoman Joyce Wilkerson, Jimenez decided now would be the appropriate time to depart.

"Now that we don't have things that are going to need a fifth vote, it's time for me to grow the Philadelphia Education Fund," said Jimenez, adding that the unpaid SRC position is a "tremendously time-intensive volunteer gig."

For a while, Jimenez essentially worked as a commissioner full time. Since she took over as Education Fund executive, juggling commission responsibilities has been a challenge, she said.

In a letter to Wolf resigning her seat, Jimenez said: "It has been a gift to be in service to the students in Philadelphia — young people who deserve the very best in education, and a city and state committed and invested in their success."

Jimenez is viewed as warmer to charter schools than most other members of the commission; at a special meeting of the SRC last week, she voted to approve a number of charter schools that other members had concerns about and ultimately denied. She was also criticized by some education activists for her regular abstentions from SRC votes due to potential conflicts because of her and her husband's business interests. He is a lawyer whose firm has represented charter schools.

School District and SRC officials had warm words for Jimenez and her service.

"It has been an honor to serve on this commission alongside Farah over the past year," Wilkerson said in a statement. "I have admired her commitment to public service and tenacity, during years of difficult decisions, which allowed the district to stabilize and begin reinvesting in schools."

"Farah Jimenez has been a strong voice on the School Reform Commission over the last four years," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said in a statement.  "I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to her for her leadership and service to children, parents and advocates in Philadelphia."

The SRC will be replaced by a local school board whose potential members became clearer this week. Officials in the governor's office were not immediately available for comment.

Jimenez abstained from voting on the SRC's dissolution but made it clear she had concerns. To certify that the school system no longer needed the SRC, it had by state law to certify it was no longer in dire straits.

Given a looming deficit, "there can also be no question that the School District of Philadelphia is in distress," Jimenez said in November.

She called serving on the SRC "one of the richest volunteer experiences I've ever had."