Tears flowed yesterday as the Philadelphia School District bade farewell to James Nevels, who officially resigned as chairman of the School Reform Commission.
Members of City Council, the reform commission, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham, Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce President Mark Schweiker and Disston Elementary School student Keisha Fletcher lauded Nevels for steering the district during five years of improved state test scores.
"I will watch with great expectation and great hope as you help the Keishas one at a time," he told the room full of school-district employees. "I will look with great expectancy and great optimism as you take this school district over on behalf of children."
His successor as chair, Sandra Dungee Glenn, meanwhile, is wasting no time in making changes near the top.
School-district sources confirmed that Glenn has asked for the resignations of two high-ranking administration officials who had been appointed by Nevels.
Being ushered out are: Frank Siefert, the $140,000-a-year chief of staff and special assistant to the commission; and Diane Guveyian, the $150,000-a-year executive director and government liaison.
Siefert yesterday confirmed that his last day will be Oct. 1. Guveyian declined comment.
"As the incoming chair, I'm going to be looking at how we might reorganize the commission staff to better meet the needs of our commission and some of the challenges we have with our oversight and governance of the school district," Glenn said.
In another development, state House Republican Leader Sam Smith, R-Jefferson County, yesterday blasted Gov. Rendell's suggestion that his budget secretary, Michael Masch, could serve the school district as managing director if the position were created.
In a statement, Smith said city schools should focus on continuing academic improvements, "not finding jobs for old friends."
Glenn said no discussions have been held about creating such a job. In yesterday's Daily News, Masch said the idea was premature.