The School District of Philadelphia today will move a step closer to hiring a new leader when the CEO Search Advisory Committee meets for the first time.

Sources familiar with the process said the committee of about 40 people will convene at 5:30 p.m. at the district's administration building, on North Broad Street.

The meeting is not open to the public, said district spokeswoman Barbara Farley.

The advisory committee, whose members include parents, students, education advocates, and civic and community activists, will be briefed by the School Reform Commission on where the search process stands and will be given generic information about the candidates, Farley said.

No candidate names will be released, she said.

Paul Vallas resigned as chief executive officer in the summer and was replaced on an interim basis by Tom Brady, a retired Army colonel who entered school administration as a second career.

The advisory committee's work will include helping the four-member reform commission frame interview questions for finalist candidates and assessing the candidates' qualifications based upon a leadership profile developed from 11 community meetings held this fall.

But advisory-committee member Greg Wade, president of the Philadelphia Home and School Council, said he hoped he and the others would be able to help select the next leader of the 172,000-student district.

"I'm hoping it will be an open process where we truly get to interview candidates," Wade said yesterday.

"If it's going to be something where they're telling us we have to follow their guidelines and they're going to be shoving candidates down our throats, then that's not an open process," he added. *