Philadelphia School District officials last night gave an overview of the 37 finalists for the job of district CEO: 29 men and eight women of varied backgrounds and qualifications.

The list is made up of 15 African Americans, eight Caucasians, one Asian American, and 13 people who did not state their ethnicity. Of the 37 applicants, 21 live outside Pennsylvania and 16 live in the state. Nine of them live in the city or surrounding area. Put another way, 25 candidates live in the East, six in the Midwest, five in the South, and one is from the West.

Lastly, eight of the candidates did their most recent or current work in the private sector, four in the nonprofit sector, and the rest in education.

District officials released the list shortly after a committee of residents who will give the School Reform Commission feedback on the 37 finalists held its first meeting last night at district headquarters.

The committee of 40 or so is composed of parents, advocates, union representatives, political and business leaders, and students. They were asked to help the commission frame questions for interviews with the finalists.

The new chief executive will replace Paul Vallas, who left the district in June to run the schools in New Orleans. Tom Brady, a retired Army colonel, is serving as interim chief executive officer.

Former Gov. Mark Schweiker, who presided over the state takeover of the school system in 2001, is among those the SRC invited to serve on the search committee.

Before last night's meeting, Schweiker said he would be looking for a "high-energy" leader, with political savvy, the ability to work directly with parents and unions, and with a "passion." The leader also will have to be committed to making changes that will be visible to parents and students in schools - modern textbooks, teacher aides, working water fountains, school buses that arrive on time, he said.

"Over the years, there have been so many efforts extraneous to the classroom . . . that just don't reach the kids," said Schweiker, who heads the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education said the candidate doesn't have to be from Philadelphia, but should have experience running a school district.

"I'm pretty open-minded. I'm not ruling people out, but I think there needs to be some baseline qualifications," she said.

Shelly Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, is looking for a leader who will evaluate the programs and policies and keep what is working.

"I hope to find someone who can build on what has been begun," she said.

Members had been told that they would be asked to attend two meetings. Some wondered whether that would be enough to get the job done.

It wasn't clear last night when the committee would meet with the finalists. A revised timeline released last night indicated that the search committee would interview the finalists in January. The SRC would then make its selection.

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com.