Dr. Heidi A. Ramirez, an education specialist who directs the Urban Education Collaborative at Temple University, has been named to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell announced Monday.
Ramirez, who has a doctorate in the sociology of education from Stanford, would be the first Latina and the youngest member at age 33 on the five-member commission. It was created in 2001 when the state took over the 172,000-student district, replacing the local school board.
“I believe she is the most qualified member ever appointed to the SRC in terms of educational background,” Rendell said at a press conference.
She would replace James Nevels, who resigned in August. Her appointment would require confirmation by the state Senate.
According to Temple’s Web site, Ramirez’s collaborative links the college’s education and human-development departments with schools and area districts on school reform.
She said her priority on the commission would be “working with the community to develop the kind of school supports we need to create conditions for real academic success for all students.”
Her areas of interest, according to the Web site, include “teaching and learning of high poverty, minority and linguistic minority students.”
At a press conference, Rendell said that several people recommended Ramirez, including Michael Nutter, the Democratic mayoral elect.
“Governor Rendell has made an extraordinary appointment in naming Heidi Ramirez to the School Reform Commission,” Nutter said. “Heidi will bring to the SRC expertise in urban education issues as well as a passion for the power of education that stems from her experience as a child in Head Start.”
Ramirez also has a master’s degree in sociology from Stanford and a bachelor’s in art education and public policy from Syracuse University. The educator grew up in Amsterdam, N.Y., attending public schools, and is one of eight children. She is the daughter of an Irish German mother and Costa Rican father, and lives in the Center City section of Philadelphia. She said she is not “fluent” in Spanish, but can speak it and understand it – which reporters said she demonstrated at the news conference as she took questions in Spanish from a reporter.
“I care passionately about this community,” she said of the Latino population. “I think I have a real obligation to represent the Latinos.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that she deals with several grants involving the school district as part of her work, but the governor said the situation would be reviewed for conflict of interests.
The Philadelphia School District’s Latino student population has grown steadily over the last decade and now stands at 17 percent, district spokesman Fernando Gallard told the Philadelphia Daily News.
Rendell called Ramirez the most qualified person ever appointed to the reform commission. “We’re putting an educator on the board. Good idea,” he said.
As a member of the reform commission, Ramirez said, she would take a keen interest in the most disadvantaged students.
“Whether that be African-American students, Latino students, second-language learners, students with disabilities, we have a variety of challenges to serve them,” she said.“I look forward to working with a variety of community partners, my colleagues on the SRC and the experts inside the school district . . . to help ensure that all children in Philadelphia have the kind of educational opportunities that I’ve been blessed with,” Ramirez said during the news conference with Rendell.
–Diverse Online staff
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