Posted November 13, 2007

Ramírez tapped for School Reform Commission

If confirmed by the State Senate, Heidi Ramirez, director of Temple University's Urban Education Collaborative, will be the newest member of Philadelphia's School Reform Commission.

When Gov. Ed Rendell was looking for someone to fill the slot on Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission vacated by SRC chair James Nevels, he kept hearing one name: Heidi Ramírez.

Everyone, including Mayor-elect Michael Nutter, told Rendell that Ramírez would be the best possible nominee because of her work in urban education and her knowledge of educational policy.


On Monday, Rendell named Ramírez as his pick to serve out the rest of Nevels’ term as a member of the School Reform Commission, which ends in 2009. If she’s confirmed by the State Senate, Ramírez, 33, would become the youngest, and first Latino, member of the group.

During the news conference announcing Ramírez’s nomination, Rendell praised her academic achievements, which include degrees from Syracuse, Harvard and Stanford universities, and her work experience, which includes stints at the U.S. Department of Education and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

But it was her experience in urban education that made her ideal, Rendell said.

“She’s the most qualified member of the SRC we’ve ever had in terms of educational background,” Rendell said. “She cares deeply about education and has made a lifetime commitment to it. I want her to use her background to be a visionary, to get things done.”

Growing up in Amsterdam, N.Y., Ramírez saw firsthand what underprivileged children can do when given the right educational supports. She herself was a student in the federal Head Start program.

Because of this, she hopes to bring those same opportunities to Philadelphia’s children, Ramírez said.

“I’m honored to be the nominee,” she said. “This is exciting for me. I’m looking forward to working with all of our education partners to make sure that all children get the educational opportunities I’ve had.”

She’s also happy to have the chance to represent the city’s Latino community. During the news conference, Ramírez, the daughter of an Irish-German mother and a Costa Rican father, said representing the Latino community well is something that she takes very seriously.

As the director of the Temple University College of Education’s Urban Education Collaborative, Ramírez has been working with school districts around the region, including the School District of Philadelphia, on school reform issues. She has also focused on professional development for teachers through such programs as Temple’s Center for Teaching Excellence and has been a member of School District committees.

She could have taken her talents anywhere, said C. Kent McGuire, dean of the College of Education. But she chose Temple and Philadelphia because of what they represented, he said.

“I think that she has a certain passion for urban education,” he said. “She made a conscious decision to come to Philadelphia and to put herself in a school setting like the one that she grew up in so that she could use her experience with educational policy.”

Ramírez attended public schools and is one of eight children. She lives in Center City and currently has no children.

Because the Senate has 25 legislative session days to approve the appointment, it could be January before Ramírez is confirmed for the SRC. However, Rendell is hoping that she’ll be seated on the board before then. Once she’s confirmed, she’ll join Denise McGregor Armbrister, wife of Temple University Executive Vice President Clarence Armbrister, on the five-member board.