The Lead

Philly Board of Ed president honored with lifetime achievement award

By: - December 13, 2022 2:31 pm

By Chanel Hill

PHILADELPHIA — City Board of Education president Joyce S. Wilkerson has been named the 2022 recipient of the Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award.

Wilkerson received the prestigious honor for her leadership in public education and her commitment to improving student achievement.

Joyce Wilkerson
Philadelphia Board of Education President Joyce Wilkerson (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

Named after scholar, teacher, minister and civil rights activist Benjamin Elijah Mays, the award is presented annually by The Council of Urban Boards of Education to current and former school board members who have made a difference in the lives of the students they serve.

The award was announced at the National School Board Association Conference in Miami last week.

“I am honored that the Council of Urban Boards of Education has recognized my work in improving public education in Philadelphia so that all our children have the resources they need to achieve their greatest potential,” Wilkerson said in a statement to The Philadelphia Tribune.

“I would like to note that while I have led the Board since 2018, all of the Board’s successes — from improving the District’s finances to establishing Goals & Guardrails — were accomplished with the input, insight and hard work of every Board Member. For that, I am truly grateful,” Wilkerson added.

Wilkerson was appointed to the School Reform Commission (SRC) in November 2016 and is one of the first nine members appointed by Mayor Jim Kenney to the Philadelphia Board of Education in 2018.

During her six-year tenure, Wilkerson had guided the School District of Philadelphia transition from the state-controlled SRC to the locally controlled Board of Education.

The board would help the district go from fiscal and academic distress to moving it to financial stability, even obtaining an investment grade rating from Moody’s Investor Services for the first time since 1977.

In 2019, Wilkerson led the board’s work to create and implement goals and guardrails, a strategic plan to raise student achievement in Philadelphia public schools.

Under the goals and guardrails plan, the board dedicates a significant percentage of its time to setting achievement goals in reading, math and college and career readiness and has substantial check-ins on those goals at every school board meeting.

The board, as the district’s governing body, is also responsible for voting on contracts and conducting the business of the school system, but spends less time on operational matters and more on academics.

Wilkerson recently participated in the board’s six-month national search for a new superintendent after William R. Hite Jr. announced last fall that he would not renew his contract after a decade at the helm.

Led by the board’s vice president Leticia Egea-Hinton, the board conducted extensive community outreach, hired an executive search firm and appointed a superintendent search advisory committee. In April, the search culminated with the appointment of superintendent Tony B. Watlington Sr.

In a statement released by the school district, Watlington congratulated Wilkerson on her lifetime achievement award.

“Board of Education president Joyce Wilkerson is an extraordinary public servant who has dedicated her life’s work to making Philadelphia and specifically the School District of Philadelphia better,” Watlington said in a statement.

“President Wilkerson was nominated for this award, not only for the educational milestones that she has worked hard to achieve, but in recognition of her selfless leadership and passionate advocacy for young people,” he added. “Earning this award reiterates her longstanding commitment to our students and I congratulate her on this accomplishment.”

Chanel Hill is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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