New Philly school board members want to be advocates for students

The city Board of Education is the only one in Pennsylvania that is appointed rather than elected

By: - July 11, 2022 10:14 am

By Chanel Hill

PHILADELPHIA — Equity in education and improving school experiences for School District of Philadelphia students is what Sarah-Ashley Andrews and Chau Wing Lam are hoping to accomplish as new members of the Board of Education.

Sarah-Ashley Andrews
Philadelphia school board member Sarah-Ashley Andrews (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

“I will be an advocate for the students,” Andrews said. “I want to make sure that they’re reaching the goals of achievement that they should be reaching and ensuring that they have the tools to do that.

“I want to do the best I can to work together with the board to hold people accountable and to make sure the students are getting the best education that they deserve,” she added.

Lam said she will be able to provide a unique perspective as a board member because of her background.

A native of Fuzhou, China, Lam lived briefly in Hong Kong before she immigrated to the U.S. She said she couldn’t speak English when she first came to the country.

“I remember being in grade school and not being able to read from a book that was passed around in the classroom,” Lam said. “It was such a painful experience that had nothing to do with me and what I had done, but more so who I was and how I arrived in that space.”

“As a board member, I want to ensure that students and families do not attribute failures that are out of their control to something they caused,” she added. “I also want to help provide education that allows students to live out their full potential.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney selected Andrews and Lam from a list of eight nominees recommended by the Educational Nominating Panel, the entity responsible for submitting names of qualified candidates to the mayor for selection for the Board of Education.

A total of 62 people had applied to fill the two vacancies on the nine-member board following the resignations of Angela McIver and Maria McColgan.

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The Board of Education is the only one in Pennsylvania that is appointed rather than elected. The mayor also appoints the nominating panel.

“I welcome our new colleagues Sarah-Ashley Andrews and Chau Wing Lam, who bring diverse voices, valuable experience and a commitment to supporting children and families to the board,” board President Joyce Wilkerson said in a statement.

“They’ll be joining the board at a crucial moment for the school district, as we welcome a new superintendent who will be working to increase student achievement in alignment with our goals and guardrails,” she added.

Andrews, a 35-year-old native of North Philadelphia, graduated from W.B. Saul High School. She works for TAG Inspires, which provides therapeutic counseling. She previously worked as a social worker with the nonprofit public health agency Philadelphia Health Management Corporation.

After a friend died by suicide a decade ago, she founded Dare 2 Hope in 2013, which has educated more than 4,500 young people on suicide awareness and prevention. She also co-hosts the weekly “Black in Therapy” podcast, dedicated to “normalizing mental wellness in the Black community.”

She studied mass communications at Bloomsburg University and later enrolled at Lancaster Bible College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies with a minor in human services. She holds a master’s degree in counseling from Lincoln University.

Andrews said she is committed to helping students get the education opportunities they deserve.

“I’m a strong believer in education equity; I want to make sure that education is equitable across the city and just not in certain areas and neighborhoods,” Andrews said. “Every school should be safe and have an atmosphere where children are excited to learn and achieve.

Chau Wing Lam
Philadelphia school board member Chau Wing Lam (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that they are someone today,” she said. “I’m committed to helping Philadelphia’s students today to ensure a better life for them in their tomorrow.”

Lam, 38, is the director of operations for the Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders and has spent six years working for the district in its Office of Evaluation, Research and Accountability.

Before she worked in the school district, Lam worked for the firm Public Financial Management, advising governments on management and budget practices. She started her career teaching English in middle school in Japan.

She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in social policy from Penn.

“My career has been dedicated to ensuring that all young people have pathways to success that do not depend on background or origin,” Lam said.

“I look forward to drawing from my experiences in public finance, policy, leadership development and change management,” she added. “I look forward to sharing my voice and perspective and to advocate on behalf of children across Philadelphia as if they were my own.”

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

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