PHILADELPHIA Sheila Sydnor, a veteran School District of Philadelphia teacher and administrator, was selected from a national pool of 60 candidates to be the new principal of the University-Assisted PreK-8 Public School in West Philadelphia. A site selection committee consisting of parents from the community, University of Pennsylvania and School District representatives chose Sydnor for her demonstrated abilities as a school leader, her commitment to building learning communities and her experience in creating conditions for high student achievement.
"Sheila Sydnor brings a wealth of experience from the community, the teacher desk and the administrator chair," said Deidr Farmbry, chief academic officer, School District of Philadelphia. "Her ability to lead and build connections between the community, the University and the school will ensure the success of this cutting edge educational venture," Farmbry said.
Sydnor, who is known as a hands-on leader, brings over 25 years experience as an educator to her new position. Since 1992, she has been principal of the M. Hall Stanton Elementary School in Philadelphia. Sydnor also served as a grade teacher, a program support teacher, and assistant principal in the school district.
"Sheila has clearly demonstrated that she understands the meaning of teamwork, which is central to making this partnership work," said Ted Kirsch, president, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Hallmarks of her tenure at M. Hall Stanton Elementary were fostering high student achievement in one of the city poorest neighborhoods, building strong connections among students, teachers, parents and community organizations and creation of a technology rich learning environment. She also secured funding for students to record and report weather statistics for the local NBC television affiliate Weather Watchers program and pioneered several technology initiatives, including creation of a world map that students and staff designed and painted in the school playground.
"This historic partnership merits a principal with excellent instructional leadership skills," said Susan Fuhrman, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. "We are very pleased that we found Sheila Sydnor."
As principal, Sydnor will oversee the opening of the school for kindergarten and first grade children in September 2001. To prepare, Sydnor will work with Penn and the School District to hire staff, organize the curriculum, and meet parents. The new school will focus on high learning standards for children and serve an important role as a professional development and community hub.
"The children will be the real winners in this unique partnership with the University of Pennsylvania," Sydnor said. "Penn total commitment to this venture promises diverse and exciting kinds of educational opportunities for our students, teachers, parents and the community."
The new school will be on the site of the former Philadelphia Divinity School at 42nd and Spruce streets. Construction, which began in March 2001, incorporates the Divinity School historic buildings and adds new facilities. When completed, the campus will include a new school building with extensive technology, pre-school and day care facilities, a professional development center for educators, community education facilities and landscaped grounds designed for educational and recreational uses.
Sydnor, an alumna of both the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, is herself a product of West Philadelphia schools. She grew up in the neighborhood, attending Hamilton Elementary, Sayre Middle School and West Philadelphia High School. In returning to her home neighborhood, Sydnor recalls fond memories of the Philadelphia Divinity School, where, as a child, she often visited a neighbor who worked there.
"I was extremely surprised and proud to hear of my appointment as principal of the new Penn-assisted public school. As a product of the West Philadelphia schools, and having begun my teaching career in this community, it is particularly gratifying to be returning home," said Sydnor.