Posted on May 12, 2023
Categories: News from SDP

May 12, 2023

Today, The School District of Philadelphia announced the appointment of environmental professional Victoria Flemming as the interim Executive Director of the Office of Environmental Management & Services, a new position that will add oversight and expertise to the District’s ongoing efforts to assess and improve environmental conditions.

“Ms. Flemming has played a pivotal role in implementing the District’s new inspection process to ensure these assessments are executed with fidelity,” said Oz Hill, who was named the new Chief Operating Officer in April. “She has served as a valuable resource in  improving the District’s record keeping process, which has increased accuracy and transparency on the condition of our facilities.”

Flemming brings 20 years of environmental and regulatory  experience  in Philadelphia to the role. For the past two years, she has worked closely with the School District through consultant DeLuca Advisory & Consulting Services, a team of compliance and oversight experts providing the District independent, third-party monitoring services, support for regulatory compliance and Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) management. AHERA requires all schools to be inspected every three years, with interim surveillance every six months.

In her work with DeLuca, Flemming helped the District bring on Tetra Tech, a consulting and engineering firm, to manage the inspections and related data for the 295 District buildings in the asbestos management program. The addition of the DeLuca and Tetra Tech teams has led to important discoveries of inconsistencies in the District’s historic building records and areas of asbestos damage requiring urgent response.

Through this new inspection process, the District has completed 170  three-year inspections to date, with eight in progress and 30 remaining at some of the District’s oldest and largest facilities. Following the discovery that plaster in multiple school buildings was incorrectly classified as not containing asbestos, the District, with support from DeLuca,  has been conducting a comprehensive  and rigorous review of existing plaster data to determine where additional assessment is required.

Nearly all of the District’s buildings were constructed or repaired when asbestos was regularly used in floor tiles, pipe insulation, roof flashings, and some paint and cement products.  Asbestos was used widely because of its insulation and fire-retardant qualities – and before the potential health effects were widely recognized in the 1970s. With the guidance of DeLuca and  Flemming, once the current wave of  three-year inspections is completed in the coming months, the District will have a more comprehensive record of asbestos conditions from which to be able to monitor changes over time. The next cycle of three-year inspections will then begin anew.

“The recent discovery of environmental hazards at multiple District buildings has underscored the immediate need to develop a comprehensive facilities plan,” said Superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington, Sr., Ed.D. “We are in the process of establishing a facilities project team including internal and external District stakeholders to identify investments needed to significantly improve academic achievement, that will closely align to the strategic plan, as well as achieve the Board’s Goals and Guardrails.”

In this new role, originally created in 2022, Flemming will oversee all the District’s environmental operations, with a particular focus on asbestos concerns. Flemming has experience as an Asbestos Building Inspector,  Project Supervisor, and Management Planner in the Southeast Region of Pennsylvania. Prior to working for DeLuca, Flemming was a Safety Officer with SEPTA, managing the environmental services contract, providing oversight to all third-party environmental projects and conducting regular hazard assessment reviews of SEPTA properties, among other responsibilities.

A lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area, Flemming has worked closely on managing various environmental risks on capital projects and developments throughout the region.  She also specializes in real estate auditing, property condition assessments, internal auditing, safety compliance, and environmental remediation.

The District will launch a nationwide search to permanently fill the role.