The Republican-backed plan heads to the full legislature next week and will be up for debate in June.
The principals must meet certain performance benchmarks to qualify for the longer posts and agree to stay at their schools for three years.
The districts and parents argue that state officials have failed to adequately fund schools so that students could meet standards in state-mandated curriculum.
Philadelphia joins Chicago among the cities this year to reject appointed school boards in favor of ones consisting of locally-elected individuals.
Starr had led the 154,000-student Montgomery County, Md., school district in suburban Washington until he resigned in February.
The suit began as an effort to prevent mass firings after flooding from the 2005 storm shut down schools and thousands of employees lost their jobs.
With Jessica Ainsworth's leadership, reading proficiency rates at Lithia Springs High School increased for all subgroups, tripling for students with disabilities, according to the NASSP.
The new fellows include a relief agency executive who ran schools in Kenya, an Indianapolis school principal, and a team leading a local public charter school.
The downgrade reflects the pressures of rising pension obligations following a state supreme court ruling last week that changes to the state's pension law in 2013 were unconstitutional.
Terms of the agreement will become public once the deal is finished. Cortines' current salary is $300,000 a year.