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New help for Philly Schools Chief

POSTED: July 14, 2022, 9:30 am

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“This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at ckbe.at/newsletters

Amid criticism of paying an out-of-town consultant firm almost a half million dollars to help him transition into his new role as superintendent of Philadelphia schools, Tony Watlington announced a transition team of 80 community and education leaders on Tuesday.

Guy Generals, president of Community College of Philadelphia, and Andrea L. Custis, president and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia, will serve as co-chairs leading the transition and will head five subcommittees.

Watlington said he is intentionally bringing the large group together with district leaders to examine “complex issues that will help me assess five specific areas of the School District of Philadelphia.” The list includes parents, principals, and unions, grassroots and non-profit leaders.

Watlington is in the middle of his 100-day entry plan that includes a listening and learning tour, where he’s engaging with parents and teachers. The transition team includes local and national education and industry leaders.

Sheila Brown, former deputy superintendent of Boston Public Schools, and Malika Savoy-Brooks, chief academic officer for Philadelphia schools, will oversee the student achievement group.

Henderson Lewis Jr., former superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools; Uri Monson, chief financial officer for the district; and a yet-to-be named special adviser will lead the group assessing the logistical operations, recruitment, and retention efforts.

Camika Royal, associate professor of urban education at Loyola University and author of “Not Paved for Us: Black Educators and Public School Reform in Philadelphia,” and Sabriya Jubilee, chief of the district’s office of diversity, equity, inclusion, will lead the the unit overseeing anti-racist district culture and teaching.

James Earl Davis, interim dean of the School of Education at Temple University, and Kathryn Block, chief of communications at the district, will lead the community engagement and communications team.

Andrea Kane, professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania, and Evelyn Nuñez, chief of the district’s schools office, will lead the enriching and well-rounded school experiences group.

Lead consultants Shawn Joseph and Elizabeth Molina Morgan will facilitate support for the transition leaders. In May the school board agreed to pay Joseph’s firm $450,000 for its services.

Watlington has defended the price tag and his selection of Joseph. “The time frame warranted me to make some recommendations and some steps sooner rather than later, so that I can hit the ground running on Day One,” he said.

But criticism of his move to hire Joseph has been heavy.

“I am surprised that a new administration would want to start off with news of an expensive and broad engagement contract, especially because communities have been sounding the alarm for months about core priorities — facilities, staffing, safety, and mental health,” Councilwoman Helen Gym said.

From September through November, Watlington and the transition team will evaluate the district’s capacity to achieve the board’s vision. Then Joseph and Associates will develop Watlington’s five-year strategic plan by May 30.

“Our point is to ensure that every child, every student, has the opportunity to be ready for college, to be ready for careers and to be ready for life,” Custis said. “Philadelphia has its challenges. We all know that. But I believe that we can overcome those.”

The transition team

More than 80 Philadelphia parents; teachers; principals; union, educational, city, business, non-profit, and grassroots leaders; and district staff make up the transition team that will cover five areas: student achievement; operations; anti-racist district culture; community engagement and communications, and enriching and well-rounded school experiences. Below are the team members.

Student Achievement

Ayesha Imani, CEO/founder, Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School

Bill Dagget, founder, International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE)

Chris McGinley, former member, board of education

Christina Grant, state superintendent for the District of Columbia

Constance Evelyn, former superintendent, Valley Stream School District

Ginny Field, teacher, Loesche Elementary School

Jerry T. Jordan, president, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

John Spencer, principal, McCloskey Elementary School

Maura McInerney, legal director, Education Law Center

Olga Doubrovskaia, parent, Southwark Elementary School

Otis Hackney, chief education officer, City of Philadelphia

Richard Gordon, principal, Paul Robeson High School

Sean Conley, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia

Stacy Holland, executive director, Elevate 215

Operations

David E. Thomas, associate vice president of Strategic Initiatives, Community College of Philadelphia

Dean R. Robateau, executive vice president, McKissack

Donna Cooper, executive director, Children First

Elizabeth Arons, CEO, Urban Schools Human Capacity Academy

Fran Burns, COO, Connelly Foundation

James Murray, principal, William Rowan School

John Bynum, 32BJ

Kimberly A. Lloyd, president/CEO, Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation

Larisa Shambaugh, chief talent officer, School District of Philadelphia

Maria Bailey, 32BJ

Michael Forman, CEO/chairman, FS Investments

Nicole Hunt, president, Unite HERE

Orien Warren-Smith, parent, C.W. Henry Elementary School

Reggie McNeil, chief operating officer, School District of Philadelphia

Renato Lajara, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia

Vernon Palmer, senior regional manager, School District of Philadelphia

Victoria Aristoklis, teacher, James Rhodes School

Wallete Carter, parent, SLA Beeber

Wayne Wormley, president, The Wormley Company

Anti-Racist District Culture

Aliyah Catanch-Bradley, principal, Bethune Elementary

Angela Lipsay, parent, Samuel Gompers Elementary School

Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio, president/CEO, Congresso

Constance Faith Horton, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia

Dia Jones, assistant principal, Mastery Charter Schools

Jason Lafferty, teacher, Bartram High School

Lynn Rauch, general counsel, School District of Philadelphia

Marisol Rodriguez, principal, Juniata Park Academy

Meredith Mehra, deputy chief for teaching and learning, School District of Philadelphia

Michael Farrell, deputy chief for leadership development, School District of Philadelphia

Robin Cooper, president, CASA

Shariff El-Mekki, CEO, Center for Black Educator Development

Sylvie Gallier Howard, CEO, Equitable Cities Consulting

Tim (Chambers) McKinney, LGBTQ+ resource and program manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

Community Engagement & Communications

Alonzo Fulton, principal, Avery D. Harrington School

Amelia Coleman Brown, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia

Rev. Bonnie Camarda, divisional director of partnerships, The Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania & Delaware

Brendan Morrissey, national program director for team leadership, City Year

Chandra Williams, pastor, Union Missionary Baptist Church

Christiana Uy, parent/member, Board of Education Community Advisory Council

Dalila Wilson-Scott, executive vice president/chief diversity officer, Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation

Donna Frisby-Greenwood, president/CEO, The Fund for The School District of Philadelphia

Jenna Monley, deputy chief, Family Community Engagement, School District of Philadelphia

Jenny Bogoni, executive director, Read By 4

Karyn Lynch, chief of student support services, School District of Philadelphia

Keith Bethel, former chief growth officer, Aramark

Omar Crowder, principal, Northeast High School

Peng Chao, acting chief of charter schools, School District of Philadelphia

Pep Marie, coalition coordinator, Our City Our Schools

Megan Smith, founder and president, Brownstone PR

Ken Anderson, vice president of civic affairs, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia

Enriching & Well-Rounded School Experiences

Aja Carpenter, executive director of the Office of Post Secondary Readiness, School District of Philadelphia

Becky Cornejo, executive director, Neubauer Family Foundation

Beverly Socher-Lerner, executive director, Makom Community

Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, president, Hamilton Family Charitable Trust

Cynthia Figueroa, president/CEO, Jevs Human Services

Dennis Terry, parent, Hancock Demonstration School

Elliot Weinbaum, chief philanthropy officer, William Penn Foundation

Gillian Dagress, parent, McCall Elementary School

Kevin Bethel, chief of school safety, School District of Philadelphia

Loree D. Jones, CEO, Philabundance

Lynne Millard, leadership coach, School District of Philadelphia

Melanie Harris, chief information officer, School District of Philadelphia

Dr. Noah Tennant, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia

Orfelina Feliz Payne, executive director, Puentes De Salud

Patrick Clancy, president/CEO, Philadelphia Works

Pedro Ramos, president/CEO, Philadelphia Foundation

Simon Hauger, principal, The Workshop School

Trina Dean, academic coach, School District of Philadelphia

Vanessa Garrett-Harley, deputy mayor for children and families

Vicki Ellis, executive director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships, School District of Philadelphia


Chalkbeat Bureau Chief Johann Calhoun covers K-12 schools and early childhood education in Philadelphia. He oversees Chalkbeat Philadelphia’s education coverage. Contact Johann at jcalhoun@chalkbeat.org.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering public education

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