Apr 4, 2022 - News

Philadelphia's incoming superintendent talks top priorities

Tony Watlington. Photo courtesy of the School District of Philadelphia

North Carolina native and former teacher Tony Watlington will kick off his tenure as the new superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia in June.

Bio, in brief: Watlington is currently the superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools, a district of approximately 18,000 students in North Carolina. He's held the post since January 2021.

  • Watlington will take over for William Hite, who plans to step down at the end of the school year.

Axios asked Watlington a series of questions as he prepares to lead Philly's 200,000-student district:

Q: What's the top thing you want Philadelphians to know about you?

A: I'm a collaborative and results-oriented leader, and I'm laser-focused on improving teaching and learning because that's the only way we're ever going to solve the problems of crime, violence, poverty, etc. in these United States of America.

Q: How will you adjust to a larger school district in Philadelphia?

A: It's important to learn about Philadelphia and meet all the important stakeholder groups in this community. … Good teaching and learning strategies are scalable.

Q: What are your top priorities?

A: Listen and learn from people in the city and district. Focus on building trust and transparent relationships. Advance improvements in student achievement and deal with problems facing the district's aging facilities.

Q: How do you plan to grow and maintain student enrollment, which continues to drop in the district?

A: As we show the community that we are experiencing traction with the board's goals and guardrails, I think it would do nothing but solicit confidence from our community.

Q: How will you attract teachers to the district?

A: Double down on our recruitment and let them know we're going to support them.

  • Of note: Watlington tells Axios he plans to do so by promoting professional development, engaging teachers as partners and making sure they get what they need to teach.

Q: What do you want to bring to the district that Philly schools aren't currently doing?

A: I'm going to take the time to listen and learn. … Taking the time to build trust and transparent relations will pay dividends down the road.


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