Tony Watlington takes over as Philadelphia School District superintendent
Tony B. Watlington officially took the helm of the School District of Philadelphia on Thursday.
Driving the news: The new superintendent, who was sworn in at district headquarters Thursday morning, also launched a listening tour to build trust, learn about the city and its schools, and listen to recommendations for improving the district.
Why it matters: Watlington will oversee a school district — the eighth largest in the U.S. — beset with challenges, including:
- A majority of students live below the poverty line and attend low-performing schools;
- Student enrollment is falling and teacher resignations are rising;
- Aging school buildings have significant environmental issues, like asbestos and lead; and
- There's a possibility some schools may be forced to close next year.
The backdrop: Watlington takes over for William Hite, whose 10-year tenure includes shepherding the district back to city control after having been under the state's control for nearly two decades.
- Watlington, a North Carolina native and former history teacher, previously served as superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury School District in North Carolina.
Details: Watlington's "listening and learning" tour, part of his plan for his first 100 days, includes at least 80 community meetings and will be followed by a report with findings and recommendations, the new superintendent said. A five-year strategic plan will come later this year.
- Transparency is a "fundamental part of our leadership and it will be that way from the very start," Watlington said after his swearing-in ceremony Thursday.
What they're saying: Philly's success depends on the "quality of our schools and the opportunities that we can offer our children and our families," Mayor Jim Kenney said.
- "The only way out of poverty, out of despair, out of crisis is having a good education," Kenney said.
Go deeper: Read Watlington's 100-day plan and sign up for the superintendent's listening sessions on the district's website.
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