Oct 5, 2022 - News

Superintendent Watlington's lessons learned from 100 days of listening

The School District of Philadelphia offices.

The School District of Philadelphia offices. Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Superintendent Tony Watlington Jr. is shaking up the Philadelphia school district's top leadership and realigning priorities months into his new role.

Why it matters: Watlington, a native of North Carolina, took over the district this summer as it grapples with low academic achievement, gun violence, aging facilities and falling enrollment.

  • His first act was to set off on a tour to listen and learn about schools' needs from students, staff, business leaders and community members.

Driving the news: Watlington, who marked his 110th day in office during a news conference on Tuesday, released the findings from his tour and set up a new leadership team.

  • They'll focus on improving academic achievement, facilities, communications and partnerships, which Watlington said were the top issues that arose during his listening tour.

The big picture: The superintendent's moves come a week after a shooting outside Roxborough High School killed a football player and left four other teenagers injured after a scrimmage.

  • Watlington said gun violence and pandemic losses are having a devastating impact on the city.
  • "Many of our children have spoken very clearly that they are not doing well," he said. "Some are afraid to go out in the neighborhood to play; some are afraid on their way to and from school."

Zoom in: Staffing, school climate and public safety will be the district’s highest priorities, Watlington said.

  • Other top issues that emerged during Watlington's listening tour included a lack of consistency and transparency around district communications and poor customer service.

Details: Watlington's new leadership structure is made up of five new members, all of whom have ties to the city.

  • Two of the positions are newly created deputy superintendent posts, which will be filled by Shavon Savage and Uri Monson, overseeing academic services and operations respectively.
  • Savage formerly served as a Philly principal and deputy chief of the district’s office of specialized services, while Monson was previously the district's chief financial officer.

What they're saying: With too many students not graduating with the skills they need to succeed, Watlington said the district must adjust its strategies.

  • "We've got significant improvement to make if we're going to prepare students for life-changing opportunities and if we're going to facilitate life-changing outcomes," he said.

What's next: The superintendent's transition team will issue a report on district-wide recommendations on Oct. 20.


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