What is the process of appointing the next Philly School Superintendent?
The search for the next superintendent began shortly after Dr. William Hite announced he would be leaving after this school year and the process starts by allowing community feedback.
When Philadelphia School Superintendent Dr. William Hite announced his departure at the end of the school year from his post of 10 years, the process to determine his successor began shortly thereafter.
It’s a long and arduous process that will take numerous steps to fulfill throughout the duration of the current school year until the selection is made.
The first step of the search process is the public engagement phase, which the Philadelphia School Board of Education is currently in.
Lisa Salley, board member for the School District of Philadelphia, called it the most important step.
Throughout the month of October and early November, the Board will hold over 40 virtual and in-person listening sessions to allow the public to weigh in on what they want to see in the next superintendent.
“We’re having these sessions in order to get feedback on the qualities and capabilities sought in the next superintendent,” said Cecilia Thompson, a board member for the Philly School District.
The in-person listening sessions have taken place across various sections of the city to ensure a wide range of community members can have their voices heard.
“We were very intentional about ensuring we included every councilmanic district, every socioeconomic [status] and as many other special interest groups that are in exchange or relationship with the school district,” said Salley.
The Board will review the feedback collected in the sessions and evaluate them along with its objectives and goals, which prioritizes students’ achievements, environment, decision making and resource allocation.
“The information will help us develop the superintendent job description,” added Thompson.
For Emily Pugliese, a parent of two Philly public school students, the most important quality she would like to see in the next superintendent is transparency.
“I really want to see a superintendent who wants to work with all communities and really be transparent about the issues, not trying to sugarcoat things, but work together to solve the issues,” said Pugliese.
She noted funding, environment, and safety as some of the challenges she has seen the District face as a parent.
In addition to addressing the challenges facing the School District, the next superintendent should also be adept at bringing change.
“I think what I’m looking for is someone who’s going to be a change agent,” said Jessica Ackert, a parent of a Philly public magnet school student, “[who will] accurately evaluate the challenges our district faces and propose solutions.”
She noted the value of determining which challenges are priorities and act accordingly toward those challenges first.
“If everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority,” she added.
Another point that was brought up was how important it is for the next superintendent to also have the support of a quality team, who will allow the superintendent to focus more on the big picture strategy and not spend too much time on the day-to-day tasks.
Some of the other common themes the public has expressed they would like to see in the next superintendent include: someone with a background in education and experience working with children, an outside-the-box thinker, someone with a vision, has knowledge about the needs of the school district’s diverse population, can foster partnerships, and has a proven track record of a commitment to dismantling systemic inequities.
The feedback provided via the listening sessions will be shared by the next superintendent in a formal report.
Later in November, the school board will put together an 11-member committee that will consist of families, student representatives and community members who will work in partnership with the professional search firm, Isaacson Miller, to go through the résumés of the potential candidates.
The candidates will then get narrowed down to about five people. Once the final two candidates are selected, community members will get the opportunity to ask questions directly to them.
“Once we as a board hear all of the feedback… then it will be announced to the next superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia,” said Thompson.
The plan is to have the prospective superintendent in place by the spring, with a few months to learn from Dr. Hite before completing the transition, and officially beginning the tenure at the start of the 2022-23 school year.