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Tony B. Watlington Sr. began his first day as Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia on Thursday, June 16. Photo courtesy of the School District of Philadelphia.
Tony B. Watlington Sr. began his first day as Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia on Thursday, June 16. Photo courtesy of the School District of Philadelphia.

New Philly Superintendent begins first day with a 100-day plan

Tony B. Watlington Sr. took the helm of the School District of Philadelphia on Thursday.

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The newly-appointed superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, Tony B. Watlington Sr., started his first day on the job by releasing a 100-day plan, focused on listening and learning all that he can about the school district.

He takes that approach quite literally, as within the first 100 days, Watlington plans to hold 80 “listening and learning sessions to help inform how the school district moves forward together.”

“As I embrace the incredible honor of becoming superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, I will engage in strategic, thoughtful, and equity-focused conversations and actions to identify what is currently being done well and what needs improvement,” Watlington said in a press release.

To be more specific, Watlington’s sessions will start with an assessment of teacher and student well being. One of the many issues the new superintendent inherits from his predecessor is not only a struggle to find teachers, but also a declining enrollment among students as the district continues to recover from an 18-month COVID-19 pandemic shutdown that forced people into unequal virtual learning environments.

Coming out of that virtual, often disconnected environment, Watlington’s second big emphasis is reconnecting with many of the school district’s community stakeholders at all levels to rebuild trust.

“The key is to have collaborative relationships with parents, because teachers and principals cannot do this work alone, regardless of the size of a school district,” the new superintendent said in a sit-down with Chalkbeat Philadelphia

Watlington comes to Philadelphia from the much smaller Rowan-Salisbury School District in North Carolina, which educates close to 20,000 students. On the flip side, the School District of Philadelphia is one of the largest in the nation, with 200,000 students.

The final three points of Watlington’s listening tour are to assess teacher resources, district leadership, and its operations — which involves finances and infrastructure, to name a few.

Despite all the negative that’s surrounded schools in the city over the last two years, Watlington projected a prospective future of growth and positive development. As he told Chalkbeat Philadelphia, he hopes to make Philadelphia “the fastest improving urban school district in the country.”

“Philadelphia is a vibrant city with extraordinary talent and collective resources. I look forward to engaging with a wide range of Philadelphians to learn and hear about what is needed to help all of our diverse learners flourish,” he said in a press release.

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