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District prepares to release new organizational chart

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

By Bill Hangley, Jr.

[UPDATE: The final transitional chart has been released]

The Philadelphia School District says it is preparing to release an updated organizational chart for the first time since the departure of former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

Officials say the “transitional” chart is in its final stages of preparation and could be released sometime this week. It could be further revised as Superintendent William Hite finalizes his own long-term priorities for the District, a process that he expects will be completed this January.

Last week, an incomplete draft of the long-awaited chart was released to District staff. Based on that, and subsequent clarifications from spokesperson Fernando Gallard, the updated version will reflect these notable developments:

  • Under the new structure, almost all offices dealing with day-to-day student and school-level affairs will report to Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn, Hite’s newly hired second-in-command.

  • Three offices will report directly to Hite: school safety (Myron Patterson), communications (Fernando Gallard) and government relations (Rodney Oglesby). Two will “co-report” to Hite and the School Reform Commission: the Charter School Office (Doresah Ford-Bey, acting), and the Office of General Counsel (Michael Davis). The inspector general (John F. Downs) and Internal Auditing (Thomas Doughty) will report directly to the SRC.

  • The chart includes a new Project Management Office (PMO), which will be responsible for tracking the implementation of both the newly adopted five-year fiscal plan, and Hite’s own priorities and initiatives. That office will be run by Bi Vuong, a data specialist formerly with the District’s Office of Accountability.

  • Numerous senior positions remain to be filled, including the chief financial officer, the head of operations, the head of the Charter School Office, and the replacement for departing Chief Academic Officer (CAO) Penny Nixon.

  • Also yet to be hired are four of a planned eight assistant superintendents, who will replace the old regional superintendents and whose task will be to oversee principals, schools, and the new “Principal Learning Teams.” The assistant superintendents will work out of a new Office of School Performance, answering to the CAO.

Hite hopes to have all vacant positions filled by the new year, but he acknowledged that that won’t be easy with the school year already well underway.

“It’s really important for us to get the right talent, not just to rush to fill the position,” Hite said.

“It’s really important to get individuals with the right skill set, who have the right beliefs about student learning, and the right beliefs about how we engage families and how we partner.”

Hite has already hired two key members of his leadership team. Deputy Superintendent Kihn is a former classroom teacher and consultant with McKinsey & Co., a company that has written supportively of the need to improve teachers’ pay and professional standing. Chief of Student Support Services Karyn Lynch held a similar position under Hite when he was superintendent of schools in Prince George’s County, Md. Her resume includes a 12-year stint as the county’s head of social services, responsible for 800 employees and a budget of $130 million.

The new assistant superintendents are Benjamin Wright and Dennis Creedon (both of whom held previous administrative positions), as well as Andrea Coleman and Kenneth Cherry (both new to the District).

The duties associated with the four unfilled assistant superintendent positions will be handled for now by three administrators: Karen Kolsky (who will also be the permanent head of the Office of Leadership and Talent Development, under the chief academic officer), Lissa Johnson (who will be the permanent head of the Office of Accountability, Equity & Compliance, also under the CAO), and Cassandra Ruffin (a former District principal).

Newly promoted will be Evelyn Sample-Oates, a former deputy communications officer who’ll serve as the chief of Family and Community Engagement. Remaining in their positions will be Melanie Harris (chief information officer) and Teresa Gavigan (chief human resources officer).

The differences between the new organization chart and the last version demonstrate the sizeable turnover in leadership that has taken place since the waning days of the Ackerman era. Departed senior administrators include assistant superintendents Leroy Nunery, David Weiner, Thomas Darden, Diane Castelbuono and Tomas Hanna; human resources chief Estelle Matthews; financial officer Michael Masch; communications head Jamilah Fraser; and regional superintendents Francisco Duran, Emmanuel Caulk, Lucy Feria, Joel Boyd, John Frangipani, Linda Chen and Linda Cliatt-Wayman, who is now the principal at Strawberry Mansion High.

SENIOR LEADERS AT A GLANCE: Superintendent: William Hite
Deputy Superintendent: Paul Kihn

Chief of Student Support Services: Karyn Lynch
Chief of Family & Community Engagement: Evelyn Sample-Oates
Chief Information Officer: Melanie Harris
Project Management Office: Bi Vuong

Chief Human Resources Officer: Teresa Gavigan
Chief Academic Officer: OPEN (Will take a sabbatical starting Nov. 1: Penny Nixon)
Chief Recovery/Financial Officer: OPEN (Scheduled to depart: Thomas Knudsen)
Chief Support Services (i.e. operations) Officer: OPEN (Acting: Jeffrey Cardwell)
Charter School Office: OPEN (Acting: Doresah Ford-Bey)

Assistant Superintendents:

Benjamin Wright (former head of the Alternative Education Region; he will also serve as the permanent head of the office of Attendance, Truancy, and Alternative Education, under Karyn Lynch)

Dennis Creedon (former Director of Comprehensive Arts Education)

Andrea Coleman (new)

Kenneth Cherry (new)

Interim Assistant Superintendents:

Karen Kolsky (permanent head of office of Leadership and Talent Development, under the CAO)

Lissa Johnson (permanent head of Office of Accountability, Equity & Compliance under the CAO)

Cassandra Ruffin (former District principal)

Other Administrative Offices:

Chief Safety Officer: Myron Patterson
Communications: Fernando Gallard
Government Relations: Rodney Oglesby
General Counsel: Michael Davis
Inspector General: John F. Downs
Internal Auditing: Thomas Doughty

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