This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Since coming to Philadelphia, Superintendent William Hite has emphasized the importance of community input and involving students in decision-making. This fall, Hite created the Office of Student Services to tackle student issues and ensure that their voices continue to be heard, and he brought in a former colleague to lead it.
“If you really want to focus on curriculum, instruction, and what’s happening in the classroom, it is critical to pull out the student services,” said new Chief of Student Services Karyn Lynch.
“For children to be successful you have to address the additional fundamental issues that are impacting their ability to learn,” she said. “The superintendent created [the Office of] Student Services to address the non-academic needs, issues, and concerns of students.”
This type of work is not new to Lynch, who served under Hite as the chief of student services with the Prince George’s County (Md.) Public Schools. There, Lynch managed a number of departments, including guidance counseling, family and community outreach, and homeless education.
In Philadelphia, Lynch said she is currently working on the rights and responsibilities of students, first looking at the District’s Code of Student Conduct – which was recently revised, giving principals more authority to handle disciplinary cases – and meeting with District principals to ensure they are familiar with the document. Lynch said her work also involves identifying programs and services that can help improve school climate.
“We’re looking at school crime, behavioral health issues, bullying, sexual harassment, intimidation, and whether students are in an environment that is safe for learning,” she said.
Lynch oversees five offices, including safety, discipline, student placement, school operations, and the office that covers attendance, truancy, and alternative education placement.
“We’ve met several times with groups of students, and we will continue to. It is a big portion of the job,” she said. “One of Philadelphia’s strengths is that youth are organized, acting, participating, and eager to do even more.”
Lynch’s office can be reached at 215-400-4100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.