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Photo: Benjamin Herold

Benjamin Herold / The Notebook

87 names in hopper for superintendent job

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

by Oscar Wang

The committee charged with hiring a new permanent superintendent has 87 names under consideration, the Notebook has learned. Each of them either applied or was nominated by others.

Search committee chair Wendell Pritchett said that the District still hopes to have someone in place by the beginning of the school year.

“July is still our goal,” said Pritchett, who is also a School Reform Commission member.

“Either way, we are not going to settle and are going to wait until we find the right candidate."

Pritchett said that “there will be a public aspect to the search before a final choice is announced, but we are still thinking through how that will be organized.” The search committee has 14 members, including people from outside the District.

Since the search started, the District has announced a radical reorganization, and its financial stability is still a big question mark. It is not known how these developments have affected the search.

In January, the SRC appointed Thomas Knudsen as acting superintendent and chief recovery officer on a six-month contract.

For the permanent position, so far zero names have been brought to the public’s attention.

The District did engage with the public in a series of 10 community meetings in February. In mid-March, the District released a formal job description for the “Superintendent/CEO” position that officials said was created with community feedback in mind.

But many advocates are openly frustrated at the lack of information.

"I think there’s been very poor communication," said Helen Gym, a Parents United for Public Education founder and Notebook board member.

There is also growing concern that with the District’s release of the sweeping reorganization blueprint before the selection of a new superintendent, the committee will be looking for someone simply to rubber-stamp that agenda.

"Is [this] somebody who must simply execute a stock plan laid out by consultants and non-educators?" Gym asked.

Speculation has also arisen that Knudsen could stay on in a more permanent role to ensure continuity and stability.

Oscar Wang, a student at Haverford College, has been a Notebook intern during the spring semester. This summer he will work as a Samuel S. Fels Fellow for the School Reform Commission.