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District looks to restructure top management

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

[Updated, 2:12 p.m. with full text of email]

While it is trying to cope with its fiscal Armageddon, which includes plans to cut by 30 percent its already depleted central office staff, the School District is also seeking to restructure its top management and is advertising nationally for new personnel.

An internal email from Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn to senior staff was obtained by the Notebook and NewsWorks. In it, Kihn explains that everyone will be required to reapply for their present jobs and announces that the District is seeking people to fill new roles. These include a chief schools officer, as well as several assistant superintendents and deputies.

The reason for the reorganization, said Kihn in an interview, is to build an administrative infrastructure to focus on academics and curriculum. He said that this is more necessary than ever in this time of unprecedented austerity.

“These are different jobs, not new jobs,” he said. “We’re trying to build an organization that allows us to build on our ambitious goal of improving academic outcomes for all students and do it in a fiscally responsible way. We want to build the team we need based on what we’re trying to do.”

Will it be possible to improve academics with larger classes and skeleton staffs in schools, as might happen if the District doesn’t get the financial help that it wants from Harrisburg, City Hall, and the teachers’ union?

“It’s not our aspiration to have larger classes and skeleton staff, but we are preparing our overall workforce, senior team, and our school-based teams to do more with less,” he said. He described this as “potentially the reality for a lot of schools if we don’t manage to close the budget gap, which we’re working hard to do.”

But the circumstances, said Kihn, make it "even more critical for us to have the right organizational structure that is exactly aligned to the goals we want to accomplish.”

In the memo, described by Kihn as a “confidential note to the senior academic team,” and reproduced below, he writes:

Dear Colleagues –

I am writing to thank you for all of the hard work you do every day on behalf of our students, and to let you know that we are launching the restructuring of our Academic departments per my conversations with you over the past several weeks. This restructuring will take place over the coming months, and will result in an organization that best meets the ambitious agenda of the Superintendent and the new administration. The new organization will build on all of the work you have developed and supported and sustained over the past several years, and will simplify and clarify roles. In addition, we will undertake all changes in a budget neutral way.

As we have said, given the critical importance of the work, we are asking all staff to "reapply" for a role. Many of you have indicated you would like to remain in your current role or move to a new role; this process will formalize those requests. In all cases Dr. Hite and I will meet with you to understand your own professional goals, how the organization can help you to meet those goals, where you would most like to be over the coming year and beyond, and what the best fit is within the transformed organization that we believe we need to achieve our collective goals for our students. We anticipate these meetings will occur over the next 3-4 weeks.

The email continues, describing the new positions and announcing several personnel changes.

“To this end, we are undertaking the following:

1. This week we are launching a search for the following roles:
— Chief Schools Officer. This Chief will oversee the work of the Assistant Superintendents who manage district-managed schools, Alternative Schools, Turnaround Schools and New School Models. This person will be an expert in principal development, schools and school design.
— Chief of Academic Supports. This Chief will oversee the offices that provide Academic support to schools, including Curriculum, Assessment, Specialized Services, Multilingual Programs, Early Childhood Education, and Career and Technical Education.
— Assistant Superintendents. These professionals will continue to oversee clusters of schools, with primary responsibilities for developing principals.
— Deputy for Curriculum. This Deputy will oversee the ongoing development and implementation of the Common Core in all schools, work to ensure an integrated and aligned curriculum, and continue the strong implementation of RTII.
— Deputy for Assessment. This Deputy will oversee the strategy and logistics of assessments in all our schools and programs.
— Deputy for Teacher Effectiveness. This person will report to the Chief Talent Officer, and will oversee the recruiting, placement, development, professional growth, and evaluation of teachers.
— Deputy for Principal Effectiveness. This Deputy will report to the Chief Talent Officer, and will work alongside Assistant Superintendents to oversee the recruiting, placement, development, professional growth, and evaluation of principals.

2. We are announcing the following organizational changes:
— As of May 1, Kim Caputo will assume the role of Deputy for the Office of Specialized Services, reporting to the Chief of Academic Supports.
— As of May 1, Rosemary Hughes will assume the role of Deputy of Strategic Analytics, reporting to the Chief Information Officer.
— As of May 1, Tonya Wolford will assume the role of Deputy for Research and Evaluation, reporting to the Chief Information Officer.

Thank you for your continued commitment and your patience as we work through this transition, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. I will look forward to speaking with you individually about next steps.


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