This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Science Leadership Academy’s nationally recognized founder and principal, Chris Lehmann, has been named to lead the School District’s innovative schools network. In addition to his new role as an assistant superintendent, Lehmann will remain principal at SLA, though he will share his duties with a new co-principal.
The change comes amid a reorganization in the District’s administration as new assistant superintendents are appointed to lead 13 learning networks, up from eight that exist now.
In his latest blueprint for reforming the District, Superintendent William Hite stated his desire to create and scale-up successful "evidence-based schools models," where instruction is more personalized, project-based, and infused with technology.
Lehmann announced his appointment on his website after sending a letter to the families of SLA students.
"For the past nine years, students and teachers from SLA have worked with hundreds of teachers and principals from the School District and beyond on how to change their practice to be more inquiry-driven and caring educators," wrote Lehmann. "Under Dr. Hite’s leadership, the School District of Philadelphia is starting the Innovative Schools Network – a hub for powerful new ideas for schools."
The School District has sought to replicate the success of Science Leadership Academy and its inquiry-based approach to learning by opening a second SLA high school campus at Beeber and a soon-to-open middle school at Powel Elementary in West Philadelphia.
Lehmann will start his new position Aug. 1. Read his letter below.
To the families of Science Leadership Academy,
Science Leadership Academy was founded as a research and development school for the School District. For the past nine years, students and teachers from SLA have worked with hundreds of teachers and principals from the School District and beyond on how to change their practice to be more inquiry-driven and caring educators. Under Dr. Hite’s leadership, the School District of Philadelphia is starting the Innovative Schools Network – a hub for powerful new ideas for schools. As part of this network, dedicated to nurturing new models of education, SLA is well positioned to continue its work as a national leader for creating empowering educational experiences.
Today, Dr. Hite is announcing that my role in the School District of Philadelphia is expanding to oversee the Innovative Schools Network. Beginning August 1, I will serve the students of Philadelphia in a dual capacity – both principal of Science Leadership Academy and Assistant Superintendent of the Innovative Schools Network. And, because there are just so many hours in the day, I am delighted to announce that Aaron Gerwer will join us full-time at SLA as co-principal. Many of you will know Aaron as our principal fellow this past year. It has been a pleasure to see him grow into this new role, and I look forward to partnering with him this coming year.
Working with the students and teachers and families of the Science Leadership Academy continues to be the most rewarding experience of my professional career. The work your children do every day is what inspired the School District of Philadelphia to authorize the foundation of Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber and our upcoming effort, the Science Leadership Academy Middle School.
The work we will now do as part of the Innovative Schools Network is a continuation of the belief in the agency and ability of the students and families of Philadelphia. It is my pleasure to be able to continue to serve as principal of SLA and to now help other school communities serve their students in powerful, modern ways.
Best, Mr. Lehmann