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District’s Charter Schools Office gets a permanent head

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

After more than two years without a permanent leader, the School District’s Charter Schools Office has a new executive director — DawnLynne Kacer, who most recently had a similar job in New York City.

Kacer, who will start her job on Aug. 14, has a background in education and health policy. Before serving as the executive director of charter evaluation and policy, she was the New York district’s senior director of strategy and policy and a resident at the Broad Institute for Educational Leadership.

Despite not having a permanent director, the charter office made lots of changes in the last two-plus years, implementing a new authorization policy for charter evaluation and renewal. It also coped when the state ordered Philadelphia to reopen the charter school pipeline, which had been shut down by the School Reform Commission in 2007 for financial reasons.

During this period, it also recommended closure of several charters.

Kacer holds degrees in sociology, business and public policy. Kacer’s new position is one of a series of leadership changes in the administration of Superintendent William Hite.

She answered a few questions via email.

Why did you want to come to Philadelphia?

It is important for me to be a part of a district where individuals are working towards a shared vision for a great public school system available and accessible to each student regardless of neighborhood or zip code. I also want to live and work in an urban setting that is vibrant, active and diverse. I found that both the city and the School District of Philadelphia meet these wants.

What will be your priorities?

First, to support the work of the dedicated and talented individuals who are part of the charter office. Second, to ensure that charter accountability practices are transparent and implemented with consistency and fidelity to the guiding framework. Lastly, to work with my colleagues on Dr. Hite’s leadership team to foster collaboration and best-practice sharing among all public schools.

What are the biggest challenges facing the charter office in Philadelphia?

I will spend the first few weeks, in collaboration with my colleagues, identifying and understanding the specific challenges facing the charter office. I look forward to that work.

Is the office big enough to adequately monitor more than 80 schools?

Each charter office deploys resources and uses external supports and systems differently. As such, there is no "standard" for office size or a target ratio for school to staff. I have been very impressed by the current staff of the charter office and their ability to manage the workload and cohort of schools. I look forward to starting in this role so that I may work with this team on a daily basis.

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