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Turnaround school principals named

Principals at two of the four schools will remain in their roles.

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

Two of the four schools tapped for internal turnaround by the School District will get new principals, officials announced Monday.

Mitchell principal Stephanie Andrewlevich will stay. The Kingsessing school had gotten media coverage for the efforts of its principal and teachers to make the school work in the face of daunting odds, building community support, and emphasizing teacher collaboration and development. Andrewlevich had said that she would not stay at Mitchell if she was required to replace half her staff.

Superintendent William Hite, in announcing the new turnaround schools and the District’s blueprint for major change, had said that federal policy – and the chance to compete for grants – depended on replacing the principal and half the staff.

Later, he acknowledged that although guidelines for turnaround under the old No Child Left Behind legislation had required this, Pennsylvania regulations under the NCLB reauthorization, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act, have not yet been written.

Andrea Coleman-Hill, who has been principal of Rhodes since 2013 and has worked on improving school culture, will also remain in her role.

The four schools will join the District’s "Turnaround Network" this fall. Hite announced new strategies and investments, including extra literacy coaches, smaller classes, and focused teacher training, to turn around low-achieving schools from the inside rather than rely on charter turnovers. The new investments total $7.2 million, added to $16.5 million in current funds, or about an additional $2,700 per student.

For the other two schools, Hite tapped Ariel Lajara for Luis Muñoz-Marin in North Philadelphia and Matthew Hayes for Roosevelt Elementary in Germantown. Lajara is now an assistant principal at Olney Charter High School (recently recommended for non-renewal by the District). Hayes is a former science teacher and dean of students at Roosevelt who was lured back to the District from the Manheim Township School District in Lancaster County, where he is an assistant principal.

“We are excited to welcome two new school leaders and retain two veteran principals in support of our new turnaround model,” said Hite in a statement. “Effective school leadership is key to this work. We could not be more pleased to have found administrators who share our vision for student progress, staff collaboration, parent engagement and community involvement.”

A total of 15 schools, including 11 schools converted into Promise Academies, will be in the Turnaround Network starting next fall. Cayuga Elementary, a Promise Academy in the current network, will exit due to improved student performance.

The new school leaders were selected from a pool of more than 60 applicants, according to the District. Information sessions for parents will be held in the coming weeks.

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