Amid criticism of paying an out-of-town consultant firm almost a half million dollars to help him transition into his new role as superintendent of Philadelphia schools, Tony Watlington announced a transition team of 80 community and education leaders on Tuesday.
Guy Generals, president of Community College of Philadelphia, and Andrea L. Custis, president and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia, will serve as co-chairs leading the transition and will head five subcommittees.
Watlington said he is intentionally bringing the large group together with district leaders to examine “complex issues that will help me assess five specific areas of the School District of Philadelphia.” The list includes parents, principals, and unions, grassroots and non-profit leaders.
Watlington is in the middle of his 100-day entry plan that includes a listening and learning tour, where he’s engaging with parents and teachers. The transition team includes local and national education and industry leaders.
Sheila Brown, former deputy superintendent of Boston Public Schools, and Malika Savoy-Brooks, chief academic officer for Philadelphia schools, will oversee the student achievement group.
Henderson Lewis Jr., former superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools; Uri Monson, chief financial officer for the district; and a yet-to-be named special adviser will lead the group assessing the logistical operations, recruitment, and retention efforts.
Camika Royal, associate professor of urban education at Loyola University and author of “Not Paved for Us: Black Educators and Public School Reform in Philadelphia,” and Sabriya Jubilee, chief of the district’s office of diversity, equity, inclusion, will lead the the unit overseeing anti-racist district culture and teaching.
James Earl Davis, interim dean of the School of Education at Temple University, and Kathryn Block, chief of communications at the district, will lead the community engagement and communications team.
Andrea Kane, professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania, and Evelyn Nuñez, chief of the district’s schools office, will lead the enriching and well-rounded school experiences group.
Lead consultants Shawn Joseph and Elizabeth Molina Morgan will facilitate support for the transition leaders. In May the school board agreed to pay Joseph’s firm $450,000 for its services.
Watlington has defended the price tag and his selection of Joseph. “The time frame warranted me to make some recommendations and some steps sooner rather than later, so that I can hit the ground running on Day One,” he said.
But criticism of his move to hire Joseph has been heavy.
“I am surprised that a new administration would want to start off with news of an expensive and broad engagement contract, especially because communities have been sounding the alarm for months about core priorities — facilities, staffing, safety, and mental health,” Councilwoman Helen Gym said.
From mid-August through November, Watlington and the transition team will evaluate the district’s capacity to achieve the board’s vision. Then Joseph and Associates will develop along with Watlington and other district staff a five-year strategic plan by May 30.
“Our point is to ensure that every child, every student, has the opportunity to be ready for college, to be ready for careers and to be ready for life,” Custis said. “Philadelphia has its challenges. We all know that. But I believe that we can overcome those.”
The transition team
More than 80 Philadelphia parents; teachers; principals; union, educational, city, business, non-profit, and grassroots leaders; and district staff make up the transition team that will cover five areas: student achievement; operations; anti-racist district culture; community engagement and communications, and enriching and well-rounded school experiences. Below are the team members.
Ayesha Imani, CEO/founder, Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School
Bill Dagget, founder, International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE)
Chris McGinley, former member, board of education
Christina Grant, state superintendent for the District of Columbia
Constance Evelyn, former superintendent, Valley Stream School District
Ginny Field, teacher, Loesche Elementary School
Jerry T. Jordan, president, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
John Spencer, principal, McCloskey Elementary School
Maura McInerney, legal director, Education Law Center
Olga Doubrovskaia, parent, Southwark Elementary School
Otis Hackney, chief education officer, City of Philadelphia
Richard Gordon, principal, Paul Robeson High School
Sean Conley, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia
Stacy Holland, executive director, Elevate 215
David E. Thomas, associate vice president of Strategic Initiatives, Community College of Philadelphia
Dean R. Robateau, executive vice president, McKissack
Donna Cooper, executive director, Children First
Elizabeth Arons, CEO, Urban Schools Human Capacity Academy
Fran Burns, COO, Connelly Foundation
James Murray, principal, William Rowan School
John Bynum, 32BJ
Kimberly A. Lloyd, president/CEO, Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation
Larisa Shambaugh, chief talent officer, School District of Philadelphia
Maria Bailey, 32BJ
Michael Forman, CEO/chairman, FS Investments
Nicole Hunt, president, Unite HERE
Orien Warren-Smith, parent, C.W. Henry Elementary School
Reggie McNeil, chief operating officer, School District of Philadelphia
Renato Lajara, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia
Vernon Palmer, senior regional manager, School District of Philadelphia
Victoria Aristoklis, teacher, James Rhodes School
Walette Carter, parent, SLA Beeber
Wayne Wormley, president, The Wormley Company
Anti-Racist District Culture
Aliyah Catanch-Bradley, principal, Bethune Elementary
Angela Lipsay, parent, Samuel Gompers Elementary School
Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio, president/CEO, Congresso
Constance Faith Horton, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia
Dia Jones, assistant principal, Mastery Charter Schools
Jason Lafferty, teacher, Bartram High School
Lynn Rauch, general counsel, School District of Philadelphia
Marisol Rodriguez, principal, Juniata Park Academy
Meredith Mehra, deputy chief for teaching and learning, School District of Philadelphia
Michael Farrell, deputy chief for leadership development, School District of Philadelphia
Robin Cooper, president, CASA
Shariff El-Mekki, CEO, Center for Black Educator Development
Sylvie Gallier Howard, CEO, Equitable Cities Consulting
Tim (Chambers) McKinney, LGBTQ+ resource and program manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence
Community Engagement & Communications
Alonzo Fulton, principal, Avery D. Harrington School
Amelia Coleman Brown, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia
Rev. Bonnie Camarda, divisional director of partnerships, The Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania & Delaware
Brendan Morrissey, national program director for team leadership, City Year
Chandra Williams, pastor, Union Missionary Baptist Church
Christiana Uy, parent/member, Board of Education Community Advisory Council
Dalila Wilson-Scott, executive vice president/chief diversity officer, Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation
Donna Frisby-Greenwood, president/CEO, The Fund for The School District of Philadelphia
Jenna Monley, deputy chief, Family Community Engagement, School District of Philadelphia
Jenny Bogoni, executive director, Read By 4
Karyn Lynch, chief of student support services, School District of Philadelphia
Keith Bethel, former chief growth officer, Aramark
Omar Crowder, principal, Northeast High School
Peng Chao, acting chief of charter schools, School District of Philadelphia
Pep Marie, coalition coordinator, Our City Our Schools
Megan Smith, founder and president, Brownstone PR
Ken Anderson, vice president of civic affairs, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia
Enriching & Well-Rounded School Experiences
Aja Carpenter, executive director of the Office of Post Secondary Readiness, School District of Philadelphia
Becky Cornejo, executive director, Neubauer Family Foundation
Beverly Socher-Lerner, executive director, Makom Community
Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, president, Hamilton Family Charitable Trust
Cynthia Figueroa, president/CEO, Jevs Human Services
Dennis Terry, parent, Hancock Demonstration School
Elliot Weinbaum, chief philanthropy officer, William Penn Foundation
Gillian Dagress, parent, McCall Elementary School
Kevin Bethel, chief of school safety, School District of Philadelphia
Loree D. Jones, CEO, Philabundance
Lynne Millard, leadership coach, School District of Philadelphia
Melanie Harris, chief information officer, School District of Philadelphia
Dr. Noah Tennant, assistant superintendent, School District of Philadelphia
Orfelina Feliz Payne, executive director, Puentes De Salud
Patrick Clancy, president/CEO, Philadelphia Works
Pedro Ramos, president/CEO, Philadelphia Foundation
Simon Hauger, principal, The Workshop School
Trina Dean, academic coach, School District of Philadelphia
Vanessa Garrett-Harley, deputy mayor for children and families
Vicki Ellis, executive director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships, School District of Philadelphia
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Joseph and Associates will not create the five-year strategic plan on their own but along with other district leaders.
Bureau Chief Johann Calhoun covers K-12 schools and early childhood education in Philadelphia. He oversees Chalkbeat Philadelphia’s education coverage. Contact Johann at firstname.lastname@example.org.