FIRST 100 DAYS
Listening & Learning
Superintendent Tony B. Watlington Sr., Ed.D.
June -September 2022
A Message from Superintendent Watlington
I am honored to serve as superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia. This webpage is your destination for all things related to my first 100 days. It includes the First 100 Days: Listening and Learning document that highlights my goals and actions in the coming months, upcoming community engagement opportunities where I look forward to meeting and hearing from you, and more. I will also provide updates on my progress here so be sure to check back often. Thank you for this opportunity to work in partnership with you.
Goals & Actions
These five priority areas for listening and learning will help to inform my thoughts and ideas as we work together to achieve the Goals and Guardrails in support of all of the students we serve.
Learn more about the Goals and Guardrails by visiting philasd.org/goalsandguardrails.
Priority Area 1
Assess Student and Staff Well-Being
Students and staff cannot flourish if they are not physically or emotionally safe. As a school district, we must approach issues of well-being and safety as a collaborative effort, convening key stakeholders from the Mayor’s office, City Council, the business community, our neighborhoods, and our schools to create a safety net for students and staff to learn and grow. Our approach to student well-being and safety will offer our students an invitation and access to increased opportunities to engage in healthy, meaningful activities which will help them foster positive mindsets. We will work to ensure that our students see the wealth of opportunities Philadelphia offers them to become productive citizens.
1.1 Hire a community liaison that reports to the Superintendent to coordinate grassroots communication and responses to community issues, including student and staff safety issues.
1.2 Review the structures in place to convene key city and community leaders around issues of chronic absenteeism, homelessness, emergency supports, and out-of-school time.
1.3 Assess possibilities to expand summer, after-school, and co-curricular programming activities in collaboration with city agencies, grassroots organizations, and key stakeholders.
1.4 Review how we receive feedback and respond to feedback from students, staff, parents, and community members regarding school climate and school safety issues.
1.5 Review and assess our school/district suspension and expulsion data, with a particular focus on violent offenses within and around our schools.
1.6 Review individual school climate data.
1.7 Review our approach to student and staff mental health support and determine whether we are appropriately investing in coordinated mental health supports and services for students and staff.
1.8 Assess the investments that have been made to restorative practices and positive behavior, intervention, and support programs.
Priority Area 2
Engage Our Stakeholders and Build Trust
Building trust starts with listening to understand, and then collaborating and communicating effectively as partners in the work of helping all students succeed. It is essential for us to understand the hopes and dreams of our community, including students, families, staff, city and state leaders, unions, universities, activists, grassroots organizations, and business leaders. In addition, we must ensure that we have strong, collaborative structures and evaluate how we are communicating internally and externally.
2.1 Launch a listening and learning tour to understand the exact priorities and needs of all communities.
2.2 Increase collaborative structures with the Superintendent.
2.3 Meet with key leaders in consultation with the Board of Education President and Vice President, Mayor, City Council, state officials and legislative delegation, faith-based community, business leaders, and community members.
2.4 Host town hall sessions in-person and via Zoom meetings with teachers, administrators, support staff, other school-based staff, and central office employees to understand what is working and what are areas of stress/anxiety.
2.5 Initiate discussions and communicate with our union partners to establish a culture of respect and trust.
2.6 Evaluate internal communication protocols, including social media strategy, to determine how system-wide messages are understood by board members, principals, instructional staff, non-instructional staff, and central office staff.
2.7 Schedule Board of Education retreats to review communication protocols, year 1 priorities, and the superintendent evaluation process.
2.8 Assess the current state of the district’s communication and engagement efforts, as well as evaluate the quality of the school district website and schools’ websites.
Priority Area 3
Assess Teaching and Learning
Teaching and learning that results in improved academic achievement and reaching the Goals and Guardrails is our core work. Covid-19 has caused serious disruption in student learning, and we must now begin to strengthen coherence in our instructional program to ensure that our teachers and schools have what they need to prioritize high-quality teaching and learning. Ensuring that all students not only graduate from The School District of Philadelphia but are also college and workforce ready is the goal and responsibility of all district employees, contractors, and volunteers.
3.1 Develop a process for frequent and structured school visits to observe and support school improvement efforts.
3.2 Assess the current process of school improvement planning (including School Improvement Plans) and ensure that schools have a clear multi-tiered system of support for students.
3.3 Assess current professional development efforts to support administrative, instructional, and non-instructional staff and how the budget emphasizes an investment in staff development.
3.4 Assess the coherence of the district’s academic frameworks.
3.5 Focus on areas of academic under-performance and ensure strategies are in place to address root causes of student achievement trends.
3.6 Determine how comprehensive and research-based the current curricula are and to what degree they are aligned to standards and allow for student achievement/growth.
3.7 Assess student and staff attendance rates, student drop out rates, and student graduation rates to support progress toward the Goals and Guardrails
Priority Area 4
Assess District Leadership Capacity and Alignment
It is essential for The School District of Philadelphia to have a high-performing, collaborative, and results-oriented culture. To make sure that we operate as a highly effective team with a professional culture, we will be intentional about assessing and building the capacity of our leadership to achieve the Goals and Guardrails. As author Jim Collins states, we will ensure that we have the right people on the bus and in the right seats. We will not get to excellence by accident. It will be by design.
4.1 Conduct one-on-one interviews and review resumes and briefing papers with all direct reports.
4.2 Administer leadership assessment inventories to get to know executive leadership better.
4.3 Establish a transition team comprised of members of the Philadelphia public school community, local leaders and K-12 national experts.
4.4 Conduct a retreat with senior staff to review the district’s priorities, most recent achievement data, review current and anticipated vacancies, and discuss leadership team structures and practices.
4.5 Review current office structure, alignment, and capacity to achieve the Goals and Guardrails.
4.6 Assess the autonomy and authority of school leaders (Principals) in the current organizational structure.
4.7 Plan a second retreat with senior staff to review accountability plans and organizational structures to achieve the Goals and Guardrails.
Priority Area 5
Assess District Operations, Facilities and Finances
To meet the needs of all students in The School District of Philadelphia, it is critical that operations and finance align with Board policy, and represent excellence and transparency. Each division will be appraised to determine how they maximize support and services to schools using a continuous improvement model. Additionally, we will assess the depth of our facilities issues.
5.1 Conduct one-on-one meetings with direct reports on operations, human resources, and budget, including use of ESSR funds and how local, state, and federal grants are being utilized and evaluated.
5.2 Review the district’s fund balance, financial projections, resource allocation and budgeting processes; assess how the district’s budget and budget process are aligned to support student achievement.
5.3 Conduct one-on-one meetings with the Office of General Counsel to review any recent/current legal proceedings or outstanding judgments against the district and to provide a briefing on state education code with attention to statutes currently impacting or likely to impact the district.
5.4 Review the assessments of the District’s facilities conditions and actions to determine alignment with improving student achievement guided by the Goals and Guardrails and the facilities planning process.
5.5 Receive an update on any foundation activities and how those funds support schools.
5.6 Review key district financial materials, budget, most recent audit, grants, and any other reports and audits provided by the Office of the Inspector General and Board’s Office of Auditing Services.
5.7 Review current labor contracts and schedules.
5.8 Assess the extent to which the District balances the centralization of budgets and services.
A Message from Superintendent Watlington:
Improving student outcomes and achieving the Board’s Goals & Guardrails, such that the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) is positioned to be one of the nation’s fastest improving urban districts, requires intentional and strategic actions. In addition to conducting extensive listening and learning sessions, I will be engaging a Transition Team to assist me with assessing and growing the capacity of our School District.
A Transition Team is an organized approach to helping an incoming superintendent comprehensively and quickly learn about the district. It comprises a group of local leaders and national experts who assemble in sub-committees to address specific educational challenges and apply the latest research and best practices to provide short-term and long-term recommendations to help the district make progress in those areas.
Transition Team development is actively underway, co-led by Dr. Shawn Joseph (a former Met Life Principal of the Year in Maryland, former school superintendent in Tennessee and Delaware, and co-director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA)/Howard University Urban Superintendent Academy) and Dr. Betty Morgan (an accomplished superintendent, former National Superintendent of the Year, and Chief Education Advisor to America’s Promise Alliance). Together, theyhave led six transition processes in recent years in large, urban school districts.
The Team will be co-chaired by two respected Philadelphia leaders and comprised offive subcommittees that are aligned to the areas I outlined in my 100-Day Priorities. Each sub-committee will be co-led by a School District leader and a non-SDP educational leader with expertise in that specific area. Together they will ensure that objective, unbiased recommendations are provided.Committee members will include School District staff as well as Philadelphia educational, city, business, non-profit and grassroots leaders. Their work will span several months, with each committee generating findings and recommendations that will be shared in a comprehensive report to the Board of Education this fall and will inform the development of a strategic plan in spring 2023.
I look forward to officially launching our Transition Team and sharing more information with you in the next few weeks.
In partnership for children,
Through September 2022, Superintendent Watlington plans to host a series of listening and learning sessions where you can share your thoughts and ideas about what the District does well, where improvement is needed, and how the District can help all students fulfill their highest potential. Sessions will be organized by stakeholder group, with a maximum of 75 people per session so we can hear from all participants. As we continue to institute safe meeting practices, many meetings will be virtual. But as often as possible, Dr. Watlington will visit Philadelphia neighborhoods to meet people where they are and ensure that together, we are creating an equitable school district for all students. New sessions will be added as details are confirmed so please check back often.
Please note: some sessions are open for registration and some are by invitation only.
Choose your group for session information
Wednesday 22nd | 3:30 PM | Virtual
Wednesday 29th | 3:00 PM | Virtual
Wednesday 6th | 3:00 PM | Virtual
Wednesday 13th | 3:00 PM | Virtual
Wednesday 27th | 3:00 PM | Education Center, 440 N. Broad St.
Wednesday 3rd | 10:00 AM | Virtual
Wednesday 10th | 3:00 PM | Virtual
Wednesday 17th | 3:00 PM | Virtual
Tuesday, 28th | 5:00 PM | Virtual
Tuesday, 5th | 10:00 AM | Virtual
Wednesday, 13th | 5:00 PM | Dobbins Technical High School, 2150 W. Lehigh Ave
Friday, 15th | 1:00 PM (Spanish) | Virtual
Wednesday, 27th | 5:00 PM | Virtual
Saturday, 30th | 10:00 AM | West Philadelphia High School, 4901 Chestnut Street
Wednesday, 3rd | 5:00 PM | Girard Academy Music Program, 2136 W. Ritner St.
Wednesday, 10th | 5:00 PM | Virtual
Wednesday, 17th | 5:00 PM | Lincoln High School, 3201 Ryan Ave.
*We welcome all families to these sessions, including current District, charter, private, parochial, virtual and home school families as well as those without school-age children.
Tuesday 21st | 9:00 AM | Learning Networks 1 and 2
Tuesday 21st | 11:00 AM | Learning Networks 3 and 4
Wednesday 22nd | 11:00 AM | Learning Networks 5 and 6
Friday 24th | 10:30 AM | Learning Networks 9 and 10
Friday 24th | 12:30 PM| Learning Networks 11 and 12
Monday 27th | 1:30 PM | Learning Network 13 and Acceleration Network
Tuesday 28th | 11:30 AM | Innovation Network and Opportunity Network
Tuesday 28th | 3:00 PM | Learning Network 7 and 8
Wednesday 3rd | 3:00 PM | Open to all SDP Staff and All Networks
Tuesday 9th | 11:00 AM | Open to all SDP Staff and All Networks
Tuesday 28th | 1:00 PM | Learning Network 1
Wednesday 29th | 10:30 AM | Learning Network 2
Wednesday 29th | 1:00 PM | Learning Network 3
Monday 11th | 10:00 AM | Learning Network 4
Monday 11th | 12:00 PM | Learning Network 5
Tuesday 12th | 10:00 AM | Learning Network 6
Tuesday 12th | 1:00 PM | Learning Network 7
Wednesday 13th | 11:30 AM | Learning Network 8
Thursday 14th | 11:30 AM | Learning Network 9
Friday 15th | 10:00 AM | Learning Network 10
Wednesday 27th | 9:00 AM | Learning Network 11
Thursday 28th | 10:00 AM | Learning Network 12
Thursday 28th | 12:00 PM | Learning Network 13
Friday 29th | 10:00 AM | Acceleration Network
Friday 29th | 12:00 PM | Innovation Network & Opportunity Network
Wednesday 3rd | 3:00 PM | Open to all SDP Staff and All Networks
Tuesday 9th | 11:00 AM | Open to all SDP Staff and All Networks
Wednesday, June 22| 9:00 AM | 440-Based Staff
Thursday, July 7 | 9:30 AM | 440-Based Staff | Register Here
Wednesday, August 3rd | 3:00 PM | Open to all SDP Staff
Tuesday, August 9th | 11:00 AM | Open to all SDP Staff
Wednesday, August 3rd | 3:00 PM | Open to all SDP Staff and All Networks
Tuesday, August 9th | 11:00 AM | Open to all SDP Staff and All Networks
Session information coming soon.
Monday, August 1, 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. w. Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities (ASL and Closed Caption will be available)
Monday, August 1, 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. w. AFRICOM-Philly
Tuesday, August 2, noon – 1:30 p.m. w. PEAL Center
Tuesday, August 2, 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. w. Urban League of Philadelphia
Thursday, August 4, noon – 1:30 p.m. w. Coalition of Philadelphia Advocates
Thursday, August 11, noon – 1:30 p.m. w. Our City Our Schools Parent Organizers
Thursday, August 11, 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. w. Our City Our Schools Youth Organizers
Thursday, July 28, 6:30p.m. – 8 p.m. w. Children First
Monday, August 1, noon – 1:30 p.m. w. PECO