The Charter Schools Office supports The School District of Philadelphia’s Board of Education in its role as an authorizer of brick and mortar charter schools operating in Philadelphia.
An authorizer is responsible for reviewing, evaluating and approving new charters, establishing performance goals for existing charter schools, regularly reviewing and evaluating charter school performance, conducting comprehensive renewal reviews, and sharing information about charter schools and their performance with the public.
Three principles guide our work:
- Accountability Improving the School District’s capacity to establish and maintain high standards for its charter schools by measuring charter performance against clear standards and implementing consequences when standards are not met.
- Autonomy Preserving charter school independence by focusing on accountability for student outcomes rather than methods, as it relates to curriculum, hiring, and other areas.
- Equity Protecting the right of students and families to equal access and fair treatment in Philadelphia’s charter schools.
The School of District of Philadelphia received an evaluation for its work as a charter authorizer by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). The CSO continues to be focused on driving the quality of our own work to support all charter sector stakeholders. The NACSA evaluation is available here.
Charter Schools Office Staff
Interim Chief of Charters and Innovation
Christina Grant sets the mission and vision for the CSO and ensures the strategic plan for the sector is implemented with fidelity. She also serves as the external source of support for our schools. She has served as a CMO founder/leader, charter school authorizer and most important – teacher. Christina holds education degrees from Columbia University and Fordham University. She studied political science at Hofstra University and is currently enrolled in doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
Peng Chao focuses on ensuring that the Charter Schools Office executes its work in alignment with its strategic plan and in support of Philadelphia’s entire system of schools. Since becoming an authorizer in 2013, Peng has managed projects across the authorizing spectrum (e.g. new schools, restarts, operations). Previously, he taught middle school math in district and charter schools in Philadelphia. Peng has a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University and a Master’s degree in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania.
Director, Quality & Accountability
Roger Kligerman oversees the CSO’s core authorizing functions including the New Charter Application review process, Annual and Renewal evaluations, and amendment requests. In his capacity as Director, he ensures consistency across evaluations and strives to strike the right balance between accountability and autonomy. Prior to joining the CSO, he worked in the District Performance Office, where his focus was production of the School Progress Report. He has direct experience working with charter schools in Philadelphia; Washington, DC; New Jersey; and Rhode Island. Roger holds a Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and History from Oberlin College.
Director of Strategy, Operations, and Engagement
Essence ensures the fidelity of the CSO’s implementation of its strategic plan, coordinates external engagement with the charter sector, and is responsible for partnering with the District to ensure charter school operations. Prior to joining the CSO, Essence served as a school leader at a charter school in Brooklyn, New York. Essence began her education career as a Teach for America Corps Member. She is a Fordham University alumna where she obtained a Master’s degree in teaching both adolescent English Language Arts and Special Education. She also has a M.A. in English from Rutgers University.
Sarah R. Gearhart, Ph.D.
Director, Policy and Analytics
Sarah R. Gearhart focuses on policy, research, data and analytics. Prior to joining the CSO, she was a policy specialist at the New Jersey Department of Education, where she was recruited through the Strategic Data Project, a competitive fellowship based out of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, which places data strategists in education agencies to have an immediate impact on policy decisions that affect student outcomes. Sarah was a teacher in Philadelphia for six years prior to completion of a Ph.D. in Urban Education at Temple University. She also holds a master’s degree in education from Drexel University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Temple University.
Assistant Director, Finance & Operations
Tim Hanser analyzes financial data that inform understanding of the financial health and fiscal management performance of charter schools. Prior to joining the CSO, he served as the municipal finance analyst for the Town of Simsbury, Connecticut. Tim holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, a Master’s degree in Education from Pace University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry from Purdue University.
Assistant Director, Quality & Accountability
Biridiana Rodriguez manages the new charter application and charter amendment processes. Prior to joining the Charter Schools Office, Biridiana served as an elementary and middle school history teacher in North Carolina. She holds a Master’s degree in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Education from Duke University.
Chad Socha analyzes academic and school climate data that inform understanding of charter
school performance, most notably via Annual Charter Evaluations and renewal reports. Prior to
joining the CSO, Chad worked in the field of environmental compliance and testing. Chad holds
a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Rutgers-Camden where he conducted research
in the areas of education finance and equity. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics
from Rutgers-Camden and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from William Paterson University.
Project Manager, Quality & Accountability
Stephanie Waller supports the charter renewal process. Prior to joining the CSO, Stephanie served in multiple roles at a charter school serving opportunity youth in Philadelphia, focusing on workforce development and vocational training, partnership management, and student leadership. She began her education career focusing on teacher effectiveness initiatives in Washington, DC. Stephanie has a Master’s degree in Social Policy from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University.
Project Manager, Finance
Seun Oke supports the analysis of financial data that inform understanding of the financial health and fiscal management performance of charter schools. Prior to joining the CSO, he served as a Financial Management Analyst for the Department of Transportation at the School District of Philadelphia. Seun began his education career as a Teach for America Corps Member here in Philadelphia. He served as a High School Special Education Mathematics Teacher. Seun holds a Master’s degree in Urban Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Seton Hall University.
Cherron serves as the CSO’s point person in its family and community engagement initiatives. She brings to the CSO a diverse professional background that spans sectors and specialties. Most recently, Cherron worked at a local university in a student support role. Prior to this, she worked at the Philadelphia International Airport for nine years in various capacities and was an elementary school teacher in Philadelphia for six years. Cherron has an MBA from Eastern University and a Bachelor’s degree Chestnut Hill College.
Jasmine Reyes supports the work of the Strategy & Operations team, as well as the CSO’s efforts around Family and Engagement. Jasmine has worked with multiple non-profits that specialize in education and workforce development outreach, and brings that experience and passion in community engagement to the team. On path to pursuing her Master’s in the field of Sociology, Jasmine currently holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from Temple University.