A strong school district = stronger communities - Generocity Philly

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Oct. 1, 2021 4:02 pm

A strong school district = stronger communities

"For the Fund of the School District of Philadelphia, it’s a priority that the next superintendent has this unique trait of understanding and uplifting partnership development," says guest columnist Donna Frisby-Greenwood.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite reads to Philly students in 2018.

(Photo via facebook.com/fundPHLschools)

This guest column was written by Donna Frisby-Greenwood, the president and CEO of The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.
The impact of the School District of Philadelphia touches everyone in this region. From employing more than 19,000 adults, to workforce readiness and preparing students with social emotional tools to thrive, our children’s ability to succeed in a global society impacts all of us.

This week, when School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite Jr.  — with whom I’ve worked for the past six years — announced that he is transitioning from his position at the end of the 2021-22 academic year, the Board of Education immediately set into motion the search to find his successor. With the understanding that multiple tables should be set that invite all voices to weigh in on what the District needs in the next superintendent, the Board, with support from The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia and The William Penn Foundation, began developing a public input process that meets every individual where they are and brings them into this search process.

To ensure that equity is a consistent thread throughout this process, the Board is inviting Philadelphia’s teachers, staff, students, alumni and families and the city at large to attend any one of 17 listening sessions — in-person and virtual — taking place over the course of 18 days, beginning October 11. The purpose of these sessions is to gather input about the qualities and skills the Board should seek in an incoming superintendent.

Not to be outdone, when the Board alerted city agencies, stakeholders and community organizations across the city about this undertaking, many jumped at the opportunity to host their own listening session — allowing for the constituencies that they serve and work alongside to have a stake in this process. To date, 10 organizations and agencies have approached the Board to ask to host their own sessions. And at The Fund, we will hold one with the philanthropic community. The Board is encouraging any organization who wants to host a session to do so, based on a provided toolkit for eliciting conversation and gleaning feedback.

This moment is a transformative one for our city. In his decade-long tenure, Dr. Hite brought stability and credibility to the School District. He increased parent engagement, attendance, and graduation rates. Dr. Hite’s vision for our schools and our students has driven the Fund’s growth and our ability to raise money. His ability to connect inspires community partners to band with us to help lead the charge and make a difference.

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Within the past six years, we were able to raise more than $32 million — the most ever raised — thanks to Dr. Hite’s leadership and the strong vote of confidence that he was able to reinstill in the District.

For the Fund, it’s a priority that the next superintendent has this unique trait of understanding and uplifting partnership development. We need to build on this momentum and make more connections, build a stronger school district, stronger neighborhoods, and a stronger shared sense of purpose.

Every Philadelphian has the chance to build upon the School District’s successes and point the way to our future.

 If there’s anything that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that communities make us feel connected, that we are part of something bigger — in this case, the collective wellbeing of our children — but only if we make ourselves known. By integrating community input from day one, the Board of Education has acknowledged and emphasized that we all have a part to play in empowering the School District.

Every Philadelphian has the chance to build upon the School District’s successes and point the way to our future. Please show up, whether in person or by Zoom from your own home. Please be neighborly. Please listen to understand. Please look around the screen or room with confidence, knowing that this is your community, your School District, and that we all share the core belief that every child deserves the opportunity to become a part of a strong, productive, and sustainable future for our City.

Please visit philasd.org/schoolboard/search to stay engaged, register for a listening session, complete the survey, and/or get the tools you need to host your own session.

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