Tony Watlington named next superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia

The new superintendent was named after a six-month search.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Board of Education announced Friday that Dr. Tony Watlington has been named the next superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia.

He is currently Superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury Schools in North Carolina and has held that position since January 2021.

Tony Watlington

"I bring a passion for student achievement and working with students in our communities," said Dr. Tony Watlington.

Throughout his career, Dr. Watlington has held roles as a bus driver, history teacher, principal and Chief of Schools in the third largest district in North Carolina.

Watlington will take over from Dr. William Hite on June 16.

"I just want you to know that I wake up every morning asking myself one question, just like the Masai people in east Africa, who greet each other - even warriors - every morning with this question, and that question is: How are the children?" Watlington said during a news conference Friday morning.

Dr. Watlington's current superintendent role oversees about 20,000 students. The Philadelphia district serves nearly 115,000 pupils.

"Most basic systems are scalable, good teaching is good teaching, whether you're teaching ten students or a lot more than that," said School Board President Joyce Wilkerson.

Dr. Hite will be joining Cincinnati-based non-profit Knowledgeworks as its president and CEO effective July 1.

The board's search committee provided the following background about Watlington:
Watlington has 27 years of educational experience with specific expertise in instructional leadership and closing student achievement gaps, organizational efficiency and fiscal management, recruitment, and development of strong executive leadership, developing school/community/university partnerships, and equity education.

He has served in various positions over the course of his career, including as a high school teacher, assistant principal, and principal.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools is North Carolina's first and only Renewal School District, serving over 18,000 students across 33 schools.

The district's student population is 54% white, 20% Hispanic, 18% Black, 8% other racial groups, and 67% of the students qualify for free or reduced priced lunch.

His professional achievements include: the development of the district's strategic plan, "Renewal 2027," which is focused on academic skills/early literacy, interpersonal skills, student passions and unique life goals, human capital, operational efficiency, and parent and community engagement; increasing the district's third-grade literacy ranking from 96 in 2019 to 74 in 2021 among 115 school districts; and increasing the percent of schools that meet or exceed state growth targets from 55% to 71%.

Prior to joining Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Watlington served as Chief of Schools in Guilford County Schools, a district serving over 72,000 students.
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