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Philadelphia, San Antonio, New Orleans and Anchorage Name New Leaders

  • After a six-month national search, the nation’s eighth largest school system will soon have new leadership. Tony Watlington Sr. was recently named superintendent of the 115,000-student School District of Philadelphia. He will succeed William Hite, who is retiring in June from the school district he has led since 2012.

    Since 2021, Watlington has served as superintendent of North Carolina’s Rowan-Salisbury Schools, with 18,000 students. Prior to joining the district, he served as chief of schools in Guilford County Schools, the third largest school district in North Carolina.

    As superintendent, Watlington said he will focus on conducting a listening tour to learn about the district’s facilities challenges and to get a better understanding of the next steps to improving academic achievement.

    “[I] want to provide “life-changing opportunities and outcomes for each and every child in the School District of Philadelphia,” said Watlington in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Finalist Named in San Antonio

    Texas’ San Antonio Independent School District recently chose veteran educator Jaime Aquino as the finalist to lead the 47,000-student school district. State law requires a 21-day waiting period before superintendent finalists can officially be hired.

    Born in the Dominican Republic, Aquino began his career as a bilingual teacher and has held top leadership positions in several urban school districts, including serving as deputy superintendent of instruction for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He also served as the chief academic officer in Denver Public Schools and was the deputy executive director for the division of instructional support in New York City’s public schools.

    “I consider myself a teacher first,” said Aquino in a news release after his selection was announced. “Whether I was in Denver, New York or Los Angeles – I lead with a teacher's heart, and I am excited to walk back into the ‘classroom’ with SAISD's kids.”

    History Made in New Orleans

    The Orleans Parish School Board recently made history by naming Avis Williams as the next superintendent of NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) The selection of Williams marks the first time in the 181-year history of the 45,022-student school district that a woman was chosen to serve as permanent superintendent.

    Williams succeeds Henderson Lewis, Jr. who is stepping down in June from the district he has led since 2015.

    Williams is the superintendent of Alabama’s Selma City Schools, and under her leadership, academic achievement and graduation rates increased. Before beginning a career in education as a teacher and physical education coach, she served as a sergeant in the United States Army.

    Olin Parker, president of the Orleans Parish School Board, said Williams’ selection is an historic moment for the school system and for the city and that her breadth of experience as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, a teacher, principal, and superintendent will help take the district’s students' education to the next level.

    “I am certain of her commitment to ensuring that our graduation rates continue to rise and the doors of success continue to open for our scholars through college, well-paying jobs, and beyond,” said Parker in a press release.

    Anchorage Names New Leader

    Alaska’s Anchorage School District recently named Jharrett Bryantt as its new superintendent. An executive officer at the Houston Independent School District, Bryantt will succeed Deena Bishop, who is retiring from the 43,500-student school district after six years.  

    In his current position, Bryantt leads efforts to attract, retain and evaluate employees. He has held other positions in the Houston school system, including college advisor, director, and an assistant superintendent.

    “We firmly believe Dr. Bryantt has the vision and commitment to public education for all children, a deep understanding of the K-12 education system, and possesses integrity, honesty, and the ability to keep the focus on students,” said Anchorage school board president Margo Bellamy.

     Providence Interim Leader Becomes Permanent

    In June 2021, Javier Montañez was selected as interim superintendent for the state-controlled Providence Public School District. A principal of Leviton Dual Language School in Providence, Montañez replaced Harrison Peters.

    Almost a year later, Montañez is now permanent superintendent of the 22,000-student school district.

    "We didn't consider anyone else," said State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green in the Providence Journal. "I've been meeting with parent groups every two weeks, and they have been clear about their support for Javier. Why would we look for someone else when he is doing the job?"

    Montañez attended schools in the district but dropped out of high school and eventually received his GED. After he attained his bachelor’s degree, Montañez began his career as an elementary school bilingual teacher in Providence.

    His three-year contract runs to the end of the 2023-24 school year.

    In 2019, the state took control of the Providence school system, the largest school district in Rhode Island, assuming responsibility of the budget, program and personnel in the district’s 41 schools for five years.

    Minneapolis Leader Stepping Down

    Ed Graff, superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, recently announced he will not continue for a third term as leader after his current contract ends in June.

    Graff has led the 31,598-student school system in Minnesota’s largest city since 2016. During his tenure, the district has focused on student well-being, implemented extensive programmatic and structural changes, passed two school funding referendums, and recently adopted a new strategic plan.

    Minneapolis school board chair Kim Ellison praised Graff for bringing systemic and transformational change to the school system with students always as the focus. 

    “He has repeatedly delivered on the School Board’s values, implemented equity-driven structural changes, and kept students and staff safe and learning through a pandemic,” said Ellison in a press release. “I am grateful for his service and all he has done for Minneapolis Public Schools.”

    Interim in Charlotte and Des Moines

    North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools selected Hugh Hattabaugh as superintendent of the 140,406-student school district, succeeding Earnest Winston.  

    A retired educator, Hattabaugh previously served as the district’s interim superintendent in 2011, according to The Charlotte Observer. He also served as an area superintendent and chief operating officer.

    And Des Moines Public Schools recently selected Matt Smith, an associate superintendent, to serve as the interim leader. Smith will replace Thomas Ahart, who is stepping down as superintendent at the end of June, for the 2022-23 school year as the school board conducts a search for a permanent replacement of the 31,023-student school system.

    Under the leadership of Ahart, who was appointed superintendent in 2013, the district earned the Magna Award, the top honor from the National School Board Association, in recognition of its equity efforts.

    “Leading Des Moines Public Schools has been the honor of my professional life, however, I am ready to begin a new chapter,” said Ahart. “I will be forever grateful to the excellent educators, support staff, administrators, students and families who have made this district one of the best in the country.”