Watch CBS News

Philadelphia School District superintendent shares findings of learning and listening tour

What did Philadelphia School Superintendent learn during 100 day Listening & Learning Tour?
What did Philadelphia School Superintendent learn during 100 day Listening & Learning Tour? 02:26

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington talked about Roxborough Tuesday as he spoke about what he learned on his listening and learning tour across the school district. The superintendent announced the tour when he started the job, which he says will help him to better understand the needs of the district.

"We have asked the question how are the children? Many of our children have spoken very clearly that they're not doing well," Watlington said. "Some are afraid to go out in their neighborhoods and play, some are afraid to go to and from school."

There are three phases in the superintendent's transition process. 

Currently, we are on phase two, which includes the release of this comprehensive view of the school system.

Watlington took over as chief of Philadelphia's schools, replacing William R. Hite Jr., who was superintendent for a decade.

His 100-day plan, the listening and learning tour, focuses on five priority areas:

  • Student and staff well being 

  • Developing trust with the city

  • Assessing teaching and learning

  • Re-examining district structure/organizational leadership

  • Examining operations and finances within the district

CBS3 spoke with him when he was announcing his need to do the tour.

"I think it is important to focus on getting to know Philadelphia," Watlington said. "Trust begins when I begin to listen, and I have to listen to understand, to understand this community, to understand what we think is working really well and to understand what we think are areas that need improvement in the school district."

Watlington received input from approximately 2,700 Philadelphians. Their main concern is safety.

CBS3 also spoke with some parents and asked them what they would like to see addressed.

"What is happening in the schools today is terrible. It don't make no sense," a concerned mother said. "How do these kids get to walk around with guns like that? Jumping out of cars and shooting innocent kids. It don't make no sense. It really don't."

During a press conference at school district headquarters, Watlington addressed that.  

He acknowledged concerns following the deadly shooting outside of Roxborough high school, citing safety as his number one priority.

"I would say to give us a chance," he said. "I want to encourage our parents to believe in us. I recognize there is a crisis of confidence across the city"

Those actions include safety zones implemented around 40 district and charter schools, added supervision for students traveling to and from school as well as more mental health providers.

"What I've learned in phase one of my entry plan, in this listening and learning tour, is that the students of the School District of Philadelphia are anything but ordinary," Watlington said. "They absolutely deserve an extraordinary school district."

In addition to safety, the meeting highlighted four other priorities for the district to tackle:

  1. Improved communication and engagement, both within the district and with the public 

  2. Improved customer service

  3. Learning-conducive facilities 

  4. Academic achievement

All things, he said, the previous administration started.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.