STATEMENT: 2020-2021 School Board Nominating Panel
Calling for more students and parents on the School Board Nominating Panel
In case you couldn’t sit in on all the town halls, we have summarized the three candidates' responses to parent, student, and community members’ questions below!
John L Davis Jr. is a father of 3, two sons (21 & 19) and a daughter in 5th grade. If offered the position his daughter will stay in DC for school but his younger son may go to college in Philadelphia (all candidates were asked about where their children would attend school). He is currently reading Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart and Liz Wiseman’s Impact Players.
Mr. Davis started as a middle school teacher in the US and then worked in Kenya. He became a Principal, then DC principal supervisor and eventually became the Chief of Schools in Baltimore. He emphasized his experience with large school districts that have similar demographics to Philadelphia.
When asked about students and his plans, Mr. Davis focused on listening and giving students a chance to be leaders and decision makers in their communities. He believes we should give students the space to talk about what is going on in the country/news and let them have some autonomy in their education. One program he began at his last district was home visits. Staff from the district would visit students and parents before the school year to learn: who is this child? What do they like? What are they passionate about? This was a way of building trust with the community.
Davis also discussed celebrating and embracing multi-language learners and wants to meet families in their language i.e. making sure translators and translations are available. He also emphasized the importance of reaching out to families to hear their thoughts rather than waiting for people to come.
He stressed the importance of giving students the space to talk about the things happening in the country. In response to a question regarding state funding and legislation about trade schools, he says he believes funding would be great and hopes to spread out trade programs geographically and discuss with students what they want.
Mr. Davis plans to engage parents in planning budgets and other programs. He will make sure to focus on listening to the needs and wants of community members. He is proud that in his past two districts, DC and Baltimore, parents feel great sending their kids to more schools than they had in the past. This is a goal for Philadelphia.
Davis hopes to alleviate teacher fatigue/burn out through practices that allow them to control their time a little more. One way he tried to do this in the past was creating more half days for teachers to do what they please be it dr. appointments or grading papers. He understands that after COVID teachers have been given even more responsibility which has added to the stress. He hopes to create wellness teams and community organizations that can take the weight off of teachers a little. Collaborative effort
As superintendent, he would develop people from within. He also aims to break down the tensions between central office and schools. In past districts, he has used the central office to assist schools when they are really struggling.
Mr. Davis hopes to invest in areas of the city that historically have not been invested in and prioritize these places over areas that have been invested in. He hopes to encourage school leaders to work together. He also aims to use ESSR Dollars to improve mental health support and extracurricular activities. In planning to spend the ESSR dollars or any budget he will create focus groups, town halls, and listen to people.
Mr. Davis is not pro or anti charter schools rather is all about what is a good school. Mr. Davis believes the autonomy of charter schools means they have to produce outcomes. He of course will follow the law about their funding.
Mr. Davis acknowledges that he is white man leading majority minority cities and would continue to do that in Philadelphia. He said he feels he has to prove himself and acknowledge that work in diversity space is very difficult. He has tried to focus on racial equity and always asks what are the unintended consequences of an action/decision.
Krish Mohip was born in the US into an immigrant family from Trinidad and Tobago. Right before he began high school, his sister died which caused him to struggle during high school. A single school counselor was able to help him refocus and heal. The last concert he attended was an Eric Church concert. If offered the position, his children will all go to Philadelphia public schools (all candidates were asked about where their children would attend school). He wants to build roots in Philadelphia.
Worked in urban settings all of career.
Mr. Mohip plans to make sure every student gets to go to a quality public school, a school where they know they belong right away. He also wants to give kids an understanding of the requirements in careers, especially emphasizing how important literacy is no matter the job. To achieve these goals, he will implement strong early childhood programs that include practices such as BAG reports. BAG reports are weekly reports on a student's Behavior, Attendance, and Grades. This is a way to give parents more information and participation. He learned in Chicago that most student violence happens between 4-7pm, so he hopes to invest in after school programs that provide students dinner and a space to do homework. He is driven by the belief that all children want to learn, all humans want to learn, but dont always want to learn in the way that we teach in schools.
Mr. Mohip also acknowledges that schools cannot solve everything going on in Philadelphia but hopes to be a part of the Philadelphia community coming together to make change. Some of these changes extend beyond traditional students such as helping adults build literacy skills or continued support of disabled students into adulthood.
As superintendent he would provide job security for those within the district who “have the skills to do the job”. Mr. Mohip is against clearing out staff and advocates for leadership pipelines throughout the district.
Mr. Mohip emphasized the importance of efficient and accurate spending. He wants to make sure money is set aside each year for capital improvement plans and ensure that spending aligns with the district priorities.
Mr. Mohip acknowledges possible resentment of him not being a Philly resident but said “I’m here” and ready to help.
*twice said Pittsburg when he meant to say Philadelphia
Mr. Mohip’s first priority is listening and learning about Philadelphia. During these first couple months he wants to focus on putting the bike back together and building the instructional framework. He wants the district to refocus on best practices and stick with them.
Mr. Mohip did not used to have a favorable opinion of charter schools but his beliefs have changed. He is ok with charter schools as long as they provide quality education and environment. He hopes to support all failing schools, not just close them.
Tony B. Watlington is a father of 3 and has 6 siblings. Growing up he was consistently on free or reduced lunch programs. He is a big music fan. MLK Jr. is his biggest influence, specifically his quote that the “Moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice”. He is currently reading a Lyndon Johnson biography.
Mr. Watlington started as a custodian and bus driver, then became a teacher, then principal. He eventually worked his way up to chief strategic planning officer, chief of schools, and finally school superintendent in the Rowan-Salisbury School District. He has held leadership roles in districts with 18,000 (Rowan-Salisbury) students and 73,0000 students (Guilford County Schools). Mr. Watlington defends this experience saying it is scalable and that he has first hand operational experience.
In order to gain student perspectives, Mr. Watlington will meet with student engagement groups regularly. He emphasized the importance of middle school for mental health and ensuring academic preparedness for high school. He also wants to ensure clarity in mission.
Mr. Watlington said he alway asks 5 questions before any policy practice or decision. One of these questions is: Are all the stakeholder groups represented at the table? If parents are not present or a group is not represented, he will not wait for them to ask to be at the table; rather he aims to go out and bring people in. He knows from first hand experience with his own mother that just because parents appear silent does not mean they do not care.
According to Mr. Watlington, teachers are the most important factor in improving education quality. Because of this belief, he will invest in teacher strategies and content. He also emphasized the importance of having teachers that represent students - specifically the power black male teachers can have in inspiring their students.
Mr. Watlington has a collaborative leadership style and will rely on those who may have more knowledge in a specific area as he develops his staff. If hired, he will assess talent level in staff and grow/develop those present in the district. He also aims to forthrightly engage with grassroots organizations.
Mr. Watlington will build relationships with legislators and Philadelphia leaders to ensure funding and support for the district.
If offered the position, Mr. Watlington first actions will be meetings with the board and then individual board members. He will engage in an aggressive learning period. He will go everywhere he can in the city to learn and have fun learning about Philadelphia.
Calling for more students and parents on the School Board Nominating Panel
Systemic racism that festers into the hearts of our schools, a pandemic, concerns with reopening schools, and mental health issues, plague our classes.
Students are denied a real voice in the decision-making process across Philadelphia despite being the most impacted stakeholders. This reveals a fundamental issue with the city’s approach to addressing student needs and voice; this must not continue.