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South Philadelphia principal Hackney to be chief education officer, Kenney says

By Paul Socolar on Nov 13, 2015 11:09 AM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

[Updated, 3:20 pm with Hite statement]

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney has named Otis Hackney, the principal at South Philadelphia High School since 2010, to be his chief education officer. 

Hackney is widely acclaimed for turning around the high school, which had been plagued by racial tension and by violent attacks on Asian students.

In a release, the Kenney campaign credits him with "transforming the culture of 'Southern' into a model for other urban education systems."

Under Hackney's leadership, the high school has also put together one of the most advanced efforts in the city to implement the "community school" approach, which involves re-envisioning schools as accessible, full-service community centers for students and their families.

Kenney has touted community schools as a way to revitalize the city's struggling neighborhood schools. He says he wants to create 25 community schools citywide.

"I have high concentrations of students with high needs," Hackney said earlier this year in explaining his approach at Southern. "I need to make sure I have high levels of support." The school has a robust set of partnerships with outside organizations, and the facility is used by the community outside of school hours.

Hackney will succeed Lori Shorr, who has served as the city's chief education officer throughout the eight years of the Nutter administration.

Hackney, a resident of West Mount Airy, started his career as a math teacher at Germantown High School. After a principal's internship at Overbrook High School, he became assistant principal of South Philadelphia High School. He left the school in 2007 to become the first African American principal of Springfield Township High School in Montgomery County.

A graduate of West Philadelphia High School and Temple University, Hackney earned a master's degree in educational leadership from Lehigh University.

Hackney is married to attorney La-Toya Hackney, and they have a daughter at Masterman who has attended District schools.

District Superintendent William Hite issued a brief statement on the appointment and plans for South Philadelphia High School:

I'm excited about Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney's selection of Otis Hackney as his new Chief Education Officer. Otis was instrumental in our efforts to maintain stability at South Philadelphia High School.

Otis has led Southern since 2010, when he made it his personal goal to revamp school spirit following the violent incidents in 2009. He often said his hope was to change and heal South Philadelphia.

In early 2013, Otis began managing the transition for Bok Technical High School students who would be enrolling at South Philadelphia in the fall. He acted as a great leader and developer of strong family and community relations.

He has a genuine wealth of education experience and will serve all Philadelphians extremely well at this crucial juncture. I am excited about being able to continue to work with Otis on important initiatives.

When searching for a replacement, it was important to find someone who truly connected with Southern and the surrounding community. For that reason, we are placing an Acting Principal in the school who previously worked there as an assistant principal and understands the South Philadelphia High School culture and community.

In a statement, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan cheered the appointment. "There is much work to be done, and many voices we need to hear, and I am delighted that Mayor-elect Kenney has recognized that a Philadelphia educator, Otis Hackney, is the right person to lead the charge." The union was a key supporter of the Kenney campaign.

Hackney's appointment was formally announced at a City Hall press conference Friday at 1:30 pm. Other appointees announced Friday include Mike DiBerardinis as city managing director, Jane Slusser as Kenney's chief of staff, and Deborah Mahler as deputy mayor of intergovernmental affairs.

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Comments (22)

Submitted by Annoy (not verified) on November 13, 2015 10:13 am

While this is nice for Mr. Hackney, what happesn to Southern?  Will a retired principal be "brought back" for the remainder of the year?  Pulling out an administrator or teacher mid year is very disruptive.  This is especially true at a neighborhood school.

Submitted by Tiredofthesameoldexcuses (not verified) on November 13, 2015 12:00 pm

If Hackney has really done such a great job why would you risk pulling him out of such a touchy job midyear? Ride out the year then make a change. 

 

Submitted by Education Grad ... on November 14, 2015 6:12 pm

I totally agree. If Hackney is who Kenney really wants for the job, why can't the change wait until the end of the school year? Is it realy necessary to have the Chief Education Officer in place right now if that person is a current School District principal? Couldn't there be an interim Chief Ed Officer?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on November 13, 2015 2:50 pm

I certainly wish Mr. Hackney the best and hope that he will do his part to bring collaborative leadership back into the school district. I am sure that he understands that "trust formation"  is essential for any leader to be effective.

Trust formation and relationship building has been sorely missing from the district for quite some time now. It is time for "community building."

Submitted by DJIA down 660 pts (not verified) on November 13, 2015 6:41 pm

I clicked on the link to Hackney.  There have been no recent incidents but that school still sounds  as safe as Afghanistan or that you-tube vid "The most dangerous high school in America".   Google "NYC : Community schools backers fear failure".  C-schools sound like a great idea but they still have to produce results and higher test scores (btw even Charlie Brown doesn't opt out of the standardized test in "The Peanuts Movie".)  and their record on that is mixed at best. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 13, 2015 11:18 pm

Agreed. South Philadelphia High School continues to be a school in disaray. Apparently, this newly elected mayor doesn't do his homework. Please take off your rose colored glasses and get real.

Submitted by Maureen fratantoni (not verified) on November 13, 2015 9:39 pm
While I am happy for Mr. hackney I just got this news a day or two ago from my child and it would have been nice to get a formal letter about these changes. I feel like he should have finished up this year at least but could not since planning for the transition team is going on now. I am not sure who will take the reigns at South Philadelphia High School. Will it be the present Vice principal? If anyone knows this answer,for certain ,please let me know. I only know that my child who has special needs and wants to know who will be his replacement . He seems most anxious about it.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2015 12:52 pm
I'm sure you will know in due time. I think you're thinking too much into this situation. It's NOT that serious!!!
Submitted by SPED Teacher (not verified) on November 17, 2015 1:43 pm

Lol at the idea that the person holding the reigns at a person's child's school isn't important. As a parent and special education teacher, I disagree completely. At a comprehensive public high school, the principal can make or break the climate and organization. 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2015 12:26 pm

To be honest it's not that serious because people have the right to move on to better things in life. Your son will be fine.

Submitted by Retired From the SDP (not verified) on November 16, 2015 3:59 pm

Unfortunately, those of us who work for the district often find out important information via the newspaper or social media.  Transparency is not a strong point for "the executive offices" of the SDP.  I am sure that you will receive some information soon...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2015 12:37 pm
People are so negative! I am personally proud to see Mr. Hackney move into a position of power that can benefit our community and educational system. I work at Southern, and I can attest to the improvements and strives that has been made due to the hard work of the administrators and staff. If your not helping your part of the problem. #ijs #bepositive #youngblackandsuccessful
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2015 12:53 pm

Totally agree . #happyforhim 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 16, 2015 1:59 pm

they should take edisons prinicipal ... Ms Ortiz has managed to ruin the school more get the best staff to leave and word around the school is there is a mugshot of her circulating for an arrest this past summer .... yet she still persecutes staff for no reason and gets into no trouble from highers up for it ... yet she was arrested on her bday in SC for DUI 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2015 1:06 pm

That comes as no surprise.  Others would have been fired.  Did she pull the race card?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2015 1:40 pm

Appears to be true.  Thanks google.  Another gem of a principal

Available Public Records

DPPA (Drivers Privacy Protection Act) Disclaimer: Any speeding ticket listed on this database is a court filing, not derived or a reflection of an individuals driving record. These court records are public information and not protected under the DPPA. For more information please visit this link https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2721

  • Charge 1:
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  • Driving Under The Influence, Less Than .10, 1st Offense
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  • Charging County: Horry, SC
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  • Charge Date: 07/13/2015

We have detected that Awilda Ortiz, a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has been charged by Horry County, with charges of Driving Under The Influence, Less Than .10, 1st Offense.

 

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Submitted by clicker heroes (not verified) on July 28, 2017 5:20 am

Hackney will succeed Lori Shorr, who has served as the city's chief education officer throughout the eight years of the Nutter administration.@cool math

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