School & District Management

Philadelphia Creates New Leadership Structure

By Christina A. Samuels — January 23, 2012 1 min read

The board that runs Philadelphia schools has created an entirely new management structure for the 146,000-student district, in hopes that the new leaders can help the district deal with a looming $61 million budget shortfall.

Kristen Graham at the Philadelphia Inquirer has the details on the moves of the district’s School Reform Commission:

The SRC named Thomas Knudsen to a new title of chief recovery officer—he will function both as superintendent and chief financial officer. Knudsen, who previously led a turnaround at the Philadelphia Gas Works, will work on a $150,000, six-month contract. ... Penny Nixon, formerly associate superintendent for academics, becomes chief academic officer. She will report directly to the SRC. Leroy Nunery, the former acting superintendent, and Michael Masch, former chief financial officer, are both staying on as special advisers, but will take pay cuts. Nunery will report directly to the SRC and focus on examining how business and services are delivered to schools—essentially heading an effort to decentralize some of the district's operations. Masch will report to Knudsen and continue to work on financial matters.

The Philadelphia Public School Notebook also has a thorough article on the changes.

After former Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman resigned in spectacular fashion last summer, Nunery was appointed as acting superintendent. Now with Knudsen assuming that role, district leaders are hoping they can fill the shortfall with salary cuts and cuts to programs such as gifted education and bilingual education.

Knudsen has no background in education; his previous position was as the chief executive officer of Philadelphia Gas Works. In this Inquirer profile, he’s praised for his business acumen and ability to turn around struggling organizations.

“It’s certainly not going to be easy,” he told the newspaper. “We cannot allow it to fail.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.