This month’s spotlight features Joe Antonio (The Broad Residency 2003-2005), Director of School Transitions for The School District of Philadelphia.
What initiative are you currently working on?
Renaissance charter conversions. Between 2010 and 2013, the District converted several chronically under-performing schools into charter schools (“Renaissance charters”) in hopes that a charter operator could dramatically improve them. However, after years of sub-par performance, two Renaissance charters are on track for non-renewal and will be converted back to District schools. I am leading the effort to transition these schools back to District governance and along the way, we will build the foundation for a repeatable process that we expect to use more often in the coming years.
What is the most exciting potential outcome of this initiative?
I am excited about two potential outcomes: 1) improving the educational experiences of thousands of students currently in sub-par Renaissance charters, 2) creating a blueprint for smoothly transitioning struggling Renaissance charters back to District governance.
What is your vision for your organization in the next five years?
In the next five years, I would like to strengthen and broaden my team’s capabilities to support both charter and District schools going through major transitions such as a governance change, program transformation, or grade reconfiguration.
What inspires you to do this work?
As a former management consultant, I’ve always enjoyed tackling complex processes and organizational problems. But, oftentimes, I was doing it for companies whose core missions were not particularly meaningful to me. I firmly believe that school districts are engaged in a noble cause, especially with traditionally under-served students. Being able to apply my skills and strengths in service to that core mission alongside other mission-driven people keeps me inspired to stay in the field. I’ve even doubled down by getting elected to the board of my children’s school district in 2015 and serving as Board President since 2017.
What is the last education-related book you read?
How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. The book had several thought-provoking ideas and insights that were relevant and applicable to my roles as a parent, district administrator, and school board member. Some examples include the impact of childhood trauma and stress on learning, the value of experiencing failure, and the importance of building social-emotional skills.