Philadelphia Mayor Parker names chief education officer and deputy

Low-angle view of Philadelphia City Hall
Mayor Cherelle Parker named a new chief education officer and deputy education officer on Monday. The position of chief education officer has been vacant since December 2022. (Hisham Ibrahim / Getty Images)

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Mayor Cherelle Parker has named former high school principal Debora Carrera as the city’s chief education officer and Sharon Ward, a well-known education advocate, as a deputy in that office.

Parker made the announcement Monday afternoon, along with several other city appointments.

A woman with dark hair stands in a blue suit jacket and blouse
Debora Carrera, Philadelphia's new chief education officer. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Mayor's office)

Carrera worked for 27 years in the Philadelphia school district as a teacher and then as principal of William McKinley Elementary School and the Kensington High School of Creative and Performing Arts. She was also an assistant superintendent before becoming an official in the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Ward previously held positions in the Pennsylvania Department of Education and as an advisor to the Philadelphia School District. She was a founder of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy center and is a consultant to the Education Law Center.

Carerra and Ward will likely be charged with working on how the city and district can implement Parker’s ideas for year-round school and a longer school day, both expensive propositions that will require buy-in from the district’s unions. Neither could be reached for comment Monday.

The position of chief education officer has been vacant since December 2022, when Otis Hackney left after seven years in the job under former Mayor Jim Kenney. With just a year left on his term, Kenney put education issues under the Office of Children and Families.

A woman with light hair stands in a maroon jacket and dark top.
Sharon C. Ward, Philadelphia's new deputy chief education officer. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Mayor's office)

As chief education officer between 2015 and 2022, Hackney oversaw Kenney’s prekindergarten expansion and community schools initiatives and worked with Comcast to make sure that all students had adequate internet access through the ConnectED program. He also started the city’s Catto Scholarships for students to attend Community College of Philadelphia and smoothed the return of the district to local control.

Like Carrera, Hackney was a former Philadelphia principal when appointed. He was widely credited with bringing stability to South Philadelphia High School after repeated clashes between Black and Asian students. At the time of his appointment, he had moved on to become the first Black principal of the high school in Springfield in Montgomery County.

Dale Mezzacappa is a senior writer for Chalkbeat Philadelphia, where she covers K-12 schools and early childhood education in Philadelphia. Contact Dale at dmezzacappa@chalkbeat.org.

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