Christina Grant, the Philadelphia School District’s chief of charters and innovation, has been named the new state superintendent of education in Washington, D.C.
In Philadelphia, she manages a diverse group of 18 district schools and was responsible for oversight of the city’s entire charter network, 70,000 students in 86 schools, with combined budgets of more than $1 billion.
Grant, whose appointment was announced Thursday by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, will start her new job June 21. The D.C. state superintendent does not run the 51,000-student, 117-school district, but rather oversees an agency functioning like a state department of education, with responsibility to supervise federal and early childhood programs.
Bowser, in a release, said Grant had “extensive experience overseeing the operations and finances of school systems. She is a seasoned leader and manager with two decades of experience overseeing complex budgets, accountability systems, and policy and politics across several organizations.”
Grant has worked for the Philadelphia district since 2015 but began her career in a Harlem classroom through Teach for America. She also spent time as the superintendent of a charter management company, as an education lobbyist, and an official in the New York City public schools administration.
Peng Chao, executive director of the Philadelphia charter office, will take over as interim charter chief.
William R. Hite Jr., Philadelphia’s superintendent, said Grant “has had a profound impact on our District, specifically students in our charter schools and within our Innovation Network. She is passionate about ensuring that all children have opportunities to excel and that schools are equipped with the resources and governance necessary to deliver a high-quality education.”
In a district with an often-contentious relationship with its charters — with battles over charters it has terminated, recent rejections of new charter proposals, and allegations that it has discriminated against Black-led charters — “I consider Christina Grant one of the good guys,” said David Hardy, CEO and founder of Boys’ Latin Charter School and a longtime charter advocate.
Grant “tried pretty hard to have a cordial and working relationship with the charter community,” said Hardy, who worries that’s not “going to be the case” with her successor.
The advocacy group Philadelphia Charters for Excellence, in a statement, thanked Grant “for her desire to work collaboratively with PCE on sector-wide issues,” and said they welcome Chao, whom organization leaders praised as “a thoughtful partner throughout this pandemic and we look forward to continuing our shared successes under his direction.”
In addition to charter schools, Grant oversees the district’s innovation network, including schools like the Juvenile Justice Services Center, which educates students in the city’s juvenile detention center, and Science Leadership Academy, the nationally acclaimed, project-based magnet school.
Her work helming such schools has been excellent, said Chris Lehmann, SLA’s founding principal.
“She has a deep belief that we can make schools more powerful and healthy places for kids, and she understands the conditions that are necessary for schools to be able to evolve,” Lehmann said. “She has a passionate love of educators and the work that they do, and she always asks what’s the right thing to do for the kids.”
Grant has shown up for students in such a powerful way, Lehmann said, that she was chosen to be the speaker at SLA’s graduation.