The Philadelphia School Partnership on Tuesday will name Stacy Holland, a nonprofit leader with broad education experience in Philadelphia, as its new executive director.
Holland said she was poised to lead PSP, an organization that has raised $120 million for Philadelphia charter, private, and traditional public schools since it was founded 10 years ago, through a crucial time.
“COVID is the greatest educational crisis in our lifetime, one that has impacted all students in Philadelphia, especially students of color,” Holland said. “But it also presents us with a tremendous chance to reimagine how we provide high-quality educational options that are urgently needed for all children.”
Holland, 50, has nearly 30 years of experience in education and college and career development in the city, including stints as executive director of the Lenfest Foundation, chief of strategic partnerships of the Philadelphia School District, and cofounder and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network, a workforce development organization. She recently worked as a consultant advising public and private schools and philanthropic organizations.
PSP has had a hand in creating 20 new schools across the city and all educational sectors, and has given money to expand and revamp dozens more. It is funded through private donors and large organizations like the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Holland succeeds Mark Gleason, the founding leader of PSP, who announced his departure in January. Under Gleason, PSP took heat from some in education circles who said the organization furthered inequities and contributed to the privatization of public education.
Education has been politicized, Holland said, but the goal must be focusing on the needs of all school sectors in Philadelphia.
“Politics are not the work,” Holland said. “It’s really finding out what young people need and building the conditions so they can get what they need, and supporting those educators who at the end of the day are working really hard to get kids what they need.”
PSP has been “a bit of a lightning rod,” Holland said, but she’s focusing on what excited her about the organization when she heard about its creation a decade ago — the ability to pull in significant resources not typically available to schools.
Holland, who grew up in Willingboro, was a creative kid who wasn’t quite sure what she should do with her life. When she realized she wasn’t talented enough to make a career as a violinist, she panicked.
“Arts saved me,” said Holland, recalling how they helped her develop confidence and leadership skills. “And along the way, I ran into these magnificent educators who saw something I didn’t see and opened up all these doors and possibilities.”
After earning an undergraduate degree at the College of New Jersey, Holland received a master’s degree at Columbia University and, more recently, a doctorate in workplace learning and development at the University of Pennsylvania.
Handing a teacher who was her first mentor a copy of her dissertation was a dream come true, Holland said. Walking into school buildings still fills her with a wild sense of hope.
“I personally want to see everybody experience that hopefulness,” she said.
Holland’s appointment drew praise from officials around the city. Mayor Jim Kenney said her “leadership and experience in advocating for children and educators make her an outstanding partner in our extensive efforts to improve educational outcomes in every Philadelphia neighborhood.” Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said Holland “has distinguished herself in the development of education and community-based opportunities for young people from all walks of life.”
Michael O’Neill, PSP board chair, said Holland “is a tremendous force for good on behalf of children and youth in our city, and she brings both a sterling reputation and a wealth of experience to bear on the challenge of providing a great education for all students.”
Holland starts her new role in July.
“I think this next season is about coming out of that space and focusing directly on kids, and on educators,” she said. “Everybody wants the same things. We just don’t know how to get there. We have to challenge ourselves — how can we be different to get there?”