Hardy takes lead on improving academics in schools

David Hardy Jr., the new chief academic supports officer for the School District of Philadelphia, cracks a smile while talking about his goals and priorities during an interview Thursday at the school district’s main office at 440 N. Broad Street. -PHOTO BY TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER ABDUL SULAYMAN

David Hardy Jr., on the job for his first few weeks as the school district’s new academic support officer, believes the key to elevating Philadelphia public schools lies in setting high standards for students with hard work and dedication of school staff.

“We have to set extremely high expectations for kids and teachers if we all want to see them succeed in life,” Hardy said during an interview on Thursday at school district’s main office.

He said the district also will need the help of hard-working and dedicated teachers taking charge in classrooms. “I feel in Philadelphia we have a lot of them,” he said.

Hardy is starting a job in a district struggling to maintain programs and services while hampered by serious debt made worse by significant cuts in education funding from state and federal government. In the face of budget cuts, Hardy said the school district must be “very creative with how we allocate our funds and be more efficient with what we have. That’s no easy task, but with the teachers we have it’s something we can accomplish.”

Hardy is engaging parents and students for input in the early planning stages as he strives to better understand the landscape of the K-12 school district and its challenges. He will continue gathering information before laying out his vision and specific goals for the office of chief academic support.

In the meantime, he is focused on figuring out what exactly high-quality instruction should look like in every classroom and how to support teachers and other district leaders in developing strategies for teaching and learning that meet state standards.

Hardy was hired from the New Jersey Department of Education’s regional office in Camden, where he helped turn around low performing schools in Burlington and Camden counties, continuing a niche that he developed early in his career.

Hardy said he was drawn to the job opportunity for several reasons. He saw Superintendent Dr. William Hite Jr. as a strong leader with vision. “I always want to be part of an organization that has that type of leadership,” Hardy said, calling Philadelphia a city that is “near and dear to my heart.”

It was also an opportunity to move closer to West Chester, where he was born, raised and educated in its public schools. He comes from a family of educators, a father who taught middle school and an aunt who taught English. Hardy plans to complete his work for a master’s degree and doctorate in urban education leadership from Columbia University in New York City in December. He earned a Master’s degree in education administration from St. Thomas University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Colgate University.

Hardy is not related to David P. Hardy who co-founded Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School.

Hardy started his career as part of the Teach for America teachers corps, and was assigned to teach English to middle school students in the Miami-Dade school district. He was later promoted to a central office position and placed in charge of turning around two of the district’s lowest performing schools.

He then left Miami for New York, working as the dean of instruction at Bushwick Middle School run by Achievement First, a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers.

Hardy then became founding principal for Achievement First East New York Middle School in Brooklyn, N.Y., until being named executive director of Regional Achievement Center in Camden, which focuses on Camden and Burlington county schools struggling academically compared to peer schools.

Hardy said his work is a way of fulfilling a promise to prepare each student “to achieve great things. I see tons of potential in schools and in students who are here,” he said.

 

Contact staff writer Wilford Shamlin III at (215) 893-5742 or wshamlin@phillytrib.com.

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