5 Questions for Stacy Holland, Chief of Strategic Partnerships for the Philadelphia School District
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Education & Talent

5 Questions for Stacy Holland, Chief of Strategic Partnerships for the Philadelphia School District

Earlier this year, the Philadelphia School District released a new Action Plan (v2.0) outlining its current and planned priorities. The plan is organized around four "anchor goals" that closely align with the World Class agenda for K-12 education (Read more in What Makes the Philadelphia School District’s New Action Plan World Class?).


At the tactical level, the Action Plan echoes the animating spirit behind the World Class initiative in its emphasis on strategies to make it easier for businesses and other organizations to partner with the District to achieve its goals. These efforts are being managed out of the District’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, led by Stacy Holland. 


Stacy, who served on our Education & Talent Development strategy team, knows how to build systems. She's been recognized nationally for co-founding the Philadelphia Youth Network in 1999, taking it from two employees to a citywide entity dedicated to integrating services across 140 organizations that provide programming to 17,000 youth each year.


While Stacy’s only been with the District since the fall, her efforts have already started bearing fruit-- from a high-profile partnership formed with Stephen Starr to an emerging large-scale partnership with the Department of Human Services. (Read more about these efforts in a recent story in the Notebook.)

We caught up with Stacy and asked her five questions about her new role:


1. What made you decide to take on this position at the District? What excited you about it?


After 14 wonderful years at the Philadelphia Youth Network, I still had the nagging feeling that we (in the City) had not yet fixed the largest system that impacts Philadelphia’s children - the Philadelphia School District. So, I began thinking more and more about the possibilities of collaboration under Dr. Hite’s leadership. One thing we both have in common is a fundamental belief that partnerships are essential to building a 21st century education system. Given my experience building large-scale partnerships at the Youth Network, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on building a seamless service delivery system that matched partners with the strategic needs of our schools. 


The thing that excites me most is the potential to create an organizational structure that will yield millions of dollars of additional supports for schools and ultimately children -- all while providing experiences that will expose them to the broader world.


2. What are your three biggest goals for the Office? How will you know you’ve been successful?


I’d say my three biggest goals are to understand the full ecosystem of partnerships that exist in the City; to build an ecosystem of partnerships that align with the strategic goals of Action Plan 2.0; and, finally, to build a service-delivery system that maximizes partnerships, matches these organizations to schools and thus services to children.


I will know we are successful when the office is referred to as the “go-to” place for exploring a partnership with the District because we are perceived as successful and responsive. I will also know we successful when the District can quantify the level of investment in schools, which will allow us to maximize our existing assets.   


3. What are some of the biggest challenges/hurdles you’re keeping your eye on that could prevent you from seeing that success?


Honestly, the biggest hurdle is the lack of infrastructure available to support this work. The second-largest hurdle is the urgency of time and need. I’m concerned that we won’t be able to build the infrastructure fast enough to meet the demand of the public or the schools.


4. A big focus of your work is on developing an efficient system that makes it easy on school leaders, the District AND the huge community of providers to interact – what’s your current thinking on how to do this? Are there other places you’re looking at that have done this well? 


Right now, we’re focused on understanding how to best use technology to capture which organizations are interested in partnering with the District and what are the needs of individual schools. This infrastructure is critical given that technology will play a key role in the tracking of projects and matching of resources. 


As a longer-term strategy, we are beginning to establish collaborative committees by industry sector.  For example, convening all of the museum community together to examine the need for arts education and distributing these resources by school to ensure that every school has access. 


In terms of other places that are doing this well - I’ve been very impressed by what the Nashville School District has been doing. They have been very successful in organizing their partner community through a non-profit called Alignment Nashville. I have been working with them, and will continue to learn more about how we might replicate parts of this model here in the City.


5. How can the business and civic community help ensure you’re successful in achieving your goals?


The business community can assist the District in the following ways: 


  • Participate in the “Support our Schools” initiative (spearheaded by the Philadelphia Bar Association), designed to match corporations with individual schools and build a plan of support that can range from financial contributions to volunteer opportunities. 

  • Provide policy support in Harrisburg for a fair funding formula.

  • Get involved with WorkReady Philadelphia, the District’s innovative Career Technical Education programming, or career fairs. We need every working adult willing to assist youth in their development of 21st century skills.


For more information about getting involved, contact partnerships@philasd.org.