Kenney names education chief, managing director, chief of staff

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 Mayor-elect Jim Kenney names members of his adiministration (from left) Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney, Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Deputy Mayor of Intergovernmental Affairs Debbie Mahler, Chief of Staff Jane Slusser and Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney names members of his adiministration (from left) Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney, Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Deputy Mayor of Intergovernmental Affairs Debbie Mahler, Chief of Staff Jane Slusser and Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia Mayor-elect Jim Kenney has named more key members of his cabinet, including the chief education officer. 

For that job, Kenney has chosen South Philadelphia High School principal Otis Hackney who left a cushier gig in the suburbs to take that job and is credited with dramatically improving a school culture once wracked by racial violence. 

At a City Hall press conference Friday afternoon, Hackney recalled a lunch meeting he had with Kenney shortly after he arrived at the school.

“You told me right then that day that I was going to fix South Philadelphia High school,” he said. “So Jim saw something in me that I wasn’t sure of myself.”

Hackney OtisOtis Hackney will serve as chief education officer in the Kenney administration. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Now in his new position, Hackney has faith not only in Kenney, but in the transition team he’s assembled. He said Kenney’s goal of getting his universal pre-K plan off the ground by September is a realistic, though “ambitious” one. He is also eager to start on a plan to create community-based schools.

“Everyone thinks that it’s just having a doctor’s office or a vision center in the school,” Hackney said. “Those are some things to have, but it’s also some behavioral health pieces that you may need, but also strong instruction.”

Hackney was one of four appointments Kenney announced Friday. He has also tapped Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike DiBerardinis to be his managing director.

DiBerardinis MikeMike DiBerardinis was named managing director by Mayor-elect Jim Kenney. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

DiBerardinis also ran Parks and Recreation under then-Mayor Ed Rendell who named him head of the state Department of Conversation and Natural Resources when he became governor. Before his days as a public servant, DiBerardinis was a well-known community activist. 

As managing director, DiBerardinis will oversee day-to-day operations in City Hall. He pledged to maintain strong ties with the community. 

“My experience tells me if we don’t connect to citizens in what we do, we’re not doing our jobs right,” DiBerardinis said. 

Kenney wants to change the internal structure of city government by empowering the managing director to make decisions. 

“I will not be micro-managing anything,” said Kenney, vowing collaboration among departments and staffers. 

Kenney also named his campaign manager Jane Slusser as his chief of staff to, as Kenney put it, “keep him in order” as she had on the road to Election Day. His longtime aide Deborah Mahler will serve as his liaison to City Council, as well as the state and federal governments. 

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