Chief Operations Officer

Industry: Facilities Management
Location: Pennsylvania - Philadelphia
Sector: School District/System
Search ID: 20-0502-16
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Wendy Zang
Wendy Zang
The School District of Philadelphia has retained Helbling to conduct an executive search to secure a Chief Operations Officer.

Position Summary 

The Chief Operations Officer provides the leadership, management, and vision necessary to ensure that the District has an effective and proactive approach to maintaining high-quality operations for a large system with competing demands. The Chief Operations Officer is charged with overseeing a sizeable workforce, an operating budget of over $500 million, and a capital program budget of over $250 million in order to execute on a clear strategic vision and maintain a coordinated operational system that is grounded in leadership, clear goals for success, accountability for those goals, and high standards of customer service. Under the Chief Operations Officer’s leadership, the District will provide all students with the necessary structures to focus on learning including: providing clean, safe, welcoming facilities; giving students healthy and nutritious meals; transporting students safely and promptly; and creating and maintaining plans for the long-term sustainability of buildings. The successful candidate will lead with a collaborative energetic style, guided by the District’s mission to ensure that every child in Philadelphia has access to an excellent public school education.

Essential Functions

  • Oversees all departments within the Operations division including Capital Programs, Environmental Operations, Facilities and Maintenance, Food Services, Real Estate, Sustainability, and Transportation, all functioning as one unit with results-oriented planning and coordination across teams.
  • Successfully leads the work needed to ensure the District’s 220+ buildings, $500M operating budget, and $250M capital projects budget, address the issues of aging buildings, new construction, classroom modernization, and environmental sustainability so that students and staff experience safe and healthy buildings.
  • Leads all aspects of the division with a goal that all schools experience high-quality, timely service that addresses problems and enables schools to focus on learning.
  • Establishes clearly defined and measured goals; ensures staff is accountable to achieving excellence using an approach that values cohesiveness, collaboration, and a student-centered mindset.
  • Creates a climate that promotes respect for others, embraces diversity as a strategic advantage, accepts alternative ideas and approaches, and adheres to the highest ethical standards and practices.
  • Communicates priorities and important information transparently and accurately to staff, schools, families and the larger community.
  • As a member of the District’s leadership team, contributes to the overall strategic planning process; participates as a member of the Superintendent’s senior team, presenting ideas, weighing in on problems and solutions, and engaging as a true collaborative team player; represents the Superintendent at meetings with staff, government officials, union leadership, parents groups and community groups, the general public, and the press, as needed.
  • Sets a clear vision and strategic plan for the departments’ work by setting short- and long-term goals for the division and monitoring the implementation of the strategic plan, with modifications made when needed.
  • Develops and implements plans for the operational infrastructure of systems, processes, and organizational structure to accommodate both department and District goals.
  • Continuously measures and assesses the effectiveness of all processes within the operational departments, including developing and regularly tracking progress toward ambitious team goals that support student learning.
  • Assesses, leverages, and implements new infrastructures including new technology, financial systems, et cetera that best support the achievement of department and District goals.
  • Oversees administrative and facilities planning, including management of the division’s budget for fiscal efficiency and for contractor and vendor relationships.
  • Creates the vision for a comprehensive, aligned talent management strategy including building a strong and nimble team that realizes a commitment to attracting, retaining, recognizing, and developing talent across the division.
  • Collaborates with the Chief Talent Officer to oversee all talent management practices for operational members, including recruitment, performance management, career pathways, and training and development.
  • Motivates and leads a high-performing management team, providing mentoring and coaching to direct reports as well as cultivating career development and leadership opportunities.
  • Promotes and embodies the District’s core values and student-centered beliefs within the work of the division.
  • Performs other duties and responsibilities as assigned by the Superintendent.

The Organization

For forward-thinking administrators and educators, opportunities abound in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). The SDP is committed to transforming the education opportunities offered to the city’s 200,000 school-aged children. The District seeks leaders who have a passion for working with schools, principals and communities who are committed to ensuring all students achieve. With 19,000 employees and over 220 schools, serving the needs of all students and families in the city of Philadelphia requires creativity, commitment, and vision.


Located in Philadelphia, PA

Minimum Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. (Master’s degree preferred).
  • Ten years of full-time, paid, professional experience in management leading the efforts for operational excellence, personnel management, budget and resource development, strategic planning, and other aspects of leadership in a large, complex organizational setting which has included success in building rigorous operational systems and processes to achieve organizational objectives.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

Demonstrated knowledge of:
  • Effective organizational development practices, including personnel management and strategic planning.
  • Conducting financial analyses and evaluating financial metrics to support strategic decision-making.
  • Best principles, practices, and procedures of operational administration in areas such as facilities, maintenance, food services, transportation, or similar fields.
  • Principles and techniques related to strategies to increase the efficiency of operations.
Demonstrated ability to:
  • Be flexible while working in a sometimes ambiguous and fast-moving environment while driving toward clarity and solutions.
  • Set clear priorities and guide people to buy-in and implement these priorities effectively.
  • Manage teams to results through strong performance management, goal setting, delegation, and prioritization.
  • Promote growth and development of individuals through differentiated supports and empowerment.
  • Multi-task effectively while coordinating and directing the activities of a large staff operating in a unionized environment.
  • Analyze and resolve complex problems.
  • Lead with integrity, credibility, and a commitment to the District’s mission.
  • Engage colleagues and stakeholders through effective and professional working relationships.
  • Lead with an equity lens that honors diversity of thought and background.
  • Express ideas effectively, both orally and in writing.


The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed by people assigned to this classification. They are not to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, and skills required of personnel so classified.

The School District of Philadelphia is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer.
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