Dr. Shannon Whitehead, principal of McNeal Elementary School in Canton Public 
School District, has been appointed as the new superintendent of Philadelphia School 
District. The board selected Dr. Whitehead after narrowing the list from 12 applicants to 
six finalists who were interviewed by the board. 

Dr. Whitehead, who describes herself as a passionate, self-reflective instructional 
leader, believes that her most important responsibility as a leader is to foster continuous 
improvement in teacher practice which will lead to a culture of success for students. 
During her 17 years in education, she has served in various roles, including classroom 
teacher, assistant principal, and principal. One of her goals has been to make learning 
as relevant as possible for each student. 

In her current position as principal of McNeal Elementary, Dr. Whitehead 

- Is the lead instructional strategist for a staff of over 70 and a student population 
of over 500; including 25% English Language Learners; 

- Led her school from a “D” rating to a consistent “B” rating; achieving high 
academic success with students who come from high poverty backgrounds; 

- Developed the concept of Professional Learning Opportunities for teachers to 
promote curriculum development, to support program implementation, and to 
increase content knowledge; 

- Developed a climate of trust/openness with all stakeholders and engaged 
parents and community stakeholders in the life of the school; 

- Worked diligently on a 2015 $33.5 million-dollar school bond election which 
resulted in a state-of-the-art McNeal Elementary School which still reflects the 
historical aspects of the former school. Her “boots on the ground” approach of 
rallying stakeholders to vote for the bond election made a positive difference in 
the outcome. 

- Was selected 2019-2020 Canton School District Administrator of the Year 

Her background of experiences includes implementing policies, managing budgets, and 
monitoring Professional Learning Communities. She holds a BS degree in Elementary 
Education, a master’s degree in special education, and an Ed.D. degree in Early 
Childhood Education. All degrees were earned at Jackson State University. 
To further her leadership experience, she attended the Mississippi School Boards 
Association Prospective Superintendent Leadership Academy and the 2020 CEO 
Leadership Academy (PREPS). 

Rev. Harold Coburn, President of the Philadelphia School Board, was impressed with 
Dr. Whitehead’s creative energy and relationship building skills. “The board was 
seeking an educator who had “hands-on” experience in improving student 

“Dr. Whitehead’s interview confirmed what the board was able to see in her application. 
She knows how to use data, she knows how to motivate and to involve others, and she 
shows that she cares deeply about student success. We value her experience as a 
successful principal.” 

Dr. Whitehead said of her appointment, “I consider it to be a privilege and an honor to 
be afforded this incredible opportunity to provide the children of Philadelphia with a 
loving, supportive, and engaging learning environment. As I begin this journey as 
superintendent, I am eager and excited about the next academic year. Together, we 
will continue to build a solid foundation of excellent teachers and leaders, district staff, 
and a community that is actively involved in education.” 

She will assume her duties as superintendent on July 1, 2022.