The Harlem Children's Zone [HCZ] announced today that Geoffrey Canada, the educational, social and health service organization's president and chief executive officer, will step aside on June 30th to make room for current Chief Operating Officer Anne Williams-Isom who will take over as chief executive.
Mr. Canada, who joined HCZ more than 20 years ago, is an education advocate and reformer. His comments in "Waiting for Superman," the 2010 film about public education in the United States, gave the movie its title. "One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me 'Superman' did not exist," Canada said. "She thought I was crying because it's like Santa Claus is not real. I was crying because there was no one was coming with enough power to save us."
By creating a series of interventions that begin before birth and last through college, HCZ aims to break the cycle of poverty. Founded in 1970, HCZ, which covers a 100-block radius in New York City, runs a comprehensive network of education, social service and community-building programs for families. The FY 2010 budget for the agency is more than $75 million, according to the organization's website. It is funded through private and foundation support.
Canada spoke with Jane Williams on Bloomberg Radio's Bloomberg EDU about his decision to step down and separately about Mayor de Blasio and the divisive debate between charter and traditional public schools.
On His Decision to Step Down
"We have made huge strides in changing the odds for our kids and have achieved milestones no-one thought possible," Canada said in today's media advisory. "As the model for the nation, our work has tremendous stakes--and there is so much more to be done."
As for Canada's next steps, "There's never a day I've not wanted to go to work. And so I can't imagine I'll be sitting home," Canada told Bloomberg EDU's Williams. "But I don't have any immediate plans....I want a chance to really reflect on what we've done."
Last month Canada attended a White House press conference where President Obama announced the country's first five Promise Zones based on the HCZ model. The zones include Los Angeles, San Antonio, Philadelphia, south-eastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, which will be based on the HCZ model.
Seems likely the nation will continue to call upon Geoff Canada.
Copy of transcript is posted below.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
So, Geoff, you've decided to pass the baton, and a new chapter for Harlem Children's Zone and for you. Tell us about that.
I am stepping down as CEO and being replaced by my longtime Chief Operating Officer and an extraordinary young leader, Anne Williams-Isom.
And, Jane, I've been at it for 30 years, and I've raised a generation of kids and it's funny because now I've got middle aged men and women who remember when they were kids with me, and it seems so interesting because their kids are now ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen...
One of the things that you know I care about is how our sector - the not-for-profit sector - really demonstrates best practice. And I believe when you have run a successful company, the thing you have to really worry about is that first transition because your company's so identified with you that no one thinks it can make it without you. And so this is not a rash judgment. We've worked on this plan for over four years, and we feel like this is the right time at the Harlem Children's Zone to bring in a really talented young leader, who I think - and people are going to think I'm kidding when I say this - I actually think she's going to do a better job than I have done in taking this organization to the next level.
I have worked with her for longer than a decade, and I'm just very excited! I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying on as President of the Board, and I would help Anne in every way possible. But this is a moment of transition, and it will happen on June 30th when we will officially trade places, but for all intents and purposes Anne has been running the show for more than a year now.
You say you're not going anywhere. Will you add other aspects to your professional life?
You know, it's so interesting. Like a lot of people I've worked my whole life. And I have always enjoyed my job. There's never a day I've not wanted to go to work. And so I can't imagine I'll be sitting home, you know, trying to watch daytime TV. That's just not who I am. But I don't have any immediate plans. My thoughts are right now I want a chance to really reflect on what we've done, and to...My wife and I have five grandkids, and to spend a couple of weeks traveling and doing some things I've never been able to do. So, after that, I'll figure it out.
Something tells me this nation's going to call upon you to help us out on a lot of ways. Geoff Canada, congratulations and thank you.
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