Dr. Terry Larabee is the new superintendent of education for the Philadelphia Public Schools.
Dr. Terry Larabee is the new superintendent of education for the Philadelphia Public Schools.
Increasing the graduation rate will be among priorities of the new superintendent of the Philadelphia Public School District when he takes the helm on July 1.

Dr. Terry Larabee is currently spending two days a week on campus in a makeshift office, acclimating himself initially to such areas as car rider lines and cafeterias as well as meeting students, faculty, administrators and support staff, among others.

Larabee has also spent the past weeks reviewing the overall budget for the school district and was pleased to learn that it is fiscally sound.

"We are fiscally sound because of good, sound fiscal management in the past," he said, recognizing the work of outgoing superintendent Dr. Joseph White and business manager Sandra Martin.

During his first year at the helm, Larabee wants to increase the graduation rate while decreasing the number of students who drop out.

A more rigorous curriculum will be implemented district-wide in the coming year, he said.

"I've met with the counselor and we want our graduation rate at 100 percent," Larabee said. "I know that is a lofty goal but we want to identify students with multiple absences and discipline problems and develop a plan for them. We will track them and help them be successful and graduate."

The new superintendent said he would also place emphasis on academics and test scores.

A new curriculum and assessment coordinator was expected to be hired this week, as a new curriculum, "Common Core," will be implemented during the 2011-12 school year.

The new curriculum will be much more rigorous particularly in math and language arts. Third and fourth graders will be taught at a level currently seen for fifth graders.

"The math will be way more advanced and more in line with national standards," Larabee said.

The new curriculum and assessment coordinator will monitor progress of every student, class, grade and teacher throughout the year.

"We want to watch growth on all levels," he said.

Shortly after his appointment, Larabee assembled a high school delegation of eight students to discuss their vision for the school and overall district.

"I look forward to working with the students, faculty and staff and promoting our vision for the district," Larabee said. "I enjoyed talking to the students the most. If we listen to them, they can give us, the adults, a lot of insight into what is really going on in the schools from their perspective, and that is what is most important."

Larabee said he was impressed with the student delegation, which included Avery Duncan, Kira Cunningham, Heather Hedgepeth, Johtrell Pickens, Alexis Euyoque, Jacori Grady, Jerlisa Brown and John Tinsley.