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Harlem Children's Zone Leader Steps Down

Monday, February 10, 2014 - 05:58 PM

Geoffrey Canada, who turned the Harlem Children's Zone into a nationally recognized pipeline of pre-kindergarten through after-school programs serving thousands of children and adults, announced on Monday that he'll step down as chief executive officer this spring after more than 20 years.

Under his leadership, the Harlem Children's Zone attracted enough philanthropic support to expand to a nearly 100-block area and open its own charter schools. The White House offered competitive grants for communities to develop their own Promise Zones, based on Canada's work in Harlem. 

Spokesman Marty Lipp said Canada, 63, would continue as board president but otherwise was passing the reins to his chief operating officer, Anne Williams-Isom,  who will take over July 1. 

"I knew the biggest challenge was finding someone who could take this work to the next level," Canada said in a statement. "After an exhaustive national search over many years, Anne was the one person I found that had what's needed for this job: tough-minded leadership, dedication to our mission and the capacity to love thousands of kids."

An attorney who previously served with the city's Administration for Children's Services, Isom, 49, has been with the organization since 2009. 

"We want to prove to the country that this is not just a short-term thing, that being in these kids' lives and having a pipeline is long work," she said.

The Harlem Children's Zone points to numerous data points showing children who participate in its programs are more successful in school and in college, but others have questioned the numbers. Isom said she looks at data all the time, seeking ways to improve programs for younger children.

"My motto here has been getting it right for every single kid every single time" she said.

In taking over as C.E.O., she said she also wants to honor Canada's legacy, and that he will continue to serve as her advisor and mentor. "The best days are still yet to be seen," she said.

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Comments [2]

Prez Perez from Brooklyn, NY

Eh, after working for the Harlem Children Zone and being fired and sitting in a meeting about me being fired with Mrs. Isom my once passion for the Harlem Children Zone died. Not only was I never really told why I was fired, I was told in the meeting that perhaps "this place isn't for everyone, and maybe this place isn't for you." How can a place that prides themselves on helping the community fire someone who was genuinely there for the students. Lot of people don't know the true story behind the HCZ and how they treat their staff. Instead of creating a family, they make you choose between what is right and what brings the funds in. I just hope and pray that something changes there.

Feb. 13 2014 08:35 AM
Peggy P. from NY & Wis.

I have immense respect for Geoff, and the whole fantastic operation ... but have wondered why - no matter how many articles I read about him and HCZ - there is never any mention of Rheedlen, or its recently deceased founder: Richard Murphy. It seems to me that Murphy, a manically devoted champion of kids invented programs that grew into HCZ, deserves a quick mention now and then. And since working at Rheedlen presumably provided the base for Canada's stunning progress, that pioneering agency deserves a mention too. Is there some reason for these seeming oversights?

Feb. 11 2014 12:51 PM

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