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Geoffery Canada steps down as CEO of Harlem Children's Zone

geoffrey canada
Tom Fitzsimmons
Center for Public Leadership

Just a few minutes ago Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) said he'll be stepping down as CEO of the organization. Anne Williams Isom, Chief Operating Officer since 2009, will take over.

The event was held at one of the schools and had the setting and feel of a traditional school assembly. Elementary students sang "lift every voice" accompanied by a teacher on a plugged-in keyboard.

Canada made the announcement and shared his recollections on how the HCZ has changed Harlem as part of a "State of the HCZ" presentation. In the beginning, Canada said, "We were just trying to save one block. We were losing a kid about every two or three weeks, they were being killed." 

The Harlem Children's Zone is now a network of schools and programs created to serve the children in Harlem, roughly a 100 block radius. 

But these schools have since their inception been models for educators and policy makers around the country. The organization has over 2000 staff and serves 12,300 kids. It has a budget of over $10o million.

Board Chairman Stanley Druckenmillersays the programs are working. This year 100% of the Harlem Gems, the program's preschool program will enter kindergarten at or above grade level. Of the high school seniors, 95% have been accepted to college. More impressive is that 78% of their students graduate college in 6 years or less, a number well above the national average. 

Canada said about 50 people have known about this transition as he's been planning it. He says he's leaving because the Harlem Children's Zone needs to survive as an institution without being tied to Canada as a figure. He also said the organization is in the strongest position it's ever been. 

Anne Williams Isom has been with the Harlem Children's Zone for over 4 years, and was mentored by Canada for years before that. " She has essentially been running this shop for the last two years," Canada said. "Her love for our children is just remarkable."

Canada will continue to be involved in the organization, although he hasn't said in which capacity. 

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