PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The School District of Philadelphia has a new superintendent. After 48 public listening sessions, 6,000 interactions with community members, and town hall meetings with the final candidates, Philadelphia Board of Education members say they’re certain that Dr. Tony Watlington is the one to lead the school district.

“We are excited to announce Dr. Tony Watlington as the next superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia,” school board President Joyce Wilkerson said.

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After an extensive six-month search and a candidate pool of more than 400 people, Watlington will soon take the helm of the eighth-largest school district in the country.

CBS3’s Natasha Brown had the chance to sit down with the new superintendent for an exclusive one-on-one interview just before the announcement was made at school district headquarters.

“I’m excited to be here. I’m looking forward to learning Philadelphia, to launching a listening and learning tour,” Watlington said.

The North Carolina native is currently the superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School District in North Carolina. He has 27 years of experience as an educator, serving in various positions, including a high school teacher and principal.

“My number one priority is to learn the district. I realize I’m not from Philadelphia and I want to take the time to learn from the staff who’s here, to learn from our parents and community,” Watlington said.

Watlington will be leading a district out of a life-altering pandemic and navigating an epidemic of gun violence in the city, affecting schools and students.

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“Now that the pandemic is subsiding, we hope, it gives us an opportunity to go back and look at all the other issues that we have to really dig in and work together as a community. Certainly, crime and violence are among those issues,” Watlington said.

“We have selected someone that really matches up to what it is that we heard in our extensive process,” Wilkerson said.

Dr. Watlington will spend the next several weeks returning to Philadelphia, working alongside outgoing superintendent Dr. William Hite to ensure a smooth transition.

Ushering in a new era for the School District of Philadelphia’s 120,000 students.

“I wake up every morning asking myself one question and that one question is ‘How are the children? How are all the children?” Watlington said.

Dr. Watlington starts on June 16. He has agreed to a five-year contract and a $340,000 salary.

Not only is he a career educator, but an avid runner and CrossFit enthusiast.

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He says he grew up spending summers in Willingboro, New Jersey with his father, so he does remember coming to Philly quite often and he’s looking forward to becoming a Philadelphian.