Dr. Hite Steps Down as Superintendent

<p>Credit: Al Día News</p>

Credit: Al Día News

Philadelphia School district superintendent Dr. William Hite is stepping down after his contract expires in August 2022. He has spent a decade steering Philadelphia public schools. 

Dr. Hite joined the school district of Philadelphia at a very turbulent time filled with academic and fiscal issues; right after Gov. Tom Corbett cut $1 Billion in state aid to school districts, which forced the Philadelphia school district to lay off many employees. In 2001, the School District was under Pennsylvania state control because of its dire financial situation. The schools in the district were in huge debt, forcing them to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars

Under Hite’s leadership the district improved its conditions enough to be returned to local control, and also managed to fix many of it’s other financial problems, which allowed it to make additional investments. Nevertheless, Dr. Hite’s tenure continued to be plagued with challenges, and there are multiple huge issues stockpiled for whoever is next to replace him. For example, the district never managed to eliminate its structural deficit, meaning the district’s “yearly revenue never exceeded its yearly expenses.”

 Budgets were often balanced through one-time grants from City Council rather than a recurring tax increase, and the state never significantly increased its yearly allocation to its largest district” The district also faced many other crises, ranging from online schooling options because of the Covid-19 pandemic to asbestos construction and school bathrooms. 

Dr. Hite was hired to lead Philadelphia’s school district in 2012, and before coming to Pennsylvania, he served as the superintendent of another  school district in Maryland, right outside of Washington D.C. At the time, the school board president in his previous school district said that he is “sincere about making child-driven decisions.” He described himself at the time as a “servant leader” who had ambitions to “completely revamp how schools are managed.”

During his tenure, test scores and graduation rates increased slightly, and initiatives such as “goals and guardrails”, a leadership approach that’s purpose was to focus on academic achievement and send more resources to the lowest-achieving schools, as well as  an anti-racism campaign that was created to fight internal inequities, including the underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic students in the district’s selective schools, were adopted by the board of education. 

The Hite administration also succeeded in reaching a contract agreement with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in August 2021 despite the union’s disagreement over school conditions, which was the first time in 30 years that a settlement was able to be reached before the expiration of a contract. Aside from this, the city also saw charter enrollment grow to educate one third of the city’s students in public schools. 

One year ago, Dr. Hite’s name was on the shortlist for serving as an education secretary under President Joe Biden, however, In 2020, he received a vote of “no confidence” from the school district’s principal’s union, as well as a vote of “needs improvement” in two categories - student growth and achievement; and systems leadership and operations - from the school board.  

In 2012 and 2013, the district closed 24 of its schools under the Hite administration and relocated at least five more, which had a terrible impact on many different communities in Philadelphia and caused a huge public outcry. 

Dr. Hite called his 9th year running the school district (2020) his most challenging yet because 120,000 students and all schools had to go online due to COVID-19. But even before the pandemic hit, the district was already stricken with concerns about the safety of many of the older school buildings, especially concerning loose asbestos in many schools. In June of 2018, Governor Tom Wolf allocated $15.6 million to repair school buildings, but as recently as August 2021 communities remain concerned about asbestos in school buildings.

 Not only was asbestos a problem, but proper ventilation as well. The Hite administration’s original plan was to open schools in September of 2020, as did many private and independent schools in the city, but when teachers protested and threatened a strike over ventilation and safety issues, that was not possible and a third party mediator was forced to come in to arbitrate the dispute. Even though the issue of ventilation was resolved, many concerns about the general disrepair of the buildings remain unanswered. 

“Ten years is a long time to be doing this type of work,” Hite said at a press conference, according to The Inquirer. He has not disclosed to the public why this will be his last year in charge of the school district of Philadelphia. 

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

The search for the new superintendent started in October 2021, with the creation of a formal advisory committee. The search for his replacement started with the school board casting a wide national net, and beginning on October 11th, 17 public listening sessions were held by the board of education over the plan of 18 days, involving teachers, students, parents and community members who are helping to guide the search. 


Bullhorn Newsletter

Receive the Bullhorn direct to your inbox!

Bullhorn Updates

Virtual Guidance Counselor

Submit Your Work

Wanna submit your work to the bullhorn? Articles, Art, Poetry, Film, and More!

Email your work to us at thebullhorn215@gmail.com, and share it with us on Google Drive at thebullhorn215@gmail.com.