As first day of class nears, district has good, bad news

With two days until thousands of students return to classrooms in the Philadelphia School District, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that all eyes will be on the district after another year of budget deficits and painful cuts, and particularly, new superintendent William Hite, who was hired at $300,000 a year to bring stability to the system.

The good news is that things can’t get much worse.

District officials are expressing a positive outlook for this year. They said the majority of teachers are in place, students should have adequate textbooks and buildings are ready.

“We’re extremely excited about this year,” said Assistant Superintendent Lissa Johnson. “It’s a new year for us, we have a new superintendent.”

Hite, who is working part-time until October as he transitions from the top post at Prince Georges County Public Schools in Maryland, is expected to be in Philadelphia for school openings.

The question is how long it will take him to get up to speed on the district’s ailing finances and plans to close more schools and contract with third-party managers called achievement networks.

While Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said he is optimistic about a fresh start, he is also concerned about how some previous cuts will impact teachers.

“The voice from parents and teachers have been missing in a lot of what the district has been doing,” Jordan said.

“I’m hoping that they will begin listening to parents and teachers … and hoping this year they will stop the de-funding of public education.”

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