‘Rushed’ schools search could end as early as today

Eleven months after an ugly, drawn out divorce with former superintendent Arlene Ackerman, the Philadelphia School District could announce a new leader as soon as Friday.

William Hite Jr., superintendent of Prince George’s Public County Schools in suburban Washington, and Pedro Martinez, deputy superintendent of Clark County School District in Las Vegas, are the two finalists. Both met with community members and stakeholder groups earlier this week.

The School Reform Commission has a regularly scheduled meeting today and could presumably make an announcement about the position. Commissioner Wendell Pritchett, who heads the search committee, has said a decision would be made next week at the latest.

The announcement will conclude a six-month process in which the SRC received about 100 applications. The process has been criticized both by community members and elected officials for being secretive and not allowing much time for the public to evaluate the finalists.

City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who chairs Council’s education committee, said she received notice Monday morning that a session was being held with Martinez that day. School officials claimed they notified Council on Friday via e-mail, but Blackwell said she did not see the e-mail.

“Everything is being rushed about it. The whole process, from our vantage point, was rushed,” she said. “If they had planned it long ago they didn’t tell us or the public.”

Hite seems to be the favorite for the job based on response from Tuesday’s public forum and his experience as a teacher, but he has said he is unsure if he would take the job.

“He understood everybody’s role and he was engaging,” Blackwell said of Hite. “Either one, if chosen, could do the job. Pedro Martinez, I don’t think he was a bad candidate. I think he was good, I just think Dr. Hite had the experience and was more engaging.”

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