Philadelphia’s public schools chief will be leaving at the end of the academic year.
School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite said late Monday night that he will be walking away from the job when his contract expires next summer.
Hite, who took on the role nearly a decade ago, said the decision was made after “a lot of personal reflection.”
“I think 10 years is a long time to be doing this type of work,” he said Tuesday. “And 10 years was always a marker for me in thinking about this work.”
In an email to teachers, Hite wrote that he won’t be “going anywhere before August 2022” and that there “is still a lot to be done.”
Board of Education President Joyce Wilkerson said Hite’s “strong and stable leadership” has been “transformative” for the school system.
“Through his work, we have been able to return the District to local control, usher in a period of fiscal stability, and put the academic achievement of our students at the forefront,” she said in a statement.
Hite’s tenure has, at times, been tumultuous, and his administration has taken heavy criticism for their handling of environmental issues, including lead and asbestos in school buildings, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Just last week, the district came under fire after an Inquirer report revealed that students at a Southwest Philadelphia elementary school went hungry and a principal ordered pizza when breakfasts and lunches did not arrive.
“The rough start to this school year demonstrates the underlying failures of the current administration to fulfill their basic roles — it’s clearly time for new leadership,” Councilwoman Helen Gym, a long-time education advocate, said in a statement.
While acknowledging that the coronavirus has made the past year tough, Hite said the pandemic had no bearing on his decision not to seek another five-year contract.
“It’s eight years of work that is compared to three weeks after returning from a pandemic where people have been out for 18 months, and not understanding the fact that the guidance changes every day,” he said, in response to Gym’s comments.
Mayor Jim Kenney said Hite brought “long overdue stability” to the district.
“His diligent leadership and service of our city’s children for nearly a decade has made it possible for Philadelphia schools to begin a new chapter,” Kenney said. “We have laid a strong foundation for the work ahead.”
The search for Hite’s successor will begin immediately, Board of Education officials said.
Hite was hired by the state-backed School Reform Commission, and the upcoming selection process will be the first in hands of local officials since city control was stripped 20 years ago.
The BOE plans to contract with a search firm, which will be tasked with recruiting candidates from Philadelphia and around the country.
Board members also plan to hold 17 listening sessions in 18 days beginning Oct. 11 to hear from the public on what they want to see from the next superintendent. Meetings will be scheduled in all 10 City Council districts, and there will be virtual sessions.
Parents and other community members are also encouraged to fill out a survey at www.philasd.org/schoolboard/search.
An 11-member advisory committee composed of, among others, two students, two parents, a teacher and a principal will be in charge of reviewing and interviewing finalists for the job, according to the board.
Officials anticipate announcing the new superintendent Feb. 1.
Before coming to the School District of Philadelphia, Hite led the public school system in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and was an assistant superintendent in Cobb County, Georgia.
He said he intends to remain in the Philadelphia area and will continue supporting public education.