Explain why you accepted the challenge of the leading the Philadelphia School District, which is in a state of flux.
For one, I have a passion for educating young people, and I’ve always had that passion in the 25-plus years that I’ve been an educator. Also … I’ve seen a passion about a renewed energy and focus for the school district and individuals who really want to become more involved in any way that they think is helpful and useful to make sure we do what we need to do to educate all children. I think in that regard, Philly is ripe for reform and it’s ripe for reform because you have the passion that exists across all stakeholder groups in a time you have to think differently about how the work is performed (because of) fiscal challenges.
There’s a general sense of distrust in the school community. How do you rebuild that trust?
One of the things you do to build trust is don’t make as many promises, but really take on the things that can and will impact outcomes for students. … On the other hand, it’s really beginning to think more strategically and behave more transparently in terms of resources and revenue and making sure everyone understands on what we’re spending money and what we’re spending. … Just putting it out there for everyone to see, so that school budgets, district budgets, department budgets are all online so everyone can go online and see what is being spent and be able to compare for themselves what is spent and what the outcomes are.
What is the single-greatest way to improve low-performing schools?
One thing we know is the quality of teacher makes all of the difference in the world. … The research suggests that that is the single-greatest thing that will impact student achievement. And I think that the second thing is in the quality of the principal. In order to have all those great teachers in their buildings [they] must be led by a great leader.
Can you outline some of your goals in the first 100 days?
O It’s really important to begin with a series of public engagement opportunities so that we’re engaging the community, and I think it’s really important for me to do more listening than talking at those meetings. I think there is a real need to get a senior leadership team in place as quickly as possible, and then immediately we have to move to the budget and preparing for Harrisburg.
New boss in town
Hite has had the chance to serve as a teacher, principal, and an administrator. He is still superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools, the second-largest school system in Maryland.
He recently oversaw a reorganization of Prince George’s County Public Schools into zones to cut costs and provide more support to schools.
A native of Virginia, Hite has a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Virginia, and a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in educational leadership from Virginia Tech.
He spent summers in Philadelphia as a child visiting his uncle, who lived in the Germantown area.
Hite’s contract is still being negotiated, with one of the sticking points being when he will begin full-time. His current contract with Prince George’s County Public Schools requires 120 days notice.