Philadelphia superintendent receives ‘needs improvement’ rating in two areas

School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite announced Wednesday that the reopening of schools would be delayed until March 1.
Philadelphia school superintendent William Hite (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Philadelphia Board of Education released its 2019-20 school year evaluation of Superintendent William Hite on Monday, rating him as “needs improvement” in systems leadership and in promoting student achievement. 

This is the first time he has received a “needs improvement” rating in any category from either the board or its predecessor, the School Reform Commission, since he started in the 2013-14 school year. 

The year “uncovered operational challenges,” the evaluation said, citing the botched co-location of Science Leadership Academy and Benjamin Franklin High School and the continued closing of schools with potentially hazardous asbestos.

It also said that while Hite is focused on student learning outcomes, “our data continues to show that students across Philadelphia are not achieving at the levels necessary to reach their fullest potential.” The board on Thursday announced it was reframing its own stewardship of the district around improving student achievement, an initiative it is calling “goals and guardrails.” 

“We look forward to working with Dr. Hite to bring the focus of our city onto this critical issue in order to ensure all students are given an education that allows them to thrive, succeed and lead in a global society,” the evaluation said. 

Hite got a “distinguished” rating in professionalism, financial management, and human resource management, and a “proficient” rating in communication and community relations.

Hite took responsibility for the building renovation project that resulted in students at SLA and Ben Franklin having to be relocated for half of the last school year, before the COVID-19 pandemic shut all school buildings. He also said he looked forward to working with the board on its “goals and guardrails” project. 

The board also cited “the successes that should be celebrated under Dr. Hite’s leadership which included a system-wide pivot to accommodate the instruction of over 120,000 district children remotely, continuing to grow the number of teachers of color across the district, and receiving a reaffirmation of the district’s credit rating from Moody’s with the statement ‘the Philadelphia School District’s current financial position is the strongest and most stable of its recent operating history.’”

In 2017, the reform commission extended Hite’s contract through 2022. 

Last month Hite said that he hasn’t been contacted about a cabinet post in a Biden administration after his name appeared on a short list of preferred candidates for education secretary.

Democrats for Education Reform, a group that was influential in shaping the education agenda of the Obama administration, sent an email to supporters with possible candidates for the country’s top education job, including Chicago schools chief Janice Jackson, head of Baltimore schools Sonja Brookins Santelises, and Hite.

“I’m happy to be named as one of those individuals, but I haven’t had a lot of time to focus on it,” he said. “And no, no one has reached out.”

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