Philly to hold public hearings on search for district’s next school superintendent

Philadelphia School District headquarters at Broad and Spring Garden streets (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Philadelphia School District headquarters at Broad and Spring Garden streets (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

City Council will hold hearings on the search and hiring process for the School District of Philadelphia’s next superintendent. William Hite, who has led the country’s eighth largest school district for nearly a decade, recently announced he’ll be stepping down after his current contract expires in August.

The hearings, to be held sometime this fall, will supplement community hearings by the city’s Board of Education on the replacement process. Councilmembers say they hope to hear the perspectives and experiences of families, students, teachers and support staff — voices they consider critical to the school district’s future.

“This is an opportunity to start a new era for our schools and our city, led by the voices of people who have been moving our district toward growth and inclusion and away from disinvestment and neglect,” said Councilmember Helen Gym, who introduced the resolution calling for the hearings in a statement.

“A robust process that centers the voices of our city’s children, parents, teachers, and support staff — those who walk the halls of our schools each and every day — will ensure we select a leader who shares our transformative vision for public education and works to implement it in partnership with us all,” she said.

Council members say they aim to reinforce the District’s responsibility to take into account the perspectives of families in every neighborhood across the city as the board selects a new leader.

“There is no shortage of challenges facing our schools. The incoming Superintendent must have the experiences and skills needed to deliver on the promise of quality public education for every student in every zip code,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks.

Hite, 60, was hired in 2012 to help steer the school district through a budget crisis that saw officials project deficits of up to $400 million. Shortly after he started, budget cuts led to the permanent closure of 23 neighborhood schools. 

Under his leadership, the school district became more financially stable, returning to local control nearly two decades after Pennsylvania declared the district financially and academically “distressed” and installed the School Reform Commission to run things.

Test scores and graduation rates have increased slightly during his tenure.

For the last few years, Hite has taken heat over the district’s efforts to address troubling facility issues at hundreds of public schools around the city, including issues with asbestos, lead paint, and mold.

Most recently, the district has struggled with dire shortages of bus drivers, food workers and classroom aides as schools reopened for in-person learning for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

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