William R. Hite Jr.’s latest report card is out, and the longtime Philadelphia superintendent’s grades have slipped.
The school board rated Hite as “distinguished” in two areas. But he received “needs improvement” — one step above failing — in two areas, student growth and achievement and systems leadership and operations, defined as the superintendent’s ability to work with the board to develop a district vision and, with his administration, to ensure best practices across the school system.
Hite received top marks for professionalism and financial management for the 2019-20 school year, and proficient in communications and community relations.
That’s a shift from last year’s evaluation, when Hite received three distinguished marks and three proficients.
Hite, who has been schools chief for nearly nine years, was dinged for his administration’s error-riddled renovation at Benjamin Franklin High School, which endangered students’ and employees’ health and cost the district millions in unexpected costs. On that project, district leaders ignored warning signs and direct communications about problems that sickened multiple people and kept Ben Franklin and Science Leadership Academy students out of school for weeks.
The $50 million project ultimately cost five times its original budget, and laid bare problems with the system in general.
And while the school board said it took into account the challenges of a pandemic and a pivot to remote learning in 2019-20,“ Dr. Hite is focused on the learning outcomes of our students and our data continues to show that students across Philadelphia are not achieving at the levels necessary to reach their fullest potential.”
“This is reflected in Dr. Hite’s evaluation and 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 board said.
Hite is paid $334,644 to lead a district of 220 schools, educating about 120,000 students. He’s been mentioned as a possible candidate for U.S. Secretary of Education in the Biden administration, though he said last month he’s not been contacted about the position.
The school board said last week that it intends to change the way it does business, scrutinizing Hite and its own work through a lens more focused on student learning and equity. Hite said he welcomed the coming changes.
The superintendent’s contract runs through August 2022.