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Phila. superintendent's job evaluation: 'Strong'

The School Reform Commission has graded William R. Hite Jr., judging the Philadelphia superintendent a "strong" leader.

In an evaluation released Thursday, the SRC rated Hite distinguished at matters of district operations and financial management and proficient in overseeing student growth and achievement, systems leadership, communications and community relations, and professionalism. His only low mark, a "needs improvement," came on human resources management, a nod to Hite's role last school year's substitute-teaching crisis.

The 2015-16 school year was a financially uncertain one for the Philadelphia School District, with a state budget standoff clouding everything. "Under Dr. Hite's steady hand, our district not only weathered this storm but through tough choices and strong fiscal management embarked on a 5-year, $440 million investment plan, the first of its kind since Dr. Hite became superintendent," the SRC wrote in its evaluation.

Hite did play a major role in the district's substitute debacle, the evaluation noted: in 2015, the school system outsourced substitute-teaching services to Source4Teachers, a private firm that badly underperformed, leaving schools struggling to keep classes staffed. But, the evaluation said, "Dr. Hite acknowledged this problem and took action to address and correct it. As a result, the district is already seeing substitute fill rates nearly double those of last year." A new provider, Kelly Services, is now hiring substitutes.

Overall, the SRC said it was pleased with Hite's performance.

"We remain grateful to Dr. Hite for his strong leadership and his commitment to create great schools close to where children live," it said.

SRC Chair Joyce Wilkerson, who is just a month into her new role, had warm words for Hite.

"Under Dr. Hite's leadership, the School District of Philadelphia not only weathered the budget storm, but came out in a stronger position," Wilkerson said in a statement.

Hite, whose contract runs through 2022, gets no bonus or pay increase as a result of the good evaluation. His salary bumps are tied to teachers', and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has been without a contract for three years.

The superintendent said it was important that he is as accountable for his job performance as he asks others to be.

"The school district is stronger today than it was one year ago, and in a more stable financial position," Hite said in a release. "However, we still have work to do to fulfill our mission of creating great schools close to where children live."

He said the substitute staffing situation was "unacceptable," but pointed out that now substitute teaching fill rates are about 70 percent daily, about double what they were last year.