WILLIAM HITE holds the apparently radical idea that as superintendent of the Philadelphia's public schools he should make decisions about the schools.

This is not a widely shared notion - certainly not among the powers that be.

City Council would rather have the final say. The teachers union wants its agenda followed. Education activists demand that before Hite takes a step he consult with them.

If he makes a decision these forces do not like, they complain about how he ignored the process, ignored parents and ignored the voices of activists.

Hite angered these critics again last week by making a series of decisions on 15 public schools.

The district is going into a partnership with Big Picture Foundation to open a new high school that will eventually enroll 500 students. Big Picture, based in Providence, R.I., has a good track record of running innovative, student-centered schools in a number of American cities.

He said the district will put three schools, which he did not name, into turnaround - that's district-speak that usually means replacing existing staff.

The district is going to make three other elementary schools - Jay Cooke in Logan, Samuel B. Huey in West Philadelphia and John Wister in Germantown - into Renaissance schools. That means operation of the schools will be turned over to charter companies with a track record of improving school performance.

Hite has used each of these tools before, but this is the first time it's been done in a coordinated way. In all, it will impact 5,000 students.

The result should be better schools for children and better choices for parents.

Council candidate Helen Gym immediately lashed out at Hite's decision, implying that the African-American superintendent was determined to harm black children and is ignoring the needs of black parents.

Teachers union president Jerry Jordan said Hite was ignoring the real problem, which is lack of resources - though most of the schools on Hite's list have been poor performers for years, even when the district had more money.

In fact, the thread that binds all of the schools on the list is that they are failing to educate the students who attend them. Their test scores are lower than low, some have experienced high turnover of principals and leadership staff, some have problems with school safety.

Most of the schools have seen declines in enrollment. At one school Hite is closing, the Dimner Beeber Middle School in Overbook, enrollment is below 200 and only 16 percent of the students in its catchment area are attending the school. The rest are going elsewhere, most likely to charter and Catholic schools.

The cost of all of these moves will likely total $15 million or more, though it will be spread out over several years because the changes won't go fully into effect until four years from now.

Hite says he is announcing the changes now to build in time for public reaction, but no one should be surprised by these actions. These steps have all been outlined in his Action Plan (now in version 3.0). This plan has been buffeted by budget crisis after budget crisis. But it's a plan that forms the bases of the job he was hired to do: make sure every child in the city receives a quality education.