Superintendent candidate #2 makes his case

William R. Hite Jr.talks with school district principals and assistants during a meeting at Fels High School on Tuesday. He currently runs the Prince George's County, Md., schools. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
William R. Hite Jr.talks with school district principals and assistants during a meeting at Fels High School on Tuesday. He currently runs the Prince George's County, Md., schools. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 28, 2012

ROUND 2 of "Who Wants to be Philadelphia's Next School Superintendent?" was held Tuesday, featuring candidate William R. Hite Jr., who said that if he accepted the top job his first item on the agenda would be "to listen."

"With all of the challenges, with all of the anxiety and with all of the frustration that has taken place in the last six months in this district, the best thing that someone can do now is stop. Stop talking and listen," Hite told a group of teachers gathered for a meet-and-greet at district headquarters. Once the school community is heard, he said, then it is "an opportunity to begin a healing process so that we are able to come together to address the challenges that are likely in front of us."

One of two finalists for the job of district superintendent, Hite, 50, is the head of Prince George's County Public Schools, Maryland's second-largest district, with 135,000 students and a budget of $1.6 billion.

The candidate, a former middle- and high-school principal, spent the day meeting with teachers, parent groups and charter-school operators, as well as elected officials and business and religious leaders.

After a full day of meetings with adults, he apparently welcomed a lunch break with the "consumers," a/k/a the district's students.

"I think adults are extremely important in the conversation but only to the degree that it speaks to what every single child needs to be successful," he said Tuesday night.

Two students' comments were "critically important" to him, he said. One told him, "It's a shame that in some schools we have more police officers than counselors in his school," Hite recalled. "Another student talked about understanding how I learn so that your teaching can be adjusted to make me learn more.

“That's profound to hear from the mouths of young people that we serve every day."

Lonce Scott, a field director with the Boy Scouts of America, said Hite could bring the community together, as did former superintendent Constance Clayton.

"Dr. Hite to me seems a man that has a sincerity about the community. I think he's going to be engaged not only with the political powers that be, but also the community powers," Scott said. "I think he's going to be effective."

When asked by a teacher what he would be willing to cut from the budget, Hite told her, "You guys have cut a whole bunch already. When you look at that, it's like, wow." Hite said he would work with the School Reform Commission "to really define what is the grand purpose of this work," he said. The district has multiple plans — capital improvement, facilities master plan, budget, school closure — and they are not part of what he called any "coherent structure."

The SRC could make a final decision between Hite and the other finalist, Pedro Martinez, as early as this week.

Email Regina Medina at medinar@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @reginamedina

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