Hite at the end of the tunnel for Philadelphia school district

Posted: July 27, 2012

No late-model vehicles. No retention bonuses. No expensive buyouts.

The newly approved five-year contract for incoming superintendent William H. Hite Jr., 51, which was approved unanimously Wednesday by the School Reform Commission, is a "better deal" for Philly taxpayers than ones crafted in previous years, district officials said.

The SRC gave its blessing to Hite's contract, which will pay him $300,000 a year, includes performance compensation linked to specific achievements and requires the Maryland transplant to reside in the city.

"We were very mindful of the history in the school district, and this agreement is a better deal economically for the taxpayers of Philadelphia than the previous two deals," SRC chair Pedro Ramos said. "At the same time it recognizes the importance of the responsibility and circumstances under which Dr. Hite is being hired."

The last superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, was bought out of her $348,000 yearly contract at a cost of nearly $1 million. She also received a $150,000 retention bonus in her last year in office. Her predecessor, Paul Vallas, left office in 2007, after earning $275,000 a year with a $100,000 retention bonus.

Hite's presence as superintendent means "a sense of stability" to the district, "knowing who our superintendent will be for the next five years," Ramos said.

Hite is still employed by Prince George's County schools, but comes up to the city once or twice a week to meet with district staff and members of the community, as well as to learn the operations of the school district. He is expected to begin his job full time by Oct. 1. Hite will be paid as of this week for each day he works in the district, the contract stipulates.

Hite's compensation will "be reviewed and adjusted as determined by the SRC," according to the contract.

If Hite is fired without cause, the district contract stipulates that it must give him 90 days' written notice and pay him nine months' severance.

This is a jump in salary for Hite, who is earning a $250,000 salary in Maryland and passed up a $125,000 severance payment from Prince George's schools. He wouldn't have been able to begin work here until November if he had accepted the severance because his Prince George's contract stated that he was required to give 120 days' notice to the county. His wife, Deirdre, works at Georgetown University as a human-resources director of the Lauinger Library but is looking for a job in Philadelphia. On Wednesday night, Hite thanked students and staff for their "sacrifice and patience during the last year."

"I want to assure individuals there that there are better days ahead," Hite said in a phone interview. He said he'd manage the district "as if my own daughters and grandchild were in the classrooms. I'm proud to lead the district."

Contact Regina Medina at 215-854-5985 or medinar@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaMedina.

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