Philadelphia schools must create own luck

William R. Hite Jr. at the AMY Northwest in Roxborough to ring in the new school year.
William R. Hite Jr. at the AMY Northwest in Roxborough to ring in the new school year. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 23, 2012

William R. Hite Jr.

is superintendent of the Philadelphia School District

Ever since I accepted the offer to become superintendent, people have wished me luck.

The prospect of dealing with a massive budget shortfall, disillusioned staff and parents, and competing political, economic, social, and philanthropic interests gives many school leaders pause, even the most dedicated among us. I am not naive about the severity of the challenges we face, and I believe that as a community, we must create our own luck.

I was drawn to education in the hope of creating better opportunities for our young people; that has kept me tied to this work for almost three decades. In our careers, as in life, we can only hope to leave this world better than we found it.

Over the last few months, I have been impressed by the large number of individuals from within the system - School Reform Commission members, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and custodians - who are unbelievably committed to our 147,000 students. They have remained steady, professional, caring, and dedicated in the midst of tremendous uncertainty.

Our stakeholders in the business, arts, cultural, faith, political, and nonprofit sectors share our belief that Philadelphia's long-term viability depends on the quality of our schools. My stake in our schools goes beyond the superintendent's seat; I am an educator, taxpayer, father, and grandfather. I chose to come here because the collective passion that I saw from so many of you to improve conditions for all students mirrored my own ideals.

As I begin my tenure, I will keep the focus on students - their performance and outcomes, their hopes and dreams, their needs and rights. Together, we can build on the efforts that everyone in this city has made over the years. We all want the same things: Schools that are safe, educators who are effective, dollars that are well spent. Philadelphia has shown the ability to produce all three. My job is to ensure that we seize this moment and move forward consistently, systemically, and urgently.

Over the next 90 days, I will work to develop a plan for our future that reflects my core values of high standards; active parental and community engagement; school safety and security; high-quality academic options; viable interventions for struggling schools, and fiscal transparency and accountability. Overall, I want to make sure that we have the right people doing the right work. I will take these three months to define and design an operational plan that outlines the organizational structure and high-functioning team needed to achieve our goals. I will focus on a small number of objectives at the staff, community, and school levels that will form the basis for metrics by which I can be held accountable. On Jan. 2, I will release this plan to the public.

In the meantime, my first priorities are to develop the process of engaging all of our stakeholders and redirect district operations toward maximum funds and resources for our schools and students. I look forward to meeting and talking with as many of you as possible about our challenges and solutions.

My college football coach often said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Our challenges present us with an opportunity to carefully assess what's been done in the past and either build on it or build something better. I am excited that the SRC selected me to lead our school system at this crucial time, working with all of you on behalf of our students, creating our own luck.


E-mail William R. Hite Jr. at superintendent@philasd.org.

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