Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission in December unanimously approved a five-year extension to Superintendent William Hite’s contract, which will keep him at the District through 2022.
Hite won praise from commissioners and from many city and state politicians, including Gov. Wolf, Philadelphia’s new mayor, Jim Kenney, and his predecessor, Michael Nutter.
Hite came to the District in July 2012 after three years as superintendent of schools in Prince George’s County, Md.
“I’m thrilled to continue that work,” Hite said after receiving the extension. He added that “tough things” will be necessary, and said he would press forward even in the face of disagreement.
He earns $300,000 annually. The new deal ties future pay increases to those of teachers, who have not gotten a percentage raise since January 2012. Their contract expired in 2013.
Hite has presided over the District during a period of unprecedented budget austerity, including two dozen school closings. District enrollment has declined to fewer than 135,000 students, while charter enrollment has grown to 63,000 in brick-and-mortar schools and 7,000 in cybers.
At its December meeting, the SRC heard criticism of the contract extension from a number of teachers, parents, and community members, who chided Hite for a variety of grievances and questioned why his contract should be renewed 18 months before it expired.
“His record includes school closures, privatizations, layoffs and outsourcing of union jobs that has resulted in more turmoil and instability, not less,” said Central High School teacher Yaasiyn Muhammad, a leader of the Caucus of Working Educators.
Robert McGrogan, president of the union representing principals and administrators, criticized Hite for outsourcing substitute teachers. The private firm that was hired, Source4Teachers, so far has been unable to deliver on a promise to do a better job than the District, and an unprecedented rate of unfilled substitute spots has put more stress on teachers and principals.
“This has led to unsafe conditions in almost every one of our schools,” said McGrogan. “So I ask ... are we being set up to fail?”
Explaining the commission’s decision, SRC Chair Marjorie Neff said the superintendent “has demonstrated strong leadership through an extraordinarily difficult time, provided sound fiscal oversight, and implemented a vision that builds on our school system’s strengths with a focus on equity and high expectations.”
In January, the superintendent filled a vacant position in his leadership team, appointing Uri Monson as chief financial officer, who will oversee the District’s $3.2 billion budget. Monson, who will earn $190,000 annually, previously served as CFO for Montgomery County. Before that, he monitored the budget of the City of Philadelphia as executive director of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA).