Hite hits the ground running

New Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., second from right, walks on the first day of school with students from AMY Northwest, a new middle school in Roxborough. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)

For William R. Hite Jr., the clock started ticking today.

It was the new Philadelphia schools chief’s first day on the job full time, the first day of factfinding for a plan he said he will release on Jan. 2.

Hite said he will spend the next 90 days crisscrossing the city, visiting classrooms and churches, talking to students and parents and community members — anyone with a stake in the Philadelphia School District.

He will make visits to Harrisburg and to City Council and the Mayor’s office. He’ll want to look at the district’s finances (dire) and operations (in flux, as the school system prepares to completely reinvent itself).

“Once I learn all that information, it’s important to make very public what I intend to do about it, and then say what individuals can do to hold me accountable about it,” Hite said in an interview.

Hite is well aware that there’s an overabundance of plans already out there — strategies about safety and governance and operations, a controversial, deep-dive analysis from the Boston Consulting Group, even a five-year plan recently adopted by the School Reform Commission.

He wants to study them all, and come up with a document that helps make plain what he will focus on as superintendent.

Hite’s been in town a few days a week all summer, as he transitioned out of his job as head of the Prince George’s County, Md. school system. He’s already met plenty of people who have opinions about Philadelphia schools.

What’s on people’s minds?

“Making sure that all students have high quality seats,” Hite said. “I think that’s something that I’ve heard over and over again. Ensuring that students are safe and secure. Really making sure that we do a better job in engaging the public.”

Hite, who spent his first day in meetings at district headquarters, said he knew the task ahead was daunting, but said he was happy to roll up his sleeves.

“I’m excited that I’m not off after a certain time of day to board a train,” he said. “Now I feel like I have my feet on the ground, and here permanently. I’m excited about that.”