Hite is new Philadelphia schools chief

William R. Hite Jr. is the new Philadelphia School District superintendent. The School Reform Commission made the announcement Friday night.

Hite, 51, has been the schools chief in Prince George's County, Maryland since 2009.  He's also worked as deputy superintendent there and in Cobb County, Georgia.  He was a teacher, principal, and central office staffer in the Henrico County system in Richmond, Virginia.

William R. Hite, Jr. is the new Philadelphia schools chief. He met the community earlier this week.

"Today, we take a giant step forward toward providing safe, high quality educational opportunities for all Philadelphia children," SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos said in a statement.  "Dr. Hite is an eminent educator and a proven transformative leader."

Mayor Nutter said that he was "very impressed with Dr. Hite's passion and commitment to educating children, support for the professional development of teachers and principals, and his dedication to working with the broader Philadelphia community."

Further details, including Hite's salary and start date, were not immediately available.

SRC Commissioner Wendell Pritchett said that Hite's contract will be made public as soon as it is finalized.

He met the community earlier this week, declaring his intention to "stop talking and listen" if appointed Philadelphia superintendent.  "Only when you do that is there an opportunity to begin a healing process," Hite said.

Hite is walking into a difficult job.  Philadelphia schools are on the brink of insolvency, having already cut $700 million last year.  The district must borrow at least $218 million to operate in 2012-13, and funding is still up in the air, with City Council not providing as much new money to schools as district leaders had hoped.  How that shortfall will be bridged is still unclear.

Prince George's County, though set in an affluent area, is still a majority-poor district, with a growing number of needy students.  As schools chief there, Hite has earned the trust of the teachers' union, despite presiding over three years of $100 million-plus budget cuts. 

Hite has said he has read up on Philadelphia's multiple plans - a blueprint for transformation, a strategic plan, a budget - and feels they're "disconnected."  He would want to help clarify how they fit together, Hite said.

When he visited Philadelphia on Tuesday, Hite had said he hadn't decided he would take the job if offered.

Hite is married with two children and a young grandchild.

He earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Virginia Tech University in 2001.  His thesis was entitled: "The Effects of Extending the School Year on Student Achievement, Student Attendance and Parent, Student and Teacher Satisfaction."

The other finalist was Pedro Martinez, the deputy superintendent in Clark County (Las Vegas) Nevada.  Martinez accepted a job as superintendent of the Washoe County (Reno) Nevada school system this morning.

Hite was paid $250,000 annually as Prince George's County superintendent.

By the terms of his Prince George's contract, Hite had to give 120 days written notice to get out of that job, "unless the board and the superintendent agree to a longer or shorter period of time in writing.  Should the superintendent fail to provide the notice required by the provision or otherwise agreed to by the board, the superintendent shall forfeit receipt of the severance benefit."

No immediate word on how the 120-day notice clause will be handled.