The Brief: Hite Damns the Politicos, Moves Full Speed Ahead

School District of Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco

1. Tired of waiting, for reasonable funding that may never come, Schools Superintendent Bill Hite is pressing forward on his plan to reshape the district.

The gist: In a must-read story for the Notebook, Dale Mezzacappa breaks down a big administrative change underway at the School District of Philadelphia. In short, Hite is further decentralizing the district, shifting power out of the main office and into schools and a growing number of “learning networks,” which group schools both either geography or particularly educational needs and approaches. Writes Mezzacappa:

After three years of an administration defined by austerity, personnel cuts and school closings, Superintendent William Hite is ready to move forward with his vision of improving education in the District.

Hite is moving ahead even though he doesn’t know yet whether he will get the financial support from the city and state that he needs to make it happen. He said his main goals will be stability, equity, and opportunity for all students, outcomes he hopes to achieve by making schools — not the central office — “the primary unit of change.”

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The Brief: Millennials Didn’t Vote This Year, Like At All

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

Election Day in Philadelphia | Photo by AP/Matt Rourke

1. Voter turnout among millennials was abysmal in the mayoral election.

The gist: Only 12 percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34 cast a ballot in Philadelphia’s mayoral election, according to newly released data from the City Commissioners office. Millennials make up the largest bloc of registered voters in the city, though you wouldn’t know it on Election Day. As BillyPenn reported, “There are 71,000 more registered millennials than people age 35-to-49, 82,000 more than people age 50-to-64 and 140,000 more than people age 65 and up. And yet those respective age groups beat the millennials in voter turnout by about 20,000, 53,000 and 42,000.” Read more »

The Brief: Unapologetic Bill Hite Presses His Case for More Cash for Schools

William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Schools, in the Pennsylvania Capitol meeting with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and state legislators seeking funds for Philadelphia Schools during state budget talks Sunday, June 29, 2014, in Harrisburg, Pa. AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Schools, in Harrisburg last year. He’s got a whole new funding fight in 2015. AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

1. With City Council prepped to short the School District, Superintendent Bill Hite urges politicians not to let the district’s ongoing crisis become the new normal.

The gist: As Citified’s Holly Otterbein first reported, City Council is now considering an array of funding options for the schools that will fall short of the $105 million requested by Hite. Probably well short. Council members have telegraphed this for a while, particularly during last week’s district budget hearings, which were a spectacle. This week, City Council President Darrell Clarke said Hite’s request — which totals $300 million overall, including $200 million from the state — represents a “Cadillac version of what [Hite would] like to see moving forward.”

Hite is pushing back. He told the Inquirer’s editorial board: “I respect Council’s position as the authorizing authority for additional revenue. But I’m the superintendent, which means I have to tell you what it costs to educate children.” Read more »

City Council to School District: Go Away Already

Students have a modest request of City Council. | Photo  courtesy of Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi and Jenae Brown.

Students have a modest request of City Council. | Photo courtesy of Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi and Jenae Brown.

There are few City Hall scenes more dispiriting than the display of mutual contempt that unfolds each year when the School District of Philadelphia comes to City Council begging for money.

This year’s spite of spring featured: Read more »

Hite: Schools Can Make No More Cuts

Supt. William Hite spoke to reporters, unveiling "Action Plan 3.0."

Supt. William Hite spoke to reporters last month, unveiling “Action Plan 3.0.”

There’s nothing left to cut.

So says William Hite, superintendent of the Philadelphia School District. He made the assertion Monday during comments at the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg. “What are we going to do now? Put 50 kids in a class?” he asked. “There’s nothing else to cut.” Read more »

How Trauma Overwhelms Philly Schoolkids

Photo illustration | Alyse Moyer. Photos |

Photo illustration | Alyse Moyer. Photos |

During the 18 years he was a counselor at Barratt Middle School in South Philadelphia, Steven Hymans became accustomed to seeing students arrive for classes traumatized beyond their years.

“There were so many homicides in the neighborhood,” Hymans said recently. “In my 18 years at the middle school, I saw a lot of trauma, a lot of neglect. I did so much grief counseling while I was there.” Read more »

3 Ways William Hite’s Action Plan 3.0 Could Revitalize Philadelphia Schools

Supt. William Hite spoke to reporters, unveiling "Action Plan 3.0."

Superintendent  William Hite spoke to reporters while unveiling “Action Plan 3.0.”

After two years spent slashing programs, closing schools, and laying off thousands of workers, Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite on Wednesday declared a victory of sorts.

The work of stabilizing the district is largely complete, he told reporters during a morning press conference — Philadelphia schools will end the fiscal year with a balanced budget. Now it’s time to turn to the work of actually improving schools and rebuilding public education in the city. Read more »

Hite: District to Share “Opt Out” Info on Testing

The Philadelphia School District is preparing to share information with parents on how to opt their children out of standardized tests, Superintendent William Hite said Thursday night at a meeting of the School Reform Commission.

The announcement came several weeks after teachers at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences were threatened with discipline for helping students and their families there opt out of the tests. A reported 17 percent of the school’s students had opted out of testing.

Kelly Collings, a teacher at Feltonville, said in an email Thursday night that an “investigatory conference” scheduled at the school for late January had been canceled because of an administrator’s illness — and never rescheduled. “There has been no communication whatsoever from the district to the teachers since the original memo was issued on January 21,” she said.
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ThinkFest: William Hite on the State of Philly Schools and America’s “Dirty Little Secret”


People who ask if money spent on Philly education is being wasted don’t ask the same question about richer suburban school districts, Philly School Superintendent William Hite said Friday during an appearance on the ThinkFest Main Stage.

Hite referenced the Lower Merion school district, which spends $10,000 more per pupil than Philadelphia, before mentioning a discussion he recently had with M. Night Shyamalan, the director and author of a book about education reform.

“I’m quoting him: ‘You know, I’m going to share a dirty little secret: America is racist,'” Hite said.

“There’s no one else that’s reduced its workforce by the amount that we’ve reduced, there’s no one else that’s closed the schools that we’ve closed — not even on a percentage basis,” Hite added. “If we’re going to talk about waste in Philadelphia, let’s talk about waste everywhere else.”

Three other takeaways:
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ThinkFest Preview: William Hite on Moving Philadelphia’s Schools Forward

School District of Philadelphia superintendent William Hite and Philadelphia magazine deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra.

School District of Philadelphia superintendent William Hite and Philadelphia magazine deputy editor Patrick Kerkstra.

He’s got the toughest job in Philadelphia, and more experience managing crises than FEMA. But Philadelphia schools superintendent William Hite didn’t move to the city two years ago to manage the district’s decline. When not extinguishing fires, Hite is working on a plan to drag urban education into the modern age. His goals are extraordinarily ambitious: 100 percent of kids reading at grade level by the 8th grade; 100 percent of students graduating, prepared for college or career.

But how? How to give schools autonomy, while ensuring they meet high standards? How to attract and retain the best teachers and principals amid labor strife and constrained resources? How can the district win the high-stakes match of three-dimensional chess with City Hall and Harrisburg? Above all, how can the district move forward? At ThinkFest, Hite will wrangle with these and other incisive questions posed by Philadelphia magazine’s Patrick Kerkstra.

Join us on November 14th at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business for a day of the city’s smartest people sharing their biggest ideas. Read all of our ThinkFest 2014 previews here, and watch the livestream, starting at 9 a.m. on Friday November 14th.

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