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

The superintendent tries to advance the district beyond crisis-mode with a big shakeup. Plus, anybody-but-Sestak.

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.”

Hite is hiring a bunch of assistant superintendents to run these networks (with what money, he doesn’t completely know). At the same time, Hite is making some major changes to his senior leadership team.

Why it matters: From the moment he arrived in the city, Hite has been in triage mode, scrambling to keep the district intact through an unrelenting series of fiscal crises. He’s been frustrated that emergency management has, so far at least, made it difficult if not impossible to enact the changes that he thinks will not just stabilize the district educationally, but allow schools to actually excel. And on the merits, Hite’s plan to empower schools and redefine the district’s role looks strong.

This signals a real departure from the bunker mentality that has (understandably) dominated 440 N. Broad for too long. How Hite will manage to pay for all this if the state fails to come through with significant new school funding? That’s not at all clear.

2. The anybody-but-Sestak beat rolls on.

The gist: Democrats continued to search for someone other than Joe Sestak to run against incumbent GOP U.S. Senator Pat Toomey next year. Yesterday, the buzz was all about Katie McGinty, chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf and a former gubernatorial candidate. McGinty finished a distant fourth in the Democratic primary last year, but the election really elevated her stature nonetheless. And now she’s being wooed by national Democrats, as well as city Democratic boss Bob Brady. The Brady news, broken by Jonathan Tamari for the Inquirer, further underscored just how much the Democratic establishment wants Sestak beaten in next year’s primary. Writes Tamari:

Brady said officials at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had even gauged his interest in running – checking with him on three occasions and running a poll – but that he turned them down. “No means no,” Brady said.

Why it matters: Citified has never fully understood why so many Democratic insiders from President Obama down so loathe a guy who lost to a tough GOP opponent in Pat Toomey by just 80,000 votes out of 4 million cast. Sure, there’s the Specter thing (Sestak beat Arlen Specter in the 2010 Senate primary, after Specter had jumped ship from the Republican party). But the animosity towards Sestak appears to go way, way beyond that.

The obvious winner here is Toomey. Unless the Democrats can find somebody to beat Sestak, they’re going to be stuck with a candidate the establishment loathes. Toomey will be tough to be beat either way, but it’s hard to imagine him losing to a candidate key Democrats can’t stand.

3. What will it take for Philadelphia to have a competitive mayoral race in November?

The gist: That’s the question David Gambacorta takes a stab at answering in Wednesday’s Daily News. He talks with Melissa Murray Bailey, the hard-working, completely serious (and completely unknown) GOP candidate for mayor, who tells him:

“I was surprised by how much people completely wrote me off,” she said during an interview with the Daily News last month.

“The news media tells people there’s no race unless somebody else gets in [as an independent]. That’s shocking to me,” she said. “I was in a [local] newsroom the other day, and someone said, ‘At least the Republican Party chose an attractive sacrificial lamb this time around.’ That’s to my face.”


Ouch indeed. Political strategist and ad man extraordinaire Neil Oxman tells the Daily News the city could well have a competitive fall election — someday. But that would require a Democratic candidate who lacks broad support. Kenney, meanwhile, won with the biggest percentage margin of victory of any Democratic primary candidate in modern mayoral history.

Why it matters: It’s not good for democracy, or even for the Democratic nominee, but there won’t be a mayor’s race to speak of this Fall. That’s no knock on Murray Bailey, it’s just the way it is. But you knew that already, right?