One of Us: William Hite

The superintendent of Philly’s embattled school district, 56, talks muscle cars, his fondness for Jeff Spicoli, and what every parent should know about city schools.

Illustration | Andy Friedman

My full name is … William Rodger Hite Jr.

I grew up in … Richmond, Virginia.

I came to Philly … in the summer of 2012. Before that, I was the superintendent in Prince George’s County public schools in Maryland. And before that, I was in a host of teaching and principal positions in Virginia.

I met my wife … on a blind date. We were watching a PGA golf tournament. And I was the only one who didn’t know it was a blind date, apparently.

My worst subject in high school was … definitely chemistry. But I was good at math — in particular, geometry.

I live in … Center City with my wife, Deirdre, and I enjoy all the time I can spend with my five-year-old grandson, Jayce.

One game you will not beat me at is … spades. But I used to be pretty good at billiards, too. I don’t have time to do it anymore.

The first concert I ever went to was … Cameo and the O’Jays, at the Richmond Coliseum with my sister in 1974 or 1975. I think I was 15.

On Sunday mornings, you will find me … reading the paper on my roof.

If you’re coming to my house for dinner, I will probably cook … on the grill, which is also on my roof. Jerk chicken or grilled halibut.

The thing most people don’t get about Philly schools is that … we don’t control any of our revenue, unlike all other school districts in the Commonwealth.

To parents who say they’re leaving Philly because of schools, I say … before making that decision, you should actually step inside one and get to know the schools in your community. Where that happens, we have much better schools.

My wife and two daughters are always telling me … to relax. I can be high-strung. Well, my daughters wouldn’t use that word. They would say, “Stop frowning.”

The best movie about school is … Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It shows you how not to do it.

If you’re taking me out for my birthday, let’s go to … Fork or Kanella.

The biggest difference between Philly and Richmond … is the size and the cheesesteaks and the beer on draft. Not so many good options there. Oh, and the BYOBs. I’m not even sure the law allows for BYOBs there. In Richmond, we call a BYOB a picnic.

If I weren’t doing this, I would probably be … a cyclist, touring in Europe. I ride a Fuji road bike and a Diamondback mountain bike. Usually the Schuylkill River Trail or down to the stadiums and the shipyard, or Pennypack Trail.

My first car was a … Chevrolet Camaro. I got it in 1983. It was just the best car I ever had.

The last time I had hair was … when I was a middle-school principal. Must have been 20 years ago.

This new presidential administration has made me … more focused. I’m more focused on protecting the rights of our youth and ensuring that they all have access to a high-quality education, no matter who they are.

The thing that has surprised me most about Philadelphia is … just how nice the people are. Or perhaps I should say … pleasant. And straightforward.

Published as “One of Us” in the September 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.