The principal of the Philadelphia public schools will be leaving at the end of the school year.
Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite said Monday night he would step down when his contract expires next summer.
Hite, who took on the role nearly a decade ago, said the decision was made after “a lot of personal thought.”
“I think 10 years is a long time to do this type of work,” he said on Tuesday. “And 10 years have always been a marker for me in thinking about this work.”
In an email to teachers, Hite wrote that he was not going “anywhere until August 2022” and that “there was still a long way to go.”
Board of Education chairperson Joyce Wilkerson said Hite’s “strong and stable leadership” had been “transformative” for the school system.
“Thanks to her work, we were able to bring the district back under local control, usher in a period of fiscal stability and put the academic success of our students at the forefront,” she said in a statement.
Hite’s tenure has been tumultuous at times, and his administration has come under heavy criticism for its handling of environmental issues, including lead and asbestos in school buildings, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, the district came under fire after an Inquirer report found students at an elementary school in southwest Philadelphia were hungry and a principal ordered pizza while breakfasts and lunches did not arrive.
“The difficult start to this school year demonstrates the underlying failures of the current administration to fulfill its grassroots roles – it is clearly time for new leadership,” said City Councilor Helen Gym, a longtime activist from education, in a press release.
While acknowledging that the coronavirus made last year difficult, Hite said the pandemic had no bearing on his decision not to seek another five-year contract.
“It’s eight years of work which is compared to three weeks after returning from a pandemic where people have been out for 18 months, and don’t understand the fact that the advice changes every day,” he said stated, in response to Gym’s comments.
Mayor Jim Kenney said Hite brought “a long overdue stability” to the district.
“His diligent leadership and service to the children of our city for nearly a decade has allowed Philadelphia schools to start a new chapter,” said Kenney. “We have laid a solid foundation for the work to come. “
The search for Hite’s successor will begin immediately, Board of Education officials said.
Hite was hired by the state-backed School Reform Commission, and the upcoming selection process will be the first in the hands of local officials since control of the city was removed 20 years ago.
The BOE plans to contract with a research firm, which will be responsible for recruiting candidates from Philadelphia and across the country.
Council members also plan to hold 17 listening sessions in 18 days starting Oct. 11 to hear from the public about what they want to see from the next superintendent. Meetings will be scheduled in all 10 city council districts, and there will be virtual sessions.
Parents and other members of the community are also encouraged to complete a survey at www.philasd.org/schoolboard/search.
An 11-member advisory committee made up of, among others, two students, two parents, a teacher and a principal will be responsible for reviewing and interviewing the finalists for the position, according to the board.
Officials plan to announce the new superintendent on February 1.
Prior to joining the Philadelphia School District, Hite ran the public school system in Prince George County, Maryland, and served as Deputy Superintendent in Cobb County, Georgia.
He said he intends to stay in the Philadelphia area and will continue to support public education.