This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to extend Superintendent William Hite’s contract through 2022 at a meting marked by sharp testimony about converting traditional schools into charters.
SRC members have praised Hite’s leadership. So, too, have many city and state politicians, including Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, who supports the extension.
"I’m thrilled to continue that work," Hite said, "and I have no illusions that we will have to do tough things. There will be many people who will not agree with the tough things that must be done, but nonetheless those things must be done."
Hite’s tenure began in July 2012. He earns $300,000 annually. The new deal ties Hite’s future pay increases to those of teachers, whose contract expired in August 2013.
During public comment, some teachers, parents and community members chided Hite for a list of grievances and criticized the contract extension.
"His record includes school closures, privatizations, layoffs and outsourcing of union jobs that has resulted in more turmoil and instability, not less," said Central High School teacher Yaasiyn Muhammad. "Philadelphia’s public school students, family, and staff deserve to be part of this decision."
Muhammad and others criticized the SRC for blessing the extension years before the original contract was set to expire, limiting wiggle room in years to come.
Some noted that former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman received a costly $900,000 buyout when officials sought to oust her from District leadership in 2011.
Robert McGrogan, the president of the union representing principals and administrators criticized Hite for outsourcing substitute teachers. The private firm so far has been unable to deliver on a promise to do a better job than the District.
Its vacancy fill rate peaked this week at 37 percent – stressing out teachers and principals who are already making do without lots of basic support.
"This has led to unsafe conditions in almost every one of our schools," said McGrogan. "So I ask, on behalf of my members, are we being set up to fail?"
Like November’s SRC meeting, the bulk of the marathon session was dominated by a lively debate about converting three District elementary schools into neighborhood-based charters.