The end of last week was busy for School Superintendent William Hite. Still, he made it up to the Northeast.
There was a 14-hour meeting of the School Reform Commission on Thursday and then there was the Friday announcement City Councilman Bill Green would be SRC’s new chairman and would be formally appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett later that day.
Hite began Friday in Mayfair, speaking to members of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce at Lincoln High School, and stressing in his remarks that the city’s 260,000 schoolchildren must be provided with “access and opportunity.”
That’s challenging, he said, in a large urban school district. Not even on the job 18 months, Hite said he has had to preside over a financial crisis, school closings, infrastructure problems, a couple of cycles of layoffs and “a lot of anxiety.”
Still, real achievement is in the classroom, he said, and is in the hands of teachers. “The single best predictor of a child’s success,” he said, “is the quality of the teachers.”
A goal for teachers and administrators, he said, is to look early at children’s ability to read. Every 8-year-old should be reading at grade level, he said.
Almost 60,000 children do not attend district schools, which means the district has a lot of vacant seats, resulting in 34 school closings in the last few years, he said.
Still, he said, the district has seen increases in test scores at some schools.
The test for his administration, he said, is to “not spend one more cent than we have.”
The district got less money than Hite has asked for. He told Chamber members he wanted a combined $180 million from the city and state, but got only $112 million.
The problem is to ensure schools are funded, he said.
Hite took only a few questions from Chamber members before leaving for Central High, where Corbett was supposed to formally appoint Green and Republican Farah Jimenez to the SRC. The governor later canceled that event. ••