The School District of Philadelphia's new Superintendent William Hite made one of his first appearances in Northwest Philadelphia Tuesday night, while in attendance at Shawmont Elementary’s Home and School Association meeting in Roxborough. He fielded questions from parents and teachers and discussed the future of the school district.
Superintendents are not known for making stops at individual schools. “It’s been over 15 years since we’ve had a superintendent in the building,” Principal Michael Graff said.
Hite said that last night was the result of one of the first invitations he has ever received from a Home and School Association. “I cannot get to enough schools fast enough,” he said.
Already, Hite has made it a goal to appear on both side of the Wissahickon Creek. On the first day of school, before Hite even officially began with the district, he rode SEPTA with students.
He woke up Mt. Airy resident Benjamin Frazier and accompanied him to AMY Northwest Middle School's new campus in Roxborough.
On Tuesday, Graff credited Hite with backing that school when the district was looking to change the structure of Shawmont’s kindergartens, which had three classes that the district considered too small. The district wanted to cut it down to two, but Hite prevented it from happening. Graff also said that Hite’s office was helping the school to take care of a years-long mole problem in the school’s basement.
“In every indicator this school is moving in the right direction,” Hite said.
When asked by a parent if it was true that prisons are required by Pennsylvania law to have a librarian on hand while the school district was firing librarians, Hite said that he was not sure. When it comes down to budget cuts and to choosing between a teacher and a librarian, though, Hite said most times the school district will prefer to let the librarian go. Hite acknowledged that the prison systems are given many other resources that schools do not get, however, such as air conditioning.
When questioned about whether new forms of teacher evaluations would be available in the near future, Hite said that it was on ongoing process, but that test scores alone were scant evidence of how well a teacher was doing her job. Although the issue is far from settled, as of now the state has performance evaluation that schools must adhere, or else develop their own according to a certain criteria and request a waiver.
Lori Dumas, who kept her child in private school until recently, was more than happy to see Hite in a position of leadership.
“There are a lot of failures coming of the district,” she said. Because of this she had kept her child out of public schools. Very recently she decided to take the risk and enroll her child in a district school and has been very happy with the results. “I’m proud to say I am now a public school parent,” she said.
Editor's note: An earlier version incorrectly listed the superintendent's first name and has since been corrected.