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William Hite Takes the Reins at PGCPS

Carla Peay | 5/28/2009, 7:15 a.m.

The Prince George€s County Public School system was in need of strong leadership to take over the 18th largest school system in the country after the abrupt resignation of Dr. John Deasy last November. Deputy Superintendent Dr. William Hite stepped into the role on an interim basis, and was officially named Superintendent on April 3.

From December until now, we€ve dealt with reduction in revenue from the state cutting $114 million, a laying off or a reduction in force that deals with over 700 positions, full-time employees, not all of which are filled, the consolidation of schools, redrawing boundaries, and then trying to ensure that we move academic performance ahead,€ Hite said.

Hite, who came to PGCPS in June of 2006, has a B.S. in Education from Virginia Tech and a Master of Education Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Virginia. Hite earned his Education Doctorate Degree from Virginia Tech. Prior to coming to Prince George€s County, Hite was the assistant superintendent of schools in Cobb County, Ga., was director of middle school instruction in Henrico County Va., and served as both a middle and high school principal in the Henrico County school system.

Since joining PGCPS, Hite is credited with helping increase student achievement, making improvements in teaching and learning, and school improvement status.

€The challenge is trying to maintain a pace with the work that we have set out to do in a time when there are a lot of distractions around revenue, about why we would do a boundary change, around consolidation of schools. All of those pieces were with a view towards realizing the work that the [school] board set out to do. It involves access, equity, and making sure that every child in Prince George€s County has opportunities beyond high school through access to quality programs, quality teachers and quality support,€ Hite said.

Despite the impending consolidation of eight schools (seven will close and one will consolidate with a second school), Hite asserts that there will be enough jobs for the teachers that are displaced through attrition, retirement, relocation, and career changes, and does not anticipate having to lay off any teachers, or having to increase class size.

Some academic support positions may have to be cut for the next school year, but both Hite and the school board members are working to ensure that any cuts are made as far away from the classroom as possible.

This current school year is also the first in which high school seniors must pass the High School Assessment Exams [HSA] in order to graduate.

€If one child doesn€t meet the graduation requirement, that becomes a problem for me. However, if students have not been responsible in sitting for the HSA, and that they have not met the course requirements, then that€s out of our control,€ said Hite, adding that they are monitoring on a weekly basis the students who have met all other requirements except for passing the HSA.

The number of students in this category began at 2,754 in the fall, and has dropped steadily to the current figure, which is under 900, a figure Hite determines as consistent for years past for seniors who were not able to meet graduation criteria. School officials are also scoring bridge projects €" projects for students who did not meet the HSA passing score and are completing a project instead €" on a weekly basis.

Hite has strong supporters, including Sharif Salim, an award winning educator of more than 34 years, who is currently the Principal at Oxon Hill Middle School.

€In my time working with Dr. Hite, and in my former position as a development officer for the school system, I find him not only to be a man who masters the plethora of skills it takes to run a large urban school system, but I also find him to be a compassionate man. He has a strong work ethic which enables him to make those around him better,€ Salim said.

Hite is also continuing the tradition of community and parent involvement in student education, and increasing access for parents. PGCPS holds regular public meetings, as well as individual meetings held at schools, all aimed at improving the level of public engagement.

€We want to make sure that everyone has the right information, and we want to hear from parents. One of the reasons the school consolidation number for schools went from 12 to eight was because of comments that parents shared with us about factors associated with the community, about other students, and about things we wished we had though of but quite frankly, did not. Plans actually changed once we heard from many of the parents,€ Hite said.

The consolidation and boundary changes are expected to solve the issue of over-enrollment, under-enrollment, and to find the best schools for the placement of special programs. Parents are also expressing concerns over access to information, and in the system that allows them to get their children€s grades on-line. Also on the parental concern list is bullying, security, the consistent availability of the best teachers, and the effects of decreased revenue.

€Parents have indicated that they want more than just notification, they want information. They want someone to hear them, to explain to them why we€re doing what we€re doing, and they want it in a timely manner.€

Hite€s goal is to dramatically increase student achievement, to make them college ready and career ready; improving the system through improving teaching; and improving access, accountability and transparency.

€I would like this community to voice their expectation for they want this school system to become,€ Hite said. €That€s how we learn from each other and how we build ourselves as a community of learners around doing this business of education better.€