Less than six months on the job, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite released his roadmap to get the embattled public school system on its feet and solvent for the future.
Hite announced his action plan Monday, which grounds itself in two areas: financial stability and academic improvement. The superintendent, who began last fall, inherited a projected $1 billion budget deficit over five years, a standardized test scandal, and many low-performing academic schools.
“This Action Plan emphasizes solutions to basic problems based on evidence and facts,” Hite said. “We must use data and research more effectively than we’ve done in the past. We are getting back to the basics—doing what works and doing it well.”
The plan calls on school district employees to work on six strategies and more than 50 actions. Strategies include:
- Achieve and sustain financial balance
- Improve student outcomes
- Develop a system of excellent schools
- Identify and develop committed, capable people
- Become a parent and family-centered organization
- Become an aligned, accountable organization
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan credited certain aspects of Hite's plan—especially aspects regarding curriculum development. However, the union leader still voiced criticism.
"The troubling part is that what could be a promising start to meaningful education reform is already jeopardized by a commitment to the 'austerity model' of education reform. It doesn’t cost much to form an idea, like changing assessments of student performance or providing more challenging coursework. Providing basic classroom materials and the educators to implement these changes, however, will require a significant increase in resources," Jordan said.
Specifically, Jordan said neighborhood schools continue to be left behind.
In December, Hite announced 37 school closings and other mergers throughout the city—including shutting down Germantown High School and moving Lankenau High School to a combined campus at Roxborough High School. This continued a restructuring begun last year, where Levering Elementary School closed to make way for AMY Northwest Middle School.
Hite told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the plan relies on the facility realignment (which needs SRC approval) and other labor union concessions.
Entitled "Action Plan v1.0," the proposal is a working document, and Hite said would include public input.
“This is only the first step,” said Dr. Hite. “This will be a living document shaped by the voices of our staff and stakeholders, and the needs of our students and families.”
Read the entire plan on the school district's website.