by Christopher Paslay
Dr. William Hite, Philadelphia’s new superintendent of schools, is reportedly giving up his severance package with Prince George’s County Schools in Maryland to start work in Philadelphia by October 1st, one month after the school year begins.
It appears that Dr. William Hite will take the high road—unlike his predecessor Dr. Arlene Ackerman. According to a story in Wednesday’s Inquirer:
His contract with Prince George’s stipulated that to receive severance pay — six months salary, or $125,000 — Hite would have to give 120 days notice, which would have him working into November, Hite explained.
Instead, Hite made a deal to forgo his severance and give 60 days notice, he said.
His official last day with Prince George’s will be Sept. 30, the district announced Monday.
Dr. Hite’s gesture puts him ahead of Dr. Ackerman, the queen of the urban superintendent severance package. Last year, Ackerman negotiated a $1 million severance package from the SRC, and then filed for unemployment after receiving it. In 2006, she was awarded $375,000 in severance pay from the San Francisco public schools, then tried to sue the district claiming she was owed an additional $172,000 in unused benefits; amazingly, all this was allowed to take place after Ackerman’s tumultuous stint as Washington D.C.’s schools’ chief.
Kudos to Dr. Hite for being a bit more scrupulous and forgoing his $120,000 severance package from the Prince George County district in Maryland (at this point it is not clear whether he will lose all or some of this money).
This gesture, however, does not excuse the fact that he will be starting as Philadelphia’s schools’ chief one month after the school year begins. The fact that he was hired by the SRC on June 29th—after a nearly six month long superintendent search process—does raise some questions. Was his October 1st start date made known during the search process? If so, why would the SRC agree to this? Or did the fact that he will be showing up to work one month late come to light after he was hired, forcing the SRC into a corner?
The math doesn’t seem to add up here, either. Dr. Hite was hired by the SRC on June 29th. If he put in his notice to Prince George County on July 1st, wouldn’t 60 days take us to September 1st, the start of the school year? How does giving 60 days notice bring us to October 1st? This would be 90 days notice (92 days, actually).
Either way, the SRC’s planning and scheduling leaves much to be desired. With all due respect to Dr. Hite, he should have had his previous business in order before applying for the job in Philadelphia.
One of the reasons large urban schools districts fail—and continue to lag behind the suburbs—is because too many of their working parts (parents, students, central management, etc.) fail to meet deadlines, causing a major ripple effect that negatively impacts everyone. If the SRC and the superintendent of schools can’t get things rolling on time, what example does this set for our students? If Dr. Hite can show up late for school, why can’t they?
As I wrote in my June 27th post, being “on time” is not a matter of perspective. Unfortunately, this kind of time management and value system appears to have slipped the minds of Philadelphia School District leaders.