Philadelphia superintendent unveils overhaul plan

January 7, 2013 3:31:24 PM PST
The new head of Philadelphia's struggling school district has unveiled a plan to improve academics and finances.

"The new normal is actually trying to do a lot more with a lot less," Superintendent William Hite told Action News Monday.

Hite lists 14 academic goals that include focusing on early literacy saying kids in early reading programs are less likely to drop out or become teen parents and iff by third grade children, can read at grade level they are more likely to graduate and go on to college.

The key is to start early.

"We have to direct a lot of our efforts to the children when they are very young, early childhood if you will, before they even begin to think about entering kindergarten. We're looking at pre-K, we're looking at head start," Hite said.

Goals also include boosting the 57 percent high school graduation rate and increasing the average SAT score to 1550 from the current 1100.

But to do more academically Hite says he must find savings.

He says the district must acquire basic financial controls it now lacks in spite of a $3-billion plus budget. One example, tracking the purchase of computers, desks, and textbooks.

"We should have ability to track those things, track their date of purchase, track where they are," Hite said.

All that should be computerized but Hite says it is not.

"Right now we are counting the hundreds of thousands of textbooks we have in this district by hand," Hite said.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers advocating for more public school funding applauded Hite for his academic plan, but blasted his efforts to cut costs including the closing of 37 schools.

When asked about an idea of concessions from employees to save dollars, that was non-starter for the teachers union president.

"Philadelphia's teachers are paid 13 percent lower than the teachers in the surrounding districts so I don't think that that's a place we should even be looking for any kind of savings," PFT President Jerry Jordan said.

In Hite's plan, there will also be a push for better teacher training and a focus on meeting the needs of special education students. The plan also includes a push for improving student nutrition, reducing violence and turning around underperforming schools.


LINK: Read The Philadelphia School District Action Plan

The Associated Press contributed to this report.