Jim Gardner talks one-on-one with Supt. William Hite

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Action News is beginning a new project called 'Jim Gardner: One-on-One.'

It's an opportunity to get to know the region's newsmakers on a more personal level, and to meet individuals who aren't in the headlines, but who are making important contributions to our community.

Our initial one-on-one is with Dr. William Hite, the superintendent of Philadelphia public schools.

From the day he was introduced by Mayor Nutter, Hite has been trying to manage a district desperately short of money.

There have been 5,000 layoffs, 31 school closures, and threats of massive program cuts later. Now the crisis continues with Hite's very expensive plan for district-wide reform on the back burner.

Is it fair for a reasonable person to think that improving public education in Philadelphia is a losing battle?

"From a regular person's point of view, it may appear that way and sometimes I think that way. I don't think it's never going to work. I do think that it can work and I think that we're so close. Sometimes I get discouraged, no question about it. Sometimes I wonder if individuals who all proclaim that education is critically important actually really support that with actions," said Hite.

However Hite seems to be both resilient and relentless - perhaps those characteristics were molded on the football field.

Hite was a 4-year player for Virginia Tech University starting in 1979.

Maybe he wasn't LeSean McCoy, but the guy had speed, moves, and grit.

What was there about playing in college that prepared him for the kind of work that he's doing now?

"It is preparation. It's dependent on a team. It's being purposeful and intentional. It is dealing with setbacks over and over again. It also provided me with an opportunity to get out of the city where I grew up, to learn how to work with other groups of individuals, to learn how to live with and learn with populations that I wasn't necessarily exposed to as a child. I value that as well," said Hite.

As for whether Hite thinks he's a good superintendent?

"I think we can always get better. I could be clearer about what and why we need revenue. Perhaps individuals would generate more revenue for us. There's always work that can be done with respect to engaging families and ensuring that families are engaged. I think there needs to be a lot more urgency around ensuring that there are great teachers in front of students regardless of where they attend schools. I think I can get better in those areas,"

Hite was candid in his desire to continue his work as superintendent for the next mayor of Philadelphia.

His point is that stability and continuity of leadership are crucial to developing a quality school district.

However overall, you get the impression that despite the economic crisis holding the district back, he loves his job.
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