William Hite Jr. may have begun his job as superintendent late, but he’s certainly making up for the first month of school that he missed. In December, the examiner.com reported that Mr. Hite announced plans that would affect over 68 schools with 37 of them being closed and the remainder being restructured or moved.
As the plan moves ahead, with 8 Facilities Master Plan community meetings in both January and February for people who want to learn more about the closings as well as the restructurings, on Monday Mr. Hite also addressed the investigation of the PSSA cheating scandal that began in 2009, but wasn’t uncovered until 2012.
The superintendent announced that the investigation of the scandal is coming to an end and, because of the confidence he has in the evidence that has been gathered, Dr. Hite intends on disciplining some administrators who were aware of or encouraged their schools to cheat.
The scandal affects over 32 schools and Hite has also reopened the investigation on Wagner Middle School due to the fact that district officials ignored reports by witnesses of the transgressions being committed during the testing. The scandal as well as the tests themselves is going to have an effect on how the school district and the state will evaluate its teaching staff beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.
On Monday, Superintendent Hite also unveiled a plan that will address two main topics: 1. Preparing students for life through better education and 2. To make sure the school district survives financially. He even gave it a cool name, Action Plan v1.0.
The plan is a call to action; to take responsibility for the school district’s position of not only educating their students better and staying afloat financially, but how to compete with virtual classrooms (cyber schools) and charter schools which are taking both students and money from the district.
Both plans that were unveiled since December have met with a lot of resistance and objections. As usual, the president of the teacher’s union (PFT), Jerry Jordan is making the most noise. At one point, a lot of positions within the school district fell under PFT’s umbrella, but Jordan sold most of them out in order to protect the teachers so now that’s all he has left. Jordan’s ongoing refusal to play ball with the school district by agreeing to concessions has hurt the district financially. Once again, with Hite proposing concessions as part of the plan, Jordan is rejecting the proposal as contract talks approach. It looks like this may be a showdown at the O.K. Corral.
With Jordan, it continues to be about money. He claims that Philadelphia School District teachers are underpaid when compared to teachers in the suburbs, but that’s not really a fair comparison. The numbers of students under-performing in counties such as Bucks or Montgomery aren't as high as they are in Philadelphia. These areas also have less students and the school districts can afford to be a lot more selective when hiring teachers because these districts are more attractive to good teachers. In many of the suburban school districts they also require a Master's degree for employment.
What Jordan and other organizations just don’t get is that the old way of doing business in public education is over. Change isn't only necessary, it’s mandatory. Stop trying to throw a monkey wrench into any plan that doesn't suit you. Get over yourselves and do what is necessary for the kids.