Monday, October 5, 2015

Can Philly Super Do His Job?

Today the Daily News in Philly ran an editorial declaring, "Let Philly Schools Chief Hite Do His Job." The editorial writer is pretty much full of it; nevertheless, I agree that Hite should get to do his job. In fact, I wish somebody would make him do his job.

The issue at hand seems to be that Superintendent Hite is getting ready to privatize some more of the Philly school district. Some of the charter operators being brought in include Big Picture Foundation of Rhode Island and the ever-delightful Renaissance schools.

I could get into the issue of charters taking over public schools, or the track record of these particular operators, or the history of Hite and the Philly district. But I don't want to draw attention away from the most striking part of this story.

The superintendent of a major public school district is turning public schools over to charter operators.

The union says that the schools are failing because they've been starved for resources. The Daily News, saying that these schools stunk even in flush times in Philly, calls out other factors--

In fact, the thread that binds all of the schools on the list is that they are failing to educate the students who attend them. Their test scores are lower than low, some have experienced high turnover of principals and leadership staff, some have problems with school safety.

Well, if that's true and these schools have been mismanaged, led poorly, and not given the tools they need to succeed, then Hite should go right to the top, stomp into the office of the person who has the power and responsibility to-- oh. Wait a minute.I know that Philly schools are their own special kind of mess, but isn't Superintendent Hite the guy who is responsible for the failure or success of those public schools?

Help me understand. How is this NOT like the Senator Jerkovich from East Blattsfogel calling a press conference to say, "The senator from East Blattsfogel is doing a terrible job, and I think somebody should impeach him right now!" How is this NOT like the CEO of General Widgets declaring, "The management of our West Oshwoggle plant is terrible. They don't have enough support from the main office, so the only choice is to sell it to another company." How is this NOT like the head of a cafeteria announcing, "The food here is terrible, so we're going to bring in McDonald's to provide lunches."

How is this NOT like somebody whacking themselves in the head with a hammer and declaring, "This really hurts. I guess I'll have to have somebody cut my head off."

Is Hite impotent? Clueless? Because there are only a couple of possibilities here.

Possibility one: Hite has no idea how to fix the problems in those schools, no clue how to staff them, no inkling of how to get them the resources they need. So he's going to bring in charter operators to do what he doesn't know how to do himself. In which case the question really is, can Hite do his job?

Possibility two: Hite knows exactly what those schools need, and he has identified these charter operators as takeover candidates because he believes that they will provide what the schools need. In which case, if he knows what needs to be done, why can't he can do it himself?

It would seem that the Daily News' question is misplaced. It looks to me like it's not a matter of letting Hite do his job, but rather the challenge of getting him to do his. I don't know if he's clueless, powerless, or simply unwilling to do his job. But a superintendent's job is to safeguard, support, and strengthen the public school system in order to serve all the students in the district-- not to throw up his hands and abdicate his responsibilities by selling off the pieces of what should be a community resource so that somebody else can make a buck.


  1. This is the best comment I've seen about what is happening in Philadelphia.

  2. See, there's a third possibility. He is doing his job. His job is out of town hit man.

  3. He is a graduate of the Broad Superintendent Academy. His job is to privatize public schools. He is very good at it.