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July 31, 2014, 7:30 am

Hite: School action plan must address realities

Dear Editor:

The Rev. Kevin Johnson’s mischaracterization of The School District of Philadelphia’s Action Plan (“Hite education plan lacks human touch,” Jan. 13) calls into question whether he has thoroughly read it, or if he’s been paying enough attention to the District’s many challenges over the last year.

As described in the overview, the Action Plan notes our current and anticipated priorities. It was developed through conversations with hundreds of people who have a vested interest in the success of our students and school system, parents, educators, administrators, and business, civic and religious leaders. It is a first step, not the final word. Contrary to his claim that it lacks “a heart for our children,” the Action Plan is anchored by our goal to improve academic outcomes for all students through strategies that include focusing our work around parents and families, enhancing the capacity of our teachers and principals to educate and lead, and developing a system of excellent schools.

However, our goals will be impossible to achieve in the absence of a financially sustainable system. That is similarly true of any organization, regardless of whether its focus is on saving lives, manufacturing cars or educating children. If the School District runs out of money, then the system will collapse and with it, our hopes for every student in every classroom in every school.

In many ways, the Action Plan plan goes back to basics. Too many of our children cannot read or do math at grade level. Too many of our employees lack the training and support to do their jobs well. And for too long, we have thrown money and resources at things that do not work. The Action Plan lays out why we must, and how we will, meet the basic needs that our students, staff and community deserve.

It would have been easy to create a strategic plan comprised of feel-good platitudes that ignores fiscal realities, changing landscapes and evolving data. The Action Plan is designed to be a living document, adaptable to unforeseen successes and challenges, amenable to input across stakeholders and sectors. Far from being an “I” plan, it lays out in intricate detail a role for each of us to play as we work to provide our students with better futures while stabilizing the District for the students and families to come.

I encourage all of you to read it for yourselves.

 

William R. Hite Jr., Ed.D.

-- Superintendent, Philadelphia Public Schools