Prince George’s schools chief to leave Sept. 30

Prince George’s County Schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., who resigned two weeks ago, will forgo $125,000 in severance pay to get an early release from his contract.

The county Board of Education announced Friday that Hite, who accepted a position leading the Philadelphia School District, will leave Maryland’s second-largest school system Sept. 30, 60 days earlier than his contract requires.

Under Hite’s contract, he would have been required to remain in his job for 120 days — or until Nov. 30 — or forfeit his severance. Instead, Hite has opted to forgo the money and stay 60 days.

The board included the 120-day written-notice provision in Hite’s four-year contract after the abrupt departure of Hite’s predecessor, John E. Deasy, in 2008.

School board Chairman Verjeana Jacobs (District 5) said Friday that the board is pleased with Hite’s decision.

“We definitely wanted to put the 120 days in to have a cushion, to have time to assess where we are,” Jacobs said. “But we feel comfortable [with the 60 days] because this will give us time to have a successful opening of the schools.”

Schools reopen in Prince George’s on Aug. 20.

“I think it’s really important for schools to open smoothly,” Hite said Friday. “I was always committed to do that.”

He said he also thinks it’s important for him to begin his work in Philadelphia, where the school district is facing a fiscal crisis.

Jacobs said Hite’s decision will save the system money as it begins seeking a search firm to help find a new superintendent.

“When you look across the country at superintendents and severance packages, the board will be in a better position,” Jacobs said.

The board decided in a closed session Thursday that it will begin the process of selecting an interim superintendent by submitting names of candidates. The list will be narrowed to three people, who will be vetted, Jacobs said. The goal, she said, is to name an acting superintendent by Aug. 15.

That individual will work with Hiteduring the transition and serve until a permanent superintendent is found.

“We know this is a critical juncture for Prince George’s County,” the board said in an open letter to the community. “The search process will be transparent with meaningful opportunities for community engagement.”

The board plans to hold forums in August to receive input from the community and to discuss the superintendent search process, which it expects to launch officially in the fall. The board said it expects to name a new superintendent by spring 2013.

This week, Hite made changes to the school system’s organizational chart, a move school officials hope will ensure schools will open without major disruption.

He selected two administrators to fill a vacancy left by Deputy Superintendent Bonita Coleman-Potter, who quit last month.

Duane Arbogast, the school system’s chief academic officer, and Monica Goldson, the assistant superintendent of the high school consortium, will share some of the responsibilities that were handled by Hite’s second-in-command.

Arbogast was named acting deputy superintendent for academics. He will be responsible for the management and coordination of school performance, curriculum and instruction, special education, testing, and state and federal programs.

Goldson will serve as acting chief operating officer. She will be responsible for supporting services (transportation, building, food and security), information technology and student services.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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