Pr. George's Will Hire Interim Schools Chief on Full-Time Basis

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 1, 2009; B01

The Prince George's County Board of Education intends to offer Interim Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. a four-year contract to run the Washington region's third-largest school system, the board's two top officers said last night.

Hite is "the right person to serve the school system," board Chairman Verjeana M. Jacobs (At Large) said. "There's no question about the vision. I believe he's committed to the work."

The board scheduled a meeting Friday to vote on the decision.

Hite has filled in as chief of the 128,000-student system since Dec. 1, after John E. Deasy abruptly resigned as superintendent after 2 1/2 years in office. If Hite is hired, it would be the first time he has served as a full superintendent.

A statement last night from the school system, with comments from board members, made it clear that the decision is all but final. The meeting will "give board members an opportunity to discuss what impresses them" about Hite, Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the length of the contract was mandated by the state. She said details of pay and benefits were being negotiated.

"I'm excited that the board has indicated their trust in me to lead the system," Hite said last night. "I'm committed to staying as long as I can and as long as the board is committed to moving kids in the direction of college or a career after high school."

As interim chief, Hite has advised the board on cuts to a $1.6 billion annual budget and the closure of eight schools. His biggest challenge would be to improve the uneven reputation of public schools in a county with major disparities in wealth and academic performance.

Hite came to Prince George's in 2006, serving as Deasy's deputy. Previously, he was an assistant superintendent in the Cobb County School District in Georgia.

Prince George's ranks third in the area, behind Fairfax County, the largest, and Montgomery County, in size.

Board members have said they want a superintendent who would make a long-term commitment and continue academic improvement in Prince George's.

"Dr. Hite's strongest quality to me is the ability to add consistency to what we've already been through," said board Vice Chairman Ron Watson (At Large). "I don't expect this to be the usual us-versus-them relationship that divides boards and superintendents."

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