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Pr. George's School System Goes With Known Entity for Superintendent

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By Nelson Hernandez and Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 4, 2009

In the past decade, Prince George's County schools have been led by a series of educators recruited from afar to jump-start academic progress. Last night, the Board of Education voted to hire a superintendent from within the ranks in an effort to establish more continuity.

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The unanimous vote to delete "interim" from Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.'s title will give him a contract to lead the Washington region's third-largest school system through June 2013. The action reflected a longing for stability in the 128,000-student system. Hite came to the county in 2006 to serve as deputy to the previous superintendent, then became interim leader in December.

Hite "has experience with the system now, and, quite frankly, we've been bringing people from the outside and that hasn't worked," said Doris A. Reed, executive director of the Prince George's Association of School Administrators and Supervisory Personnel. "I don't feel real confident that if we went out and looked for someone else they could do a better job than him."

Board member Heather Iliff (District 2) said at the meeting in Upper Marlboro: "Companies throughout the world have shown that they do best when they hire talent from within."

Hite told the board, "I sit before you this evening committed to serving this system until I am old and gray."

Hite's predecessor, John E. Deasy, came from Santa Monica, Calif., in 2006 and made sweeping changes to organization and personnel but abruptly resigned in the fall. In 2003, Andre J. Hornsby, a former superintendent in Yonkers, N.Y, was recruited to lead county schools. But he resigned in 2005 during a corruption investigation and was eventually convicted and imprisoned.

Previously, Iris T. Metts, the former Delaware secretary of education, led the county schools for four years that were marked by feuding with the county school board.

The Hite pick bears some resemblance to County Executive Jack B. Johnson's recent appointment of Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton, who took over the police department when Melvin C. High retired in August. High had come to the county as an assistant chief from Norfolk. Hylton moved up through the ranks during 28 years in the county force and was considered a natural successor.

Hite, 47, is an outsider and insider. He was a longtime educator in Henrico County, Va., and served a stint as an assistant superintendent in Cobb County, Ga. In Prince George's, he helped shape Deasy's agenda behind the scenes.

He has never been a full superintendent, which gives some observers pause.

"We really would have preferred someone that came with more experience," said June White Dillard, president of the Prince George's chapter of the NAACP. "But I certainly think we need to have somebody that will commit themselves to being here long term. He does have familiarity with the system, even though he hasn't been here very long."

Details of Hite's salary are still being negotiated, said Tanzi West, a spokeswoman for the school system.


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