245,000 Kids Are in His Hands

Submitted by: Lauren Hirshon, Director of Research & Consulting at the Fels Institute of Government

With his appointment as Superintendent of the Philadelphia School District in October, Dr. William R. Hite Jr. took the helm of the 8th largest school district in the country.  Needless to say, it’s no small task. Recognizing his importance in shaping the future of our city, young professionals turned out in droves last night to hear him speak to a private audience at our YPN networking event.

People were literally pouring down the staircase of Distrito’s second floor when Dr. Hite began by sharing information about the District’s strategies and action plan, which are anchored around improving academic achievement and establishing fiscal sustainability.

When he talked about the role business partners can play in leading these changes I could see heads nodding in agreement around the room.  Businesses have a particularly important role to play in helping to contextualize learning for our cities students, he explained.  For example, last year Aerojet invited second and third graders to their facilities to supplement a lesson on propulsion.  This hands-on encounter was extremely powerful and made the student’s physics lesson more relevant and interesting.

In the pink glow of Distrito’s neon lights, Dr. Hite also discussed providing the right incentives to encourage great teachers to come and stay in Philadelphia, the efforts of the district’s new transformation corp. to attract talented mid-level leadership, transparency and accountability for charter schools, and school safety.

At one point, Dr. Hite made a direct request of young professionals in the city.  “It’s going to take our collective work to create high-performing schools.”  At some point – you might be at a YPN event like this – you’ll meet someone that you’re interested in dating.  If things progress and you start thinking about having a family, that’s when you should get involved.  We’ll work on being responsive to consumers, but we need you to share what you want…

With that being said we all went back to mingling, and enjoying the drinks and delicious flautas, flatbreads, and salsas that Distrito provided.  Perhaps, over the dulce de leche, several new relationships began.  If so, I hope those couples take Dr. Hite up on his offer.  We all need to get involved in strengthening our city’s schools to prepare future generations and to keep young families in the city.

View photos from the event