“What kind of leader would resume his regular salary while the teachers’ contract is in question and our children go without? Not the kind of leader Philadelphia’s students deserve.”Alison McDowell a district parent and member of Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools said recently concerning Dr. William Hite Jr (Pictured above).
IN FALL 2013, Superintendent William Hite Jr. announced that he was taking a 10 percent pay cut in keeping with the fiscally challenged district’s theme of “shared sacrifice.”
He said that nine top administrators also would take pay cuts. That didn’t happen, but Hite consented to a $30,000 salary reduction amid tough union negotiations, a budget shortfall and fewer resources available in schools.
It turns out that Hite’s share of the sacrifice had a shelf life of one year. His cut was restored in October under an amendment to his contract that returned his annual base pay to $300,000, according to a November 2013 document released by the district this week to the Daily News.
Many Sunshine Law advocates believe that the change to Hite’s contract violated the law, but the district says it’s on solid legal ground.
Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said the amendment was official business and should have been handled in a public meeting.
“Creation of a contract or a change to an existing contract is ‘official action’ under the Sunshine Act, which can only take place at a public meeting and only after an opportunity for public comment,” Melewsky said. “It is required by law.”
The district says its process followed the law.
“The addendum for the contract was a voluntary reduction that he requested himself for one year,” said district spokesman Fernando Gallard.
“It is the opinion of the General Counsel of the School District of Philadelphia [Michael A. Davis] that it did not need a vote from the School Reform Commission for a voluntary reduction,” Gallard said.
Negotiations over salary are exempted from the Sunshine Law and can be discussed in executive session, Gallard said.
But public discussion should have taken place before a vote on the amendment, Melewsky and other advocates contend.
Hite signed the document Nov. 26, 2013. It also was signed by then-SRC member Wendell Pritchett and by current commissioner Feather Houstoun. Davis and a witness identified as Kathleen Gallagher also signed the amendment.
Gallard said the document was not released to the public, but added, “It is a public document.”
Terry Mutchler, executive director of the Open Records Office in Harrisburg, said: “Taxpayers are entitled to know about the actions their public officials are taking. But when you’re doing something like this, acting in secret, it adds to the decay of public trust.”
“Evidently, ‘shared sacrifice’ expires after 12 months,” said Alison McDowell, a district parent and member of Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, an advocacy group suing the district claiming a Sunshine Law violation occurred at the SRC meeting at which members voted to nix teachers’ health benefits.
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Chief Board of Education Legal Counsel Abbey Hairston and architect of Maladministration in PGCPS District is also the personal lawyer to William Hite Jr. The saga involving Dr. William Hite Jr begun in Maryland schools after he run away from a troubled situation involving public corruption and mismanagement of public resources under the directives of Ms. Hairston above.
This is a call for action. Call your elected officials now, the unions and the media. A proper investigation will tell us who is responsible for this calamity and, therefore, who should lose their jobs. While talking to your elected officials, request Mr. Rushern Baker III resign and to take responsibility for this mess. Demand an end to this fraud and the madness!
Unless we are collectively extremely careful, Prince George’s County and School District of Philadelphia can fail. At the heart of the current condition is fear and despondency that has gripped both Districts. Corruption is a particularly major but unquantified issue in our economic threats. We intend to address this comprehensively on the International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9.
Many local government supporters and even some officials respond to criticism from those they deem the opposition by asking for ‘solutions’. The opposition is not a think tank for the local government led by Rushern Baker III here in Prince George’s County. If the local government has ran out of ideas it should reach out to experienced Prince George’s county citizenry of integrity to help or stand down.
The People of Prince George’s county and Philadelphia school Districts deserve better.