The superintendent of Prince George's County Public Schools is stepping down to take the top schools post in Philadelphia, the Prince George's school board announced Friday evening.
"Dr. Hite has served Prince George's County Public Schools with distinction over the last six years and it is with deep disappointment that we greet the news of his departure," the board said in an emailed statement. "He has led Prince George's County schools with vision and innovation under financial challenges that might have broken a weaker superintendent."
Hite announced last week that he was a finalist for the Philadelphia schools job, but said that he has not made a decision and felt loyal to Prince George's County, the second-largest school district in Maryland.
"While I have not sought out other professional opportunities, I have been approached on numerous occasions and have turned them down," Hite said then. "However, my wife Deirdre and I believe this is an opportunity that we must explore."
News broke early Friday that the only other finalist for the Philadelphia job had accepted a position elsewhere. A spokesman for Hite denied that he had received an offer on Friday afternoon.
But the decision materialized by late Friday. Because Hite's contract contains a 120-day notice provision, he will still helm Prince George's for the next four months. The board expects to decide on an interim superintendent in the coming weeks, before announcing a plan to choose Hite's permanent successor.
Hite himself was appointed the interim superintendent of Prince George's in December 2008, then named the permanent chief that April.
Hite's tenure was marked by economic tensions due to the recession, and some vocal parent groups questioned his effectiveness as a leader. But test scores during Hite's time improved by 10-percentage points or more in math and reading among the diverse student body.
Hite's departure is among several high-profile exits of top school officials in the Washington area. Montgomery County's Jerry Weast ended his 12-year reign last summer, while Fairfax County Superintendent Jack Dale plans to leave the school system next summer.
Fairfax County is losing administrator Peter Noonan to Fairfax City, where he'll take over as superintendent on July 1. Falls Church City Public Schools began last school year with a new superintendent poached from Oklahoma.