This story was updated 1:04 p.m. July 2, 2012.
Prince George's schools superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., announced late Friday that he would accept an offer to head the School District of Philadelphia, leaving the county school system with a leadership void.
Hite's departure comes just as deputy superintendent Bonita Coleman-Potter leaves to become superintendent of Ocean Springs School District in Mississippi, leaving the system without a "natural successor," said school board chairwoman Verjeana Jacobs (Dist. 5).
The school board has held several closed sessions since June 22 — when Hite announced his candidacy for the Philadelphia job — to discuss plans to find Hite's successor.
Jacobs said there is a condition in Hite's contract that he must give 120 days' notice before leaving his position. The contract states that the condition is negotiable, but Jacobs said it will give the board time to transition to a new superintendent.
"As we approach this time of transition, I am committed to ensuring a smooth start to the school year and will keep you posted on my official last day," Hite wrote in a statement issued Friday night.
Hite has led the 124,000-student school district since he became interim superintendent in December 2008, when John R. Deasy left the position after two years on the job. Hite’s departure continues a two-decade trend of county superintendents serving four years or less.
In a statement, the school board praised Hite’s tenure for its “stability, progress, transparency and accountability.”
“He has led Prince George’s County Schools with vision and innovation under financial challenges that might have broken a weaker superintendent,” the board said in a statement.
In Hite’s first year as superintendent, the school board’s budget was $1.67 billion. By 2012, the budget had been reduced by more than $65 million.
Board member Henry P Armwood, Jr. (Dist. 7) said he is disappointed in Hite’s departure because of the school system’s need for continuity and stability.
“His greatest accomplishment was the beginnings of a change in the culture of Prince George’s County Schools,” Armwood said. “There is a vision of excellence and a focus on achievement. That takes time.”