Get to Know Our New CEO and President Bill Hite

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When asked how his past roles have helped prepare him to lead KnowledgeWorks, CEO and President Bill Hite put students first.

“I’ve been in suburban districts, quasi-rural districts, urban districts, wealthy and poor districts. I’ve worked in almost every type of education community and those experiences have prepared me to think about the needs of young people versus what we so often structure ourselves around – the needs of adults,” said Hite. “The young people with whom I’ve worked have done more in preparing me for this current role than any other.”

And that wasn’t all Hite had to say about his hopes and plans for his future with KnowledgeWorks.

What do you want our learning communities and partners to know about your hopes for our work?

There’s a phrase my head college football coach used to use every Monday in preparation for the next week and each Saturday right before the game, ‘Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.’

For so many young people, they never have the opportunity or even the access to the opportunity, so even with preparation, they have no opportunity for luck. The preparation is equally important; if they’re not prepared but have access, still no luck.

There are children in urban centers who haven’t had the benefit of personalized, competency-based learning. Many young people who have had access are those who could go beyond what they were already capable of it, individuals looking to expand their aptitude and their skill set. Typically, children who are behind grade, below-level or from urban centers, children who could benefit the most from this approach, are in so many cases the last ones to have access. We have to do everything we can, along with local and national philanthropy, to ensure that young people, regardless of where they live or attend school, have access to preparation and opportunity.

Why personalized, competency-based learning? Why now?

When my grandson was six and moving from kindergarten to first grade, he was here in Philadelphia and he was talking about the tall buildings. He saw the cranes and was so excited. He said, “One day I want to build tall buildings. I want to figure out how to do that.” He asked me, “G-paw, how do you do that?” And I said, it all starts with school. His response? “Aw, man, it starts with boring school?”

I thought, what could possibly have been his experience that he’s thinking about school that way in the first grade? My daughter explained that he finishes his work fast, and then he gets in trouble for clowning. It was an example for me of how these structures just don’t work for all children.

Being responsive to the learner is critically important – and so is recognizing that we have a system that wasn’t designed for all children to be successful.

Being responsive to the learner is critically important – and so is recognizing that we have a system that wasn’t designed for all children to be successful. It was never designed for what we’re trying to use it for now, where all children would graduate with a baseline of knowledge around certain things. It hasn’t evolved to that place – the assessments have, but the structures haven’t.

Right now, we have the opportunity to dramatically redesign teaching and learning. I see personalized, competency-based learning as part of a larger solution for young people to engage in things that are more interest-based, more engaging, more inclusive of their voice and more representative of their cultures.

What do you hope to teach us? What can we teach you?

I would love to teach the organization focus and alignment, and what I would love for the organization to teach me is how to continue to prioritize joy. KnowledgeWorks is a joyful place; that feels like a priority when we get together. It’s not something we often think about when we think about culture and climate, because we think of a whole bunch of inputs around how we operate, how we interact, how we engage with each other. When you prioritize joy, you’re always working to establish a more positive culture and climate.