Dr William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D.
Residence of the Ambassador, June 24, 2011
Superintendent Hite, Chère Madame,
Dear Board Members of Prince George’s County Public Schools, _Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough,
Mrs. Maria Flores,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My team and I are delighted to welcome all of you today to the French Ambassador’s Residence on the occasion of the presentation ceremony for the Palmes académiques for Dr. William Hite.
I would like to say a particular word of welcome to your family and friends who have come this evening to show their support and admiration.
In attendance tonight are the 27 dedicated French teachers who, having only just recently finished their school year as teachers, have now gone back to school for the summer, as students participating in the first summer university program organized by the French Embassy in collaboration with the Alliance Française of Washington. Thanks to the hospitality of French families in the Washington area, teachers from far away school districts have been able to benefit from this program.
I would like to acknowledge and thank these families for the warm welcome that they have shown the teachers. Among the 30 teachers participating in these three days of French language training, we had the privilege of welcoming three French teachers from Prince George’s County, which is living proof of the vitality of the county’s schools and the continued investment in its teachers.
But above all, we are here today to celebrate a great moment in
the history of Franco-American educational and linguistic cooperation.
From Yorktown and Lafayette to the beaches of Normandy, and today in the skies of Libya and the mountains of Afghanistan, our two countries have always stood shoulder to shoulder to defend and promote the values of freedom and democracy that they together gave the world more than 200 years ago.
One element that has been key to the development and affirmation of these ideals is education.
Our two nations, for over more than a hundred years, have respectively worked step by step to build education systems that allow all individuals the chance to obtain a good education.
And France and the United States are today faced with the same challenges, and schools in both countries must learn to adapt, improve, innovate, and pay more attention to the learning difficulties of certain students in order to give each and every one the best chance of success for the future.
We therefore need, more than ever, men and women on both sides of the Atlantic who, in the image of Dr. Hite, will commit themselves fully to an education policy that is resolute, modern, and open to the world.
Dr. Hite, it is your life of public service to education that we honor today in the name of France.
You began your journey in the field of education when you graduated from Virginia Tech in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education.
You then pursued your Master of Education Degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Virginia, graduating in 1989, before going on to complete your Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Virginia Tech in 2001.
Your professional life has led you to gain first-hand knowledge of a school system in which you have held every level of responsibility.
Early on in your career, you taught at Tucker High School in Richmond from 1985 to 1989, before quickly and enthusiastically transitioning into new roles as Assistant Principal and then Principal for middle and high schools, also in the Richmond area. In each of these positions, you always did your best to improve the quality of teaching, and the Virginia General Assembly acknowledged Highland Springs High School as a “Best Practice” center during your time there as Principal.
In 2004, you became involved with education at the county level, when you were named “Area Superintendent” in Cobb County School District in Marietta, Georgia.
From 2006 to 2008, you served as Deputy Superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools, the second largest school district in Maryland and the 18th largest school district in the United States.
Your admirable personal and professional qualities meant that when your predecessor left in 2008, the county’s Board of Education looked to you to take on the many duties of School District Superintendent, a mission that you have embraced with warmth, energy and dynamism.
You have spearheaded a number of major efforts that have resulted
in increased student achievement, significant improvements
in teaching and learning, and
school improvement status.
This included work on the Intensive Support and Intervention Schools (ISIS), an initiative that provided significant support to schools most in need, based on student and school performance indicators.
You also worked in partnership with the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, which focused on improving the capacity of teachers and administrators to strengthen the teaching and learning process.
But you have also strived to open Prince George’s public schools to the world, notably the Francophone world.
Under your direction, Prince George’s County Public Schools have become incredibly dynamic in the area of linguistic immersion, attested by the fact that your county is home to one of the very rare high school-level French immersion programs at Central High School.
Prince George’s County was also the first school district in the U.S. to offer its students DELF/DALF certifications in the French language.
At all levels, you and your team (many of whom are here today and whom I would like to extend a special thanks), have been active collaborators at the French Embassy with many professors and students participating regularly in programs offered by our services.
You also graciously welcomed an Assistant Superintendent from France for a three-week exchange program in April 2010.
This experience was fascinating and extremely enriching for Marilyne Rémer, the French representative who was lucky to be selected for this pilot program.
Following that exchange, you yourself went to France. This visit gave you the opportunity to compare strategies developed to address the extraordinary challenges facing education in today’s world, in both France and in the U.S.
The enthusiasm with which you approached this exchange experience is emblematic of some of your best qualities: your intellectual curiosity, your open-minded spirit, and your quest for the highest standards when it comes to raising the bar for the education of all students.
We see these qualities in the large number of publications and speeches that you still find the time to make.
You were an Adjunct Professor at the University of Richmond’s School of Continuous Learning, and you taught school leadership courses at Virginia State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland.
You are recognized by your peers as one of the best, thanks to your numerous works and your participation in many national, state and local boards, agencies and associations.
France is grateful for your unwavering commitment to quality education, and your openness to the world and foreign languages.
Thanks to this commitment, you bring so many positive things to your county (which I would like to recognize now in the Board of Education), to your country, and beyond to all of us.
I would like to close my remarks by recognizing your extraordinary family: your wife, Deirdre, who is also committed to serving education through her work as Human Resources Director at Georgetown University; and your two daughters to whom I wish all the success, passion and social engagement of their parents.
Au nom du Gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’ordre des palmes académiques./.