PHILADELPHIA—Education officials on Friday chose a Maryland superintendent as the new head of Philadelphia's struggling district, calling him a "transformative leader" who will ensure safe, high-quality schools for all students.

William Hite Jr. has led the public schools in the Washington suburbs of Prince George's County since 2009. In a statement, Hite said he's excited for the opportunity to come to Philadelphia, which serves more than 200,000 students in district and charter schools.

"I look forward to working with the leaders and families of this city as we work to improve the lives of our youth," he said.

Philadelphia's previous superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, left abruptly last summer after clashing with local officials. Since then, the district has seen an almost complete turnover in leadership on its governing body, the School Reform Commission.

Officials also hired a chief recovery officer to help restore financial stability to the nearly insolvent system, which faces a shortfall at least $218 million in the $2.5 billion budget for the upcoming school year.

Hite toured the district earlier this week and met with students, staff, officials, parents and community members.

"Dr. Hite is an eminent educator and a proven transformative leader," school commission Chairman Pedro Ramos said in a statement Friday.

In Maryland, Hite oversees the state's second-largest district with 135,000 students, 200 schools and a budget of $1.6 billion.

His starting date in Philadelphia has not yet been determined. A statement from the Prince George's school board, which expressed "deep disappointment" at Hite's departure, said he must give four months' notice.

"He has led Prince George's County schools with vision and innovation under financial challenges that might have broken a weaker superintendent," the statement said. "We appreciate the stability, progress, transparency and accountability that accompanied his tenure."

Hite came to Prince George's County as a deputy superintendent in 2006; he became interim superintendent two years later, and shed the temporary title in 2009. Previously, he held administrative posts in districts in Atlanta and Richmond, Va. He has also worked as a principal.

Pedro Martinez, the deputy superintendent of Nevada's Clark County school district, was also a finalist for the Philadelphia post. On Friday, he took a job as head of the Washoe County schools in Nevada.

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