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Pittsburgh Schools Groups Pull Support, Call For New Superintendent Search

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA

Advocacy groups representing Pittsburgh Public Schools are calling for a new superintendent search following weeks of controversy surrounding the Board of Education's first choice, Anthony Hamlet. 

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, the Hill District Education Council, the Black Political Empowerment Project and A+ Schools issued a joint statement on Tuesday:

“We need a superintendent with a clear and flawless background, with a huge commitment to kids, and a solid record of accomplishment. Unfortunately, given the seriousness of the questions already raised, any initiative Dr. Hamlet would put forward or his evaluation of such initiatives as superintendent would be met with suspicion and doubt from administrators, principals, teachers, students, parents, and community.”

In their statement, the advocacy groups requested a new search organization with “a successful track record of placing urban superintendents.” The board is still contracted through June 30 with Connecticut-based consultant Brian Perkins, who conducted the initial search at a fee not to exceed $100,000.

Perkins’ group had not conducted another national search prior to being hired by Pittsburgh Public Schools, and he admitted he never fact checked Hamlet's resume. Perkins' contract with PPS never stipulated that he should.

The district’s solicitor Ira Weiss said, given issues raised in various media reports, he felt it prudent the board have an independent, outside inquiry in Hamlet’s resume. 

Laurel Brandstetter, a partner in Pittsburgh-based law firm Leech Tishman, is a former state prosecutor who specializes in “white collar criminal defense matters,” according to the firm’s website. Brandstetter will talk to Hamlet's references and investigate claims of inflated numbers and instances of plagiarism and misrepresentation on the resume Hamlet used to earn the district's top spot. 

Hamlet admitted last week to fudging at least one number in his initial resume. Media reports since have shown he also lifted language from a Washington Post editorial and a Wikipedia page in his speeches and resume.

Weiss said the board will receive a report in a few days and make a decision.

“We’ll see what the findings are and discuss the options at that time. I don’t really want to speculate on that right now,” he said.

The board met Friday for three hours and again Monday for 50 minutes. When board members left district offices in Oakland on Monday flanked by school police, all declined to comment.

Several groups are backing the board’s hire, including the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and Great Public Schools Pittsburgh.

Hamlet is in a contracted, transitional role until June 30 when current superintendent Linda Lane retires. According to the contract he signed with the district May 18, he is earning $808 a day. Perkins is slated to start as superintendent July 1 with an annual salary of $210,000. 

Sarah Schneider is WESA's education reporter. From early learning to higher education, Sarah is interested in students and educators working to create more equitable systems. Sarah previously worked with news outlets in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Idaho. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she worked for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.