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With PPS Students Returning This Week, School Board Still Evaluating Superintendent’s State Ethics Violations

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Public Superintendent Anthony Hamlet shortly after he was hired in 2016.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools board will meet again this week as it continues to evaluate a report released last week that cited the superintendent for state ethics violations.

District solicitor Ira Weiss said the board will meet “into the week,” after it met in private for several hours Thursday and Friday.

“It is a matter of importance, and the members want to take the time necessary to review this,” Weiss said.

The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission released a 147-page report Thursday that cited Hamlet for five violations made since he was hired in 2016 related to improper travel reimbursement, taking money for public appearances and errors made in financial disclosure forms. Hamlet must pay nearly $8,000 — $7,000 in reimbursement to the district and The Pittsburgh Promise — and forfeit 14 vacation days valued at a total of $12,300. Hamlet said Thursday during a press conference that he had sent the district a $3,000 check.

Hamlet also said the report vindicated him because it found the errors were made through negligence rather than with ill intent. He said the district will implement new policies and procedures to prevent future errors.

Weiss said the board is considering all options in regard to Hamlet, though he declined to say more. Board president Sylvia Wilson deferred all questions to Weiss.

The board renewed a five-year contract with Hamlet at this time last year. At the time, a few board members said that they renewed his contract to avoid more chaos amid the pandemic and an expected return to school. A vast majority of students spent almost all of the past school year learning remotely. Students returned to in-person classes part-time for a few weeks.

According to Hamlet's renewed contract, if the board and superintendent mutually agree to terminate the contract, the superintendent shall be paid one-half of the value of the compensation and benefits if the termination takes effect less than two years before the end of the term — 2025.

The contract includes annual salary increases and up to $15,000 in bonuses “depending on the achievement of goals.” Hamlet’s 2022 salary is $241,084. The board gave him an $8,000 bonus last year, although he said he would not accept it until a contract was signed with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

Union members and the board ratified an agreement last week. District spokesperson Ebony Pugh said last week she did not know if Hamlet had accepted the bonus.

Hamlet has faced recent backlash when he proposed delaying the start of the school year by two weeks to address a bus driver shortage. After parents protested and spoke out about the short notice and lack of planning during public hearings, Hamlet shifted again. School will start Sept. 3, eight days after originally planned. Hamlet apologized to the public for the stress and confusion.