PPS Superintendent Anthony Hamlet On Middle Schools, Cuba And His Five-Year Plan

Jun 19, 2019

On today’s program: Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Anthony Hamlet talks about district transformation and his take on a contraversial trip to Cuba; DNA testing kits illuminate lost branches of family trees, but may not tell the full story; and one year after his death, Antwon Rose II’s classmates remember him, followed by a conversation about community healing and changes in policy and policing.

PPS celebrates its short-term progress
(0:00 – 12:30)

Anthony Hamlet, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, says state standardized test scores and graduation rates are up district-wide, and suspension rates are slightly down. Hamlet says he hopes to see continued improvement, especially for Milliones 6-12 students likely to transfer to Arsenal 6-8 in Lawrenceville if an initiative passes tonight at a regularly scheduled school board meeting in Oakland.

Among Hamlet's top priorities are to ensure students are reading proficiently by the third grade and further nurture a recent uptick in graduation rates for the district's black boys. 

He says this work will continue despite unwanted attention over a inquiry into his financial interest statements, including the sources of his income. City Controller Michael Lamb filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission claiming Hamlet failed to file two years of financial interest statements. Hamlet says he's since corrected the issue, that it was a process failure, and won't happen again.

Last month, the Pittsburgh Board of Education hired an independent investigator to look into a trip that Hamlet and other district administrators took to Florida, with a side visit to Cuba. The trip was approved by school board president Lynda Wrenn, but she said she didn’t know there would be a visit to Cuba as well. All foreign trips must be approved by the full board.

Hamlet tells 90.5 WESA's The Confluence that nothing was done "egregiously or unethically," and that it wasn't initially clear to him he was going to Cuba.

"While here with this board and in my three years, I've been internationally, so I know the (approval) process," he says. "If, that is, (we're) told where we're going in advance. That wasn't done."

Black genealogists turn to DNA testing to trace family lineage 
(13:11 – 17:50)

Many people look into their family histories to get a sense of identity, but black Americans often hit brick walls when doing this research. 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden reports that genetic testing kits like 23andMe and AncestryDNA have opened up possibilities for African Americans researching their family histories, but there are still barriers to the technology.

Woodland Hills High School students honor Antwon Rose II
(17:54– 22:33)

One year after Antwon Rose II, a black, unarmed teenager, was fatally shot by Michael Rosfeld, a white East Pittsburgh police officer, Rose’s friends and former classmates are still grappling with the loss. WESA’s An-Li Herring and Katie Blackley spoke with four people who knew him well

Since Rose's death, has policing changed? 
(22:38 – 39:50)

Conversations surrounding policing, policies and community relations have continued in the year since Rose's death, but have those conversations yielded results? Discussing these issues are:

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.