A week after 80 students from University Preparatory middle and high school in the Hill District walked out of school to protest the potential layoff of 10 staff members, Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Superintendent Anthony Hamlet met with student representatives from each neighborhood high school to establish an advisory group.
When Hamlet was hired before the start of the school year, he said starting the group and getting student input would be a priority.
He said Wednesday that he wants a regular, structured time when students can weigh in on potential policy and instruction changes.
“We talk about having kids get 21st Century skills, but often times the adults making the decisions and the processes are not 21st Century learners,” he said. “So what do we need in these new spaces? What type of skill sets do our kids need to see? What type of activities? What they want to see in the classroom?”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the University Prep students walked to the administration building in Oakland on May 1 to talk to Hamlet. Hamlet said he wants to hear those concerns, but in a structured format.
Khamille Andrews, 14, is the student body president at Westinghouse High School in Homewood. She’s a freshman and said her school is often portrayed poorly, but said she’s committed to changing that. She said problems often stem from distractions like disruptive students, crowded hallways and cell phones.
“I don’t want to take away privileges but I feel like there needs to be some type of … something has to change,” she said. “But, we haven’t yet figured out what it is. And that’s one of the things that we are working on.”
Andrews was one of about two dozen students who met with Hamlet Wednesday to give feedback on what the actual advisory group should look like and how it should function. Hamlet said the students will report directly to him with concerns around culture in school, the structure of the school and making sure the district is moving in the right direction.
“If we’re not having student voice, and those are our main constituents that we deal with, our students, that’s what we’re in this business for to make sure they’re successful,” he said. “Understanding that their voice needs to be heard about the processes and the makeup of our district and how we operate as well.”
The district posted a position last week for a student voice project manager who will coordinate the superintendent’s advisory council. The job description also calls for the manager to ensure each high school has an effective student government.