Less than a week after the Pittsburgh Public School District Board of Education received community input on the ongoing superintendent search, they have already interviewed a candidate. Claims are circulating that PPS Deputy Superintendent Linda Lane, Ed.D. was interviewed Nov. 15 and could be appointed to the position, forgoing a national search process.

CHOOSING OUR SUPERINTENDENT— From left: Thomas Payzant, Sala Udin, board chair, A+ Schools; Mike Casserly, Tim Stevens and Esther Bush, president and CEO, Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. (Photo by Rossano P. Stewart)

“I’m not too much opposed to (appointing Lane), I’m opposed to the process. We’ve had two meetings unannounced to the public. I’m just outraged that there’s no respect for the public. This is the kind of game playing that happens when there’s a hidden agenda,” said Mark Brentley, District 8 school board representative. “We have never handed a position off. We have always conducted searches. They’re basically saying you have to stay on the plan that Mark Roosevelt presented which in my opinion is poor if you’re African-American.”

The recent development could overshadow efforts by A+ Schools who held a community discussion Nov. 11 at Ebenezer Baptist Church to collect community input regarding the district’s new superintendent. In partnership with the Black Political Empowerment Project and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, A+ collected input from nearly 80 district residents.

“Education is the ticket to liberation,” said Tim Stevens, chairman, B-PEP. “The most important thing is that we hear each other. This is going to go directly to your school board members so they will hear from you tomorrow.”

Of the participants polled, 28 percent said the new superintendent’s single most important priority should be specifically addressing racial disparities in access and student outcomes. In second place with 26 percent came teacher effectiveness.

A willingness to work with others and ability to build morale were two key qualities desired by the community, both receiving 29 percent. Twenty-six percent said the next superintendent should value racial diversity and be committed to equity.

The participants identified experience as an educator in the classroom or an administrator in a public school as the single most important qualification the next superintendent should have.

The community also heard from guest speakers in a session titled “The Importance of Leadership in Effective Public School: National Perspectives. The two speakers identified key aspects in the search for a new superintendent and emphasized the importance of the school board working with the community.

“I would suggest that you and the board, that you start with a fundamental set of questions. What kind of school do you want? Do you think the school district and its leaders need to start over again? Were there things that your superintendent didn’t get around to doing that you wish he had? This is not a question of whether you’re currently satisfied with your schools,” said Mike Casserly, executive director, Council of the Great City Schools. “The secret to these things is the community and the board on behalf of the community being clear about what it wants.”

The speakers said identifying the ideal direction for the school district would help determine possible candidates. For instance, if the community liked the district’s current direction, the speakers suggested appointing someone from the current administration.

“The good news about Pittsburgh is you have a strong case for sustainability in some areas. You can’t turn around an urban school district in three years. Be open minded about seeing where the talent is,” said Tom Payzant, former superintendent of Boston Public Schools. “One of the places that really gets districts in trouble is that it is really important to dig deep into the relationship skills of the person you’re selecting. At the end of the day, this is a great opportunity for a lot of great people to compete for a relationship with you.”

School board representatives Thomas Sumpter, William Isler, Dara Ware-Allen, Sherry Hazuda, Sharene Shealey and Brentley attended the community meeting.

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