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On Dec. 13, former Pittsburgh Public School District Deputy superintendent Linda Lane was voted in as the first African-American female superintendent in the district. Her appointment, which passed with a vote of eight to one, came exactly four years to the day from her initial appointment as deputy superintendent.

NEW SUPERINTENDANT—Linda Lane thanks the board for giving her the opportunity to lead the district. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Lane follows in the footsteps of Helen Faison who became the first African-American woman to be named acting superintendent in 1999. Her contract extends through the end of the 2014 school year.

“As superintendent, I will not shy away from the difficult decisions that will need to be made to ensure that our students continue to improve their academic achievement at all levels,” Lane said. “To achieve our vision of ‘Excellence for All,’ it is up to all of us—the entire community—to rededicate ourselves to the work of preparing our students to be lifelong learners who can earn a college degree or workforce certification.”

The lone no vote on the appointment of Lane came from District 8 Representative Mark Brentley. Though he approves of Lane’s qualifications and education background, Brentley said he hoped the district would do a national search for the next superintendent.

“I thought it would have been a great opportunity to at least put a job description out. I am voting no against the process, not the person,” Brentley said. “Depending on what district you come from depends on what services you have been able to get. My no vote today is simply a vote for those who have been victimized by this administration. I will reach out to Dr. Lane to listen to the community.”

The remaining board members had high praise for Lane and expressed their gratitude for her decision to accept the position. Lane, 60, received a performance-based contract starting at $200,000 with the potential to make a maximum of $245,000 by the 2013-2014 school year.

“We did search our hearts and minds very carefully before making this decision,” said Sherry Hazuda, district 6 representative and board president. “We did a long hard process from the time we heard Mr. Roosevelt would be leaving. The more we looked, the more we knew Dr. Lane was the right person.”

“I have spent the past year getting a lot of knowledge. There is not one individual on this earth that is more poised and prepared for this position,” said Sharene Shealey, district 1 representative. “Dr. Lane I wish you the best of luck and know that you have one avid supporter.”

“I think it’s selfish to vote for anything other than the appointment of Linda Lane,” said Thomas Sumpter, District 3 representative.

“I feel that you have the right balance of skills at the right time to our district forward,” said Dara Ware Allen, District 2 representative.

Former superintendent Mark Roosevelt was often criticized for his lack of communication with the public and community organizations. Lane said her first action would be to meet with community groups such as A+ Schools, the Excellence for All parent group, and the Hill District Education Council.

“Getting out and getting the opportunity to hear from community members will be first. Teachers learn how to pay attention to data and I think that’s important,” Lane said. “I do know I’m very into process. It’s easier to change the process than it is to change people.”

Though Lane gave little insight into her future plans as superintendent, her comments were full of praise for the work done by former superintendent Roosevelt and seemed to indicate she would be following the path he has already laid out. She pledged to continue implementation of the Empowering Effective Teachers Plan, prioritize high schools, continue district progress on Pennsylvania State System Assessment exams and continue promotion of the Pittsburgh Promise.

“We have many accomplishments to be proud of, and I believe that we all owe Mark Roosevelt a tremendous debt of gratitude for his vision and hard work,” Lane said. “Every decision we make and everything that we do in Pittsburgh Public Schools will be guided by the goal of ensuring that each and every one of our students is ready to take advantage of a scholarship from the Pittsburgh Promise.”

Lane began her career as an educator in 1971 as a teacher in Iowa where she went on to serve as deputy superintendent for the Des Moines Public Schools. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership and was a recent recipient of a Woman of Excellence Award from the New Pittsburgh Courier and the 2006 President’s Award for Community Improvement.

“I began my career as a teacher, and my time in the classroom still informs much of my decision making,” Lane said. “We are going to focus efforts around our underperforming high schools to get more of our kids Promise-ready. Success on these fronts will expedite closure of the racial achievement disparities that have plagued our schools for too long, as well as raise achievement at all levels.”

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