If you listen carefully to the defenders of Dr. Hamlet and Dr. Perkins, their defense is based upon ready references to previous instances of racism in Pittsburgh such as with Superintendent John Thompson. I even had one person reference the “racist imprisonment of Police Chief Nate Harper.” I am certainly not one to defend the racist history found in Pittsburgh and its surrounding region. I have fought against racist and sexist discrimination all my life and will continue that fight until my dying day.
But there is a danger in the premature rush to a judgement of racism to defend a less than perfect professional capability. The danger is that it distracts the focus away from our most important need – experience. And even if we concede the “racism” argument, we are left with a superintendent whose background is severely lacking in the kind of excellent experience our district needs in the superintendent to replace Dr. Linda Lane.
Whether Dr. Hamlet manipulated the data or plagiarized his resume is secondary to the fact that he is simply not the best qualified and most experienced choice that could have been presented by Dr. Perkins.
Dr. Hamlet has many redeeming characteristics, but he has never been a superintendent of any school district, or even a deputy superintendent. He certainly may have been the most qualified applicant among those that Dr. Perkins brought forward, but the School Board lowered the standards of requiring someone experienced in managing a large urban school district; experienced in managing a budget of a half billion dollars; experienced in managing a staff of thousands of personnel; experienced in negotiating contracts with the teachers union. (Is this why the PFT is such a fan of Dr. Hamlet?)
And while we’re at it, can we please stop discussing moving Florida students from an F to a C as though a C level academic performance in Florida is an acceptable standard!
Let us not lose sight of what’s ultimately at stake in this superintendent selection. The defining struggle is closing the achievement gap between Black and White students in the Pittsburgh Public School system and the achievement gap between Pittsburgh schools and public schools in the surrounding region.
The next superintendent must demonstrate that he/she can lead the region in this much needed transformation. Perhaps the reason why Dr. Perkins brought forth such an inexperienced candidate is because he himself is inexperienced in conducting a national search to find the kind of excellent experience so badly needed in the Pittsburgh Public School District.
We simply have to reject the inexperienced candidacy of Dr. Anthony Hamlet and start over again.
Yes, we must reject this candidacy and also the Perkins process. The board must identify a search company experienced in effective national executive searches for a school superintendent. Local foundations can be approached and asked to assume the costs of starting over with a professional experienced search firm.
And of course, the school board would be justified if they are leery of any attempt by the foundations, or any elected officials to put their thumb on the scale. And by the way, there are experienced minority and women owned search firms available, if that’s what the school board thinks it needs.
Dr. Regina Holley and the board deserve our appreciation and praise for working through a difficult process and insuring full public input. Remember that we have new board leadership and many new board members and they deserve our support as they work to put the needs of our children first. But the needs of our children in Pittsburgh’s failing school system demand excellence and experience and the selection process must produce an executive and leader whose experience and qualifications are beyond question.
Former Pittsburgh City Councilman
Co-Chair, Hill District Education Council