Since I began as Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, my primary goal has been to learn as much as I can about the strengths and challenges of the district. Though I have served as a teacher, principal and central office administrator, it was important for me to understand the district and the community it serves.
It’s been an incredibly busy, but rewarding, 90-days. As part of my Look, Listen and Learn Tour, I held nine community listening sessions and special sessions with principals, teachers, bus drivers, civic and church leaders, and students. I visited all 54 of the district’s schools, took a school bus ride with students and held meetings with staff at all levels. I also requested feedback from all members of the Pittsburgh community through two online surveys.
This engagement effort has gathered feedback from approximately 3,500 individuals and showed me that Pittsburgh residents are passionate about public education and want to work with us to improve outcomes for students. I have seen firsthand that PPS staff are hard-working and highly-competent people whom just need to be supported with the appropriate training, resources and materials. I also have met countless students, across all schools, dedicated to learning and the pursuit of greatness.
I must thank (school) board members, students, families, the community and the entire staff for their open and honest conversations as we work together to shape a student-centered school district built on continuous improvement.
With the release of key findings found in my 90-Day Transition Plan Report, we were reminded of the tough, but important work that lies ahead. Following my presentation to the board, our strategic planning consultant shared recent data on student achievement and survey results. We learned that the achievement disparity is even more alarming than we thought, since income level isn’t factoring into the gap.
We also learned results from our annual parent survey showed nearly 80 percent of parents would recommend their child’s public school. This tells me that by giving teachers and staff more evidence-based support we can ensure that more students graduate and realize success.
Based on staff and community input, the consultant also presented four suggested “themes” that will guide the creation of the district’s Five-Year Strategic Plan. This month, we’re going back into the community to present these themes, to make certain we’re on the right track. I encourage you to review them and find dates for upcoming input sessions at http://www.ppsstrategicplan.org.
Our effort to build an expansive, collaborative team of not just school administrators, teachers and staff but students, families and all stakeholders has resulted in a truly community-focused transition plan. Yes, challenges lie ahead—as they always do––but we choose to view these as opportunities.
I’ve been truly blessed to lead a district with incredibly dedicated and talented staff. Please know my listening will never cease and I look forward to transforming PPS together.
Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, EdD.
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