“Black Women for a Better Education” call on Pittsburgh Public Schools to change superintendent

The following letter was sent by “Black Women for a Better Education” to the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Board of Directors. One of the group’s members asked me to share it.

It is posted below. The formatting changed slightly from the original as it posted here, but I made no changes to the content.

PPS Board of Directors

Room 239, Administration Building 

341 S. Bellefield Avenue 

Pittsburgh, PA 15213

June 1, 2020

Re: Contract Renewal for Superintendent Anthony Hamlet

Dear PPS Board of Directors:

Please find attached a letter from a coalition of Black women who are affiliated with PPS as parents, alumni, former employees, retirees, partners, and concerned community members. We meet regularly with the intent of ensuring that Black children in this region receive the consistent high-quality education they both deserve and need. To that end, after careful thought, we have outlined in the letter an argument against renewing the contract of Superintendent Anthony Hamlet. As the letter is quite detailed, we offer a summary below.

Grounds for not renewing the 5-year contract of Superintendent Anthony Hamlet

  1. Organizational Leadership
    1. Excessive loss of talented, veteran team members with institutional knowledge
    2. High turnover of the leadership team
    3. Failure to become a “transformational leader” 
    4. Long delays in or failure to fill critical staff positions
  2. Financial Management
    1. Excessive spending on extraneous central office staff, high-paid consultants, and on educational technology contracts
    2. Approximately $25,000 per month for out-of-town professional development with questionable returns on investment
    3. Unauthorized trip to Cuba at taxpayers’ expense with minimal accountability for the action from the board
    4. No-bid contracts for clients of a company for which he is a paid consultant
  3. COVID-19 Crisis Management 
    1. Students lost weeks of instruction as the district scrambled to develop a learning plan
    2. Students with disabilities did not receive instruction for close to two months, violating IEPs and 504 plans
    3. Low resolution, low instruction printed learning packets distributed to families who had to find ways to pick them up
    4. Inequitable distribution of technology, widening the district access and opportunity gap
    5. Ineffective leadership and communication on the district’s plans during the COVID-19 pandemic
  4. Instructional Excellence & Safe and Healthy School Environments
    1. Test scores remain stagnant at best
    2. The achievement gap between Black and White students remains broad
    3. Access to and success in AP courses for Black children is limited
    4. Expulsion rates for Black children are in the top 10 in the Commonwealth
    5. Black students’ high referral rate to the police
    6. Equity plan devoid of meaningful metrics
  5. Professionalism
    1. Dr. Hamlet has a reputation for being aloof and inaccessible
    2. History of cancelling important meetings or sending surrogates to key meetings 
    3. Public rift with government leaders and dissatisfaction with his performance by the philanthropic sector
    4. Questionable qualifications and past performance 

Sincerely,

Black Women for a Better Education

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