Anthony Hamlet officially took over the reins of the Pittsburgh Public Schools with his swearing in as superintendent July 1.
And wasting no time, he immediately left to tour the Summer Dreamer’s Academy at University Prep in the Hill, where he also met with reporters.
With just two months until fall classes start, he said his first priority is organization.
“I will introduce a 9-month plan, and be putting my transition team together,” he said.
“As I said this morning, I’ll be reaching out to community leaders, whether they’ve been supportive, unsupportive or simply have had concerns, to ask for assistance.”
Programmatically, the only thing he said he wants to add—and whether it would be done in select schools or district-wide remains to be seen—is one called ACE.
“It’s equivalent to an international AP program, and we can have it at the same schools as with International Baccalaureate, advanced placement, or not,” he said. “But if we are going to be a global city, we should have global programming.”
Hamlet said he wants whatever change is needed to occur organically, with input and participation from parents and family.
“I want the community to know I plan to reach out to
“This is not Anthony Hamlet’s mandate,” he said, “it’s yours.”
Hamlet’s swearing-in ceremony and whirlwind tour came just two days after the board reasserted its confidence in Hamlet following an inquiry into discrepancies in his record. The board voted 7-2 to retain him.
Though not present during the vote, the district released a statement on Hamlet’s behalf, thanking supporters and apologizing for the “distraction” created by his resume.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the board for its support and willingness to move forward in our work to address the differing needs of our students,” he wrote. “I regret the concern this situation has caused and I apologize to the parents and communities for this unintended distraction. My focus has always been the children.”
Last month, following revelations that Hamlet had instances of plagiarism and apparent data embellishments in his resume, the board hired former state prosecutor Laurel Brandstetter to conduct an independent inquiry into his background.
Board Solicitor Ira Weiss said her 130-page report will be made public this week. Whatever its said was enough for Board President Regina Holley and six others to vote down board member Terry Kennedy’s motion to rescind the $210,000 five-year contract offered to Hamlet in May.
“The work that he will do is too important to continue debating over Dr. Hamlet’s resume,” said Holley, adding the
report indicated he did not intentionally plagiarize or try to mislead the board about his qualifications.
In an official statement released afterwards, Holley said she and the majority of the board did believe Hamlet’s use of material from a 2013 Washington Post editorial constituted plagiarism.
“At the heart of the debate over Dr. Hamlet was the question of whether he plagiarized the Washington Post in his resume. When this first became an issue, Dr. Hamlet told me the words he used to describe his educational philosophy came from a speech that someone wrote for him more than a year ago – and he did not know their origin,” she wrote.
“Plagiarism is legally defined as “the deliberate and knowing presentation of another’s ideas,” and that is not what Dr. Hamlet did. However, he also made it clear that he ultimately takes responsibility for what he included in his resume and he regrets the unintended consequences this has caused.”
Ultimately, she said, the board wanted the best candidate to address the district’s problems, and one who shared its ideology on improving schools through “restorative practices, community schools, collective impact, reaching children from challenging environments, and supporting teachers.”
With the board’s reasserted support, Hamlet said he will be reviewing and evaluating all the district’s programs, whether academic, athletic, or disciplinary to see what is working, what is not and whether those that are not just need to be delivered differently or replaced.
With respect to restorative justice practices—reducing or eliminating bias in suspensions, Hamlet said the existing pilot program currently being run in half the district’s schools, and being evaluated by the RAND Corp. hasn’t even yielded a year’s worth of data.
“I haven’t seen the data. All I can say is my experience with restorative justice is through a different model.”
In general, even when a program is popular with the board or the public, Hamlet said, if it isn’t working, and it’s costing the district money, “it’s a hard sell to get rid of it.”
“Everything is about putting the children first,” he said.