Clairton hires its first Black female superintendent of schools

TAMARA ALLEN-THOMAS, second from right, with her family. She was appointed the next Clairton Schools superintendent.

 

Dr. Tamara Allen-Thomas excited to elevate schools to new heights

 

by Genea L. Webb, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Becoming the first Black female superintendent of the Clairton City School District isn’t something that Dr. Tamara Allen-Thomas takes lightly.

“Being first is in my blood. I was the first to go to college and was the first Black Miss Edinboro,” Dr. Allen-Thomas told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview, just days after her historic achievement. “Many members of my family have been firsts. My aunt had a community center named in her honor and my grandfather was the first ward chair. There are different things that were firsts in our family.”

And now, Dr. Allen-Thomas is ready to take on the often-daunting role of superintendent.

“I recognize as a superintendent that you have to make some decisions that may not be popular, but you have to do what’s right for kids, and you keep the data in front of you. What I’ve done and will continue to do in this position is to make sure the data drives me and that I still hear the people’s voices. I think it’s important to hear from the people that it’s going to impact as well as looking at the data that supports your decision-making. I believe it’s harder to argue and dispute and be upset about what the data says and when you’re doing what’s right for kids, I believe that’s all of our hearts’ desire to make sure that our kids are healthy and whole so how do you argue with me with that?”

At its Feb. 23 legislative meeting, the Clairton City School Board of Directors appointed Dr. Allen-Thomas as superintendent of schools in a unanimous vote. It’s a five-year term, effective July 1. She was chosen from a field of 21 applicants. Dr. Allen-Thomas will take over for Dr. Ginny Hunt, who has led the district since 2013 and is retiring.

“We are excited to have Dr. Allen-Thomas join us,” Clairton School Board President Roger Tachoir said in a statement. “We are looking forward to a smooth transition in continuing with the many initiatives and relationships started by our retiring superintendent. It is with great pleasure that that I welcome Dr. Tamara Allen-Thomas as the newest member of our Clairton Bears family.”

The Clairton City School District includes Clairton Elementary School, Cyber School, and Clairton Middle/High School.

TAMARA ALLEN-THOMAS, second from left, was appointed the next superintendent for Clairton City Schools.

Dr. Allen-Thomas is currently the principal/chief academic officer at Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship. She has held that role since 2012. She is responsible for the academic leadership, programming, compliance, personnel and employee professional growth. She previously served at Pittsburgh Public Schools as an instructional leader, co-principal and curriculum supervisor. The married mother of two is a graduate of Edinboro University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She then went on to earn her Master of Science from Carnegie Mellon University and her doctorate in education from Point Park University. She grew up in East Liberty and Los Angeles, Calif. She currently resides in Churchill.               

“I am driven by my faith, and I go where I’m moved to go,” Dr. Allen-Thomas told the Courier. “When this position was made known to me, I had to pause. I currently enjoy what I do and where I’m at, but what I learned on my journey through education is that when I begin to get comfortable—and comfortable means to me that we have turned some wrongs right, we have made some improvements, it doesn’t mean we’ve made it. It means we have now positioned the ship to now be able to sail without sinking. So now it’s like, what other ships can I go and assist so they can continue to sail and see the world as well. I feel like this is an opportunity to be able to assist the community of Clairton to make sure that their students are being the leaders of today. I need them to know they can lead now. We also have to make sure our staff is well so that our students can be well.”

Clairton, as a community and as a school district, has seen its ups and downs. Dr. Allen-Thomas told the Courier she’s committed to elevating the school district to new heights.

“We need a marketing plan that highlights the positive things that the district is already doing and provide additional things that we can do to make sure our students are celebrated,” she said. “We have Tyler Boyd (Clairton High School graduate who plays for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals) who came out of that. We want to highlight people who are already making moves. I believe that I am on this earth to build leaders. Part of building leaders is being able to make sure your voice is heard. When you’re talking about coming from a place that may seem like there’s no way out or you feel like you can’t learn, you have to be able to have a voice and say what it is you need. We have to realize that learning is relevant to what our students are experiencing in life. We have to build relationships through concepts that students can relate to. When you reach kids where they are, you are able to bring them in.”

 

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