More PPS superintendent search questions

More PPS superintendent search questions

The Pittsburgh Public Schools board will pay an Illinois consultant up to $55,595 to lead the search for a new district superintendent. But the board never spoke to any of the other districts where the consultant worked to discern how the consultant performed.

The board hired BWP & Associates last week to find a replacement for the departed Anthony Hamlet, who was hired under one cloud and left under another.

BWP, which has conducted searches for scores of districts, was selected from among five companies that responded to the district’s February request for proposals (RFP).

Board president Sala Udin told the Post-Gazette that board members looked at several districts comparable to Pittsburgh where BWP & Associates have placed superintendents but have not yet spoken with leaders in those school systems. He said they plan to do so in the coming weeks, the P-G reported.

Well, wouldn’t it have been prudent to do so before signing a contract?

“Our decision was to first get who we felt was the best proposal that was submitted, and then vet the proposed contract to confirm,” Udin said. “We were operating under a severe time crunch, and so that’s part of the reason also why we decided to do it that way.”

So much for due diligence.

Oh, by the way, who were the four other companies that submitted RFPs? We don’t know.

What were the respective “up-to” bids of the four not chosen? Were they higher? Lower? The same? We don’t know.

Last month, the school board said it would choose a firm based on how it responded to a district-set criteria for selection. What were the criteria? We don’t know.

Nothing has been made public.

And as we’ve noted more than few times now, once BWP and the board have developed a pool of candidates, no names will be divulged — until the chosen superintendent is named.

That’s supposedly “out of respect” for those in the running. So, how does withholding their names at one point then releasing them at another see to their “respect”?

Never mind the total lack of respect for the public.

So much for the “transparency” that the board of education keeps promising.

Oh, but one thing we do know? The latest selection-assisting firm is not the same company that included Anthony Hamlet the last time around.  That firm – Perkins Consulting Group – was contracted for $100,000 seven years ago.

If past searches conducted by BWP are prologue, the company says its candidate-vetting process will include, among other things, “deep Googles” and “background checks, probably with a private investigator.”

Will those findings be made public? For all the candidates? They should be.

And will BWP interview those associated with any prospective candidates to reconcile resume claims with reality? They should be. For that apparently wasn’t done with the Hamlet hire.

“Community input” meetings are supposed to begin in April.

That’s all well and good. But we’re talking about a public school district that derives its operating income from the public. Until Pittsburgh Public Schools pledges full transparency in its superintendent search, that should be considered suspect.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).