No way to choose a new PPS chief

No way to choose a new PPS chief

Pittsburgh Public Schools officials keep insisting that the district’s by-word in finding a new superintendent is “transparency.” Yet it continues to pay lip-service to the concept.

To wit, Solicitor Ira Weiss says the district has narrowed its search for a consultant to help chose a new schools chief to two finalists. But the public has not been afforded any specifics.

In fact, the public won’t know who’s been chosen – or, we can only presume, at what cost — until today (March 23), when the school board is expected to sign, seal and deliver a contract to the winning bidder.

The Post-Gazette reports that the school board said it would “choose a firm based on responsiveness to criteria for selection, terms and conditions contained in its request for proposals (RFP). The criteria (were) not made public.”

But given the debacle that was the selection of departed Superintendent Anthony Hamlet – a padded resume, a plagiarized educational mission statement and, in the end, ethics questions that led to his resignation – district residents clearly should have been made privy to the finalists (if not all those firms who responded to the requests for proposal) for review.

Transparency demanded it. But the board will not even release its criteria for selection. Talk about slapping the public that keeps paying exorbitant taxes for lousy results.

And, as noted previously, the school board won’t even make public the names of the pool of candidates being considered until the new superintendent is chosen.

That’s reportedly “out of respect for the individuals applying for the position.”

But what about respecting the public and what’s supposed to be a transparent public process?

Indeed, the duly elected school board is charged with making a final choice. But the public has every right – some would argue a sacred responsibility – to inform and guide the board by being able to offer their own due diligence to the process and on the superintendent candidates.

But the public and a fully public process appears to bother the Pittsburgh Public Schools board. It surely must be subscribing to the philosophy that, as Voltaire put it (in 1738). “The public is a ferocious beast: one must either chain it up or flee from it.”

Either way, it’s no way to run the search process for the new leader of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (