The ‘Udin Era’ at Pittsburgh Public Schools

The ‘Udin Era’ at Pittsburgh Public Schools

Sala Udin will not have any more power than his fellow members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) Board of Education in his newly elected role as board president for 2022.

But he will have a taller bully pulpit from which to continue what sometimes has been his almost singular drive to shake up the status woe of the moribund school district.

And in this day and age of what we’ll call “shrinking violetism” when it comes to school boards setting the stage for and then demanding academic rigor, the higher the bully pulpit the better for those willing to call out repetition of the same tried and failed educratic buncombe.

Udin, who is beginning his second four-year term on the board, knows the lay of the land all too well. It is a minefield of administrative dysfunction that has produced five-year plan after five-year plan that has resulted in higher-than-ever per-pupil spending, still-diminishing academic results, horrid disciplinary problems and student flight.

This dysfunctional disservice has been especially acute for black students, many of whom feel they have nowhere else to go. Talk about an affirmation of the dire need for real, student-based school choice.

To his credit, Udin has pulled no punches in his disdain for the district’s continuing failures. In his new role, he must be prepared to punch harder, metaphorically speaking.

And there will be no better situation in which to begin with than in the hiring of a new superintendent to replace Anthony Hamlet, who left this year under a most serious and multi-layered ethics cloud.

But that Hamlet was even hired in the first place by a prior board iteration remains astounding considering he plagiarized his “educational philosophy” from a newspaper editorial and his embellishment of prior “accomplishments.”

Simply put, real due diligence must be employed when considering Pittsburgh Public Schools’ next superintendent. There can be no excuses for rationalizing any misrepresentations and certainly not plagiarism

No, Sala Udin as PPS board president is no turnkey solution for all that ails the district. But Udin’s past being prologue, it can be the key to elevating a brutally frank and honest public accounting and discussion that serves as a catalyst for bona fide operational and educational reforms.

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