Transparency takes a hit in PPS super search

Transparency takes a hit in PPS super search

Pittsburgh Public Schools has begun its search for a new superintendent. But don’t count on full transparency being part of that process.

The school board is looking to replace the departed Anthony Hamlet, whose tenure was an ethical mess with woefully little to show in academic performance. In fact, that performance dropped in several key metrics.

As we’ve noted repeatedly, Pittsburgh Public Schools spends an extraordinarily high amount per pupil for extraordinarily low academic results. The student census has tanked. So, too, has the disciplinary process. No wonder violence in the schools has soared. And the best way to describe the district physical plant is “bloated.”

The Post-Gazette reported that the board last week sent requests for proposals (RFPs) to a “select group of consultants to help identify” prospective superintendent candidates. The deadline for those “substantially detailed proposals” is March 9. The board says it will hire the chosen firm on March 23.

The P-G says “The Council of Great City Schools, a coalition of 75 of the largest urban public school districts in the country, assisted the board by recommending a short list of search firms to invite their participation in the RFP process.”

OK, so, who are these “pre-selected” firms? We don’t know. But the public should and must know — particularly in light of the failure to properly vet Hamlet.

You’ll recall that Hamlet’s resume was padded. And his educational philosophy was plagiarized from a newspaper commentary. Singularly and together, those infractions should have raised red flags that sent Hamlet’s consideration to the “No Thanks File.”

Is the same firm that failed in vetting Hamlet in the running to search for his replacement? That, obviously, would be a slap to the public.

And shouldn’t that same public be able to do its own research on those sent RFPs?

And shouldn’t those returned RFPs be available for the public’s scrutiny, both for substance and cost?

After the Hamlet fiasco, you’re darn tootin’ they should be.

After all, said board President Sala Udin, “The decision to conduct a national search provides the opportunity for us — as a school community — to determine the ideal type of leadership we need to guide our district into the future.”

Yet, as WESA Radio reports, Udin also says specific details about community input will be announced only after the search firm is hired.

And even the candidate pool will remain hush-hush until the new superintended is picked – supposedly out of respect for those applying for the position.

Really? What about respecting the public that’s footing the bill?

This isn’t “transparency,” this is opaqueness. And it’s simply not acceptable.

Yet, the school board insists that it is dedicated to being “steadfast” in being “transparent” in its search for a new leader.

Sorry, but it’s off to a lousy start.

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