Pittsburgh schools lose eight top administrators in 2013

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Since the beginning of 2013, eight top central office administrators in Pittsburgh Public Schools have resigned or retired.

The latest departure is Cate Reed, executive director of strategic priorities, who is leading the district's efforts to "envision" its future along with consultants paid by a $2.4 million foundation grant. The school board is expected to vote on her resignation tonight.

Ms. Reed, who is part of the superintendent's "expanded Cabinet," joined the district in 2007 as a participant in the Broad Residency, a two-year educational development program after having previously worked for Teach for America. She said she will be returning to Teach for America to do teacher support and development for six East Coast sites.

"I'd love to keep everybody forever," said district superintendent Linda Lane, whose contract this year was extended through June 30, 2016. "That just isn't how the world works."

Ms. Lane noted, "One of the things, for good or for ill, because our work has been pretty well regarded around other organizations, agencies or companies, a lot of our staff get a lot of offers," she said.

She said some of those who have stayed have had offers and continue to get them. "That's just part of the territory."

She doesn't expect the district's progress to slow.

"One of the things I really appreciated as we've had change in key positions and roles, other people have stepped up. 'I'll take care of this; you take care of that.' We've been committed to keeping progress moving," said Ms. Lane, adding, "I'm not saying this isn't difficult."

Ms. Reed said she believes the district is "on the right track," adding, "This decision is driven largely by the fact that I now have two young children and my new opportunity affords me a greater work-life balance."

Board member Jean Fink said, "It makes for a lot of change, especially when you're in the middle of all the changes in the district."

She added, "Anytime you lose people of the caliber that we've lost, yes, it has an impact, and there's a learning curve for the new people coming on, but we'll get through it. We always do."

Board member Bill Isler said, "Obviously, when you have talent, other people want to recruit."

But he said, "I know we have a lot of very qualified people in the district and people now have the opportunity to do things they might not have done before."

Ms. Reed's departure follows retirements earlier this year of district employees who had top positions in the Lane administration, each with more than 30 years in the district:

• Janis Ripper, chief student services, in January.

• Pete Camarda, chief financial and operations officer, in June.

• Nancy Rocco Kodman, executive director of school performance in June.

• Barbara Rudiak, who had been assistant superintendent of school performance but filled in as interim chief of student services, in June.

In addition, Jeannine French, who was deputy superintendent and had worked for the district for about 16 years, left in July to become superintendent of the Peters Township School District.

In July, the board closed the position of deputy superintendent but opened positions of assistant superintendent of school performance and chief of school performance. They have yet to be filled.

Also in 2013, the board accepted the resignations of two others who joined the district after Mark Roosevelt became superintendent in 2005:

• Paulette Poncelet, who was chief of research and assessment in Pittsburgh and became executive director of educator effectiveness in Chicago Public Schools, in February.

• Lisa Fischetti, who was chief of staff and external affairs and left to become senior communications director at Presbyterian SeniorCare in Oakmont, in March.

Some of the positions have been filled. Ronald Joseph, who joined the district in 2008, was named chief operations officer.

Dara Ware Allen, a former school board member, became assistant superintendent for support services in June.

Some of Ms. Fischetti's duties were divided among other employees. Errika Fearbry Jones, who was a coordinator in the district's office of teacher effectiveness, was promoted to special assistant to the superintendent.

In March 2011, Ms. Lane announced an eight-member management team. Five of them have since left the district, including Mr. Camarda, Ms. Fischetti, Ms. Kodman and Ms. French as well as Derrick Lopez, resigned from being assistant superintendent in 2011 and became president and CEO of the Homewood Children's Village.

The other three on that list remain in their positions: Jerri Lynn Lippert, chief academic officer; Christiana Otuwa, assistant superintendent secondary schools; and Jody Buchheit Spolar, chief human resources officer.

education - neigh_city

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1955 and on Twitter @Eleanor_Chute.


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