Pittsburgh mayor says he supports search for city schools chief
February 16, 2016 12:49 AM
Mayor Bill Peduto
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mayor Bill Peduto said he fully supports the search process the board of the Pittsburgh Public Schools is using to find the district’s next superintendent.
The mayor made that announcement Monday after he and his staff met with school officials including Pittsburgh board president Regina Holley, outgoing superintendent Linda Lane and Brian K. Perkins, the consultant hired by the school board to guide the search process.
The afternoon meeting in Mr. Peduto’s office lasted a little more than an hour and was characterized by the mayor as “a very, very good discussion.”
“I was concerned at the very beginning and through secondhand reports of the process about the way Dr. Perkins was hired. However, with the explanation of the president of the school board and listening to Dr. Perkins I am reassured,” Mr. Peduto said.
Mr. Perkins’ firm was hired by the Pittsburgh board in November in a 5-4 vote without the district issuing requests for proposals from search firms. Board member Cynthia Falls voted no and outgoing directors Mark Brentley, Sherry Hazuda and Bill Isler abstained.
Mr. Perkins was recommended to the board by Ms. Holley and school director Thomas Sumpter, who met him at a conference for the Council of Urban Boards of Education. He is leading the search to replace Mrs. Lane, who is retiring June 30.
“I think the process [to find a consultant] could have been done in a different manner. But I don’t know if the process could have found the kind of candidate they wanted to find,” the mayor said.
Mr. Perkins is the director of the Urban Education Leadership Program at Columbia University’s Teacher College in New York City, from which he earned a doctorate in education. In addition, he has served two terms as national chairman for the Council of Urban Boards of Education and has performed consulting stints in school districts around the world.
“This is someone who understands the challenges of urban education. It wasn’t just hiring a search firm but it was ‘let’s find someone who really understands what the Pittsburgh Public Schools will need and find the best [superintendent] candidate,” the mayor said.
He said Mr. Perkins and the other school officials explained to him the seven public forums held recently to gather input on what characteristics community stakeholders want to see in a new superintendent. His firm also held a forum with Pittsburgh students to seek their input.
Although there has been some concern voiced that those in the local foundation community have not been asked to be part of the process, Mr. Peduto said: “I know the foundation community was reached out to directly and invited to come to the community forums to give their input.”
He said it was explained to him by Pittsburgh schools officials that no group, other than the student group, was given individual meetings. “It was a conscious decision so that no one felt any group had undue influence,” the mayor said.
He likened the process to one used by the city to find police Chief Cameron McLay. The difference, he said, is that the city used a civic leadership panel to evaluate candidates and narrow the list to 10 finalists.
But he said with the superintendent search, the school board will play that role. “The school board has its group and they are the nine elected people,” Mr. Peduto said.
Mr. Peduto said Monday’s meeting was one in a series of meetings he has held on various issues with school leaders since he took office. He hopes to continue the meetings and has offered “any assistance to get the best person to come to Pittsburgh.”
The call for applications for the superintendent’s job was posed at the end of January.
The Perkins firm is expected to review applications starting March 1 and recommend to the school board a short list of candidates, likely fewer than 10. The board will interview them in March and April and a selection is expected before May 18.
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1590.
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