The application window for the top Pittsburgh Public Schools position closes Monday. So far, the consultancy said it had received 28 applications to become superintendent.

The company, BWP & Associates, told the board on Thursday that the feedback it had received from the public was “hopeful”. The consultants said respondents highlighted the city’s vast resources and the need to partner closely with outside organizations to improve student outcomes.

In six community forums, including one virtual, the group heard from 150 people. The group reported on Thursday that 1,560 people responded to the online survey. The district serves nearly 21,000 students and employs over 4,000 people.

Survey respondents identified funding, staffing, educational options and programs, and community relations as the top issues facing the district. In focus groups, participants identified key concerns as the inequitable distribution of resources in schools, declining enrollment, and inconsistencies and gaps in special education to meet the unique needs of immigrant populations, homelessness and learning English.

“The issue of management [was] that there was no sense of clear vision, and there seemed to be some sort of disconnect. And a need at the same time to publicize some of the good things happening in your district,” said Kevin Castner of BWP & Associates.

Castner said forum attendees were concerned that the staff wasn’t diverse and didn’t reflect student demographics. There were also concerns that the district did not seek available partnerships with universities, foundations and medical centers in the city.

Survey respondents identified communication, management and collaboration skills as the most important skills they want in the next leader. They also identified the need for experience in strategic planning, multicultural environments, instruction, and experience as a superintendent.

Based on the feedback collected, the firm identified 12 skills and characteristics that the next leader should possess. The firm’s objective is for the final candidates to possess 80% of the qualities identified. These 12 points identified by the firm are:

  • Has a clear leadership vision and is dynamic and inspiring
  • Is an innovator and thinker outside the box
  • Is able to research available partnerships with universities, foundations, medical centers and companies
  • Has the personal know-how to identify and support good staff and will be able to build a strong and supportive team that will collaborate with all segments of the community using data and good judgment to make decisions
  • Demonstrates integrity and has a strong spine, has thick skin and is capable of making tough decisions
  • Has experience in strategic planning in a multicultural environment
  • Has been a teacher with experience teaching a variety of programs such as special education and technology and has been successful in improving student achievement by reducing or eliminating achievement gaps
  • Is strong in community relations, visible, approachable, approachable and culturally sensitive
  • Is caring, transparent, compassionate and is a relationship builder who will foster unity and foster trust
  • Has strong and effective communication skills and the ability to connect with all facets of the community
  • Understand finances and prioritize resources
  • Is politically savvy and has experience in equity politics and is guided by what is best for all students

Critique of the process

Some criticized the input process saying it was rushed and wondering how the comments will be used.

At the board’s monthly public hearing on Monday, Yael Silk, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based Arts Education Collaborative, said that although she participated in a focus group at the Oakland district office , the short duration of the process worried him.

“I came away with little confidence that what we shared would influence the hiring process in any way. So I wanted to share some thoughts in this public forum,” she said Monday. “The next superintendent will need the skills and competencies to address systemic and structural challenges head-on, discuss them transparently with the community, and invite as many partners as necessary with open arms so that we can work together.”

Silk also commented on the resources available in the city and the “meaningful progress” that could be made for students if the next leader gains the trust of outside organizations. She also wants an arts education champion to help meet the needs of diverse learners.

Amie White, of the Pittsburgh-based watchdog group A+ Schools, said the community members consulted by the organization needed a leader with deep community ties.

“The new superintendent needs to take an honest look at the time and resources allocated to supporting the whole child and helping manage this in a way that maximizes impact across the board,” she said. said Monday.

She said that while people may not always be aware of the superintendent’s role and responsibilities, “what is clear is that people are eager to feel a personal connection with the new leader.” She also highlighted the need for accountability for the district’s ongoing issues. She noted that the district manages a larger budget than the city of Pittsburgh.

“There’s no reason you can’t provide a high-quality, supportive educational experience for all children. Yet students continue to fail year after year for many reasons, many of which don’t require throwing money at the problem,” she said. “What it will take is for a leader to invest their time in the proper management of the resources and personnel available to the district and find ways to connect and truly understand families in the district.”

To advance

Board chairman Sala Udin said he wanted the next leader to start before the start of the 2022-23 school year in August.

Wayne Walters, a longtime district administrator and former teacher, has served as acting superintendent since August, when former superintendent Anthony Hamlet left following an investigation that found he broke the law on state ethics. Walters was asked to run the district for a year.

BWP & Associated will spend the month of June screening candidates and checking references. In July, the board will select the finalists and negotiate a contract. By the end of July, the council will introduce a new superintendent to the community. According to the firm, the superintendent will begin no later than October 1.