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The Hot Button

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The issue: With just a few weeks left until current Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt departs for a presidency at Antioch College in Ohio, the school board must fill the post. But first it must determine how it will go about recruiting, and choosing from, a pool of candidates. 

How it's been done before: Every superintendent search varies, and board members have a variety of options: looking internally, conducting a nationwide search or hiring a search firm. In the case of Roosevelt, who was appointed in 2005, the board called in former superintendents Helen Faison and Richard Wallace. The pair conducted a national search and considered 33 applicants, narrowing the pool to present to the board. During the search, the board appointed Andrew King, an internal candidate, to act as an interim leader.

"Typically what occurs is there would not be a void in terms of leadership: Either a superintendent is named or an acting superintendent is named," says district Chief of Staff Lisa Fischetti. But for the most part, Fischetti says: "We don't know anything," about what will happen this time.

Where it stands: The board hasn't yet spoken publicly about the search, but members have met in executive session. "We decide what direction we'll go in regardless of what we've done in the past," says board President Theresa Colaizzi. "We're not bound to anything." Four board members joined after Roosevelt's hiring and, Colaizzi says, "They're in learning mode."

Meanwhile, PPS watchdog group A+ Schools conducted an online survey and co-sponsored a Nov. 11 forum on choosing the district's next leader. In a poll at the forum, a majority of the 80-some attendees said they wanted a new superintendent to make addressing racial disparities a priority, and to have a willingness to work with students, parents and communities. A majority at the forum also said they wanted to know the board's process for choosing a new superintendent.

In a separate A+ survey that received 300 responses, the results indicated that "There were very few [respondents] ... that felt as though a new superintendent should just start over or undo everything that has been done." 

How you can sound off: For now, there are no meetings or hearings dedicated solely to the superintendent issue. But residents can sound off on district business at monthly hearings. The next one is scheduled for 7 p.m. Mon., Nov. 22., at the district's administration building on Bellefield Avenue, in Oakland. To speak, call 412-622-3600 beginning one week before and no later than noon on the day of the hearing. A+ Schools is also accepting comment at info@aplusschools.org.

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