I am joined in this statement by other former PPS leaders and administrators: Deonne Arrington, Ellen Botkin, Virginia Hill, Scott Gutowski, Darrel Prioleau, Jamilla Rice, and RaeLynne Snyder.
Our students are undoubtedly not well. PPS has some of the lowest test scores, grades and graduation rates in Allegheny County. 58% of ninth graders aren’t reading at grade level. The racial achievement gap persists at 30% across multiple content areas, and gaps are worsening for math and reading scores. Disparities in access to gifted education recently doubled. Across all students, PPS has lost 12% of its enrollment at a time when Pittsburgh has only lost 1% of residents.
Teachers and education watchdog groups are deeply concerned that COVID-19 will only further exacerbate these realities for all families, and especially Black families who were already losing ground.
Enough is enough.
Many great principals, teachers, administrators and staff have also left during the last five years due to the lack of vision, leadership and accountability from the top. The organizational culture at PPS has become toxic under the current leadership. Rather than being inclusive and collaborative, it is now a place that restricts voice; alienates experienced and talented personnel; and refuses to listen to and grapple with a diversity of ideas. Sadly, repeatedly running into this stone wall has caused many passionate educators to seek impact elsewhere. Meanwhile, other great servant leaders remain, serving and suffering in silence as they wait for new leadership and a school board willing to put kids above politics — one that is willing to make the right decision today on firing after making the wrong decision on hiring five years ago.
Many in our city are waiting for a sensational story to call for leadership changes in PPS, while residents quietly leave the district for better opportunities. They seek some egregious act of misspending, conflict of interest, or professional misrepresentation — all of which have occurred already — as if the day-to-day injustice against our children that produces record-low student outcomes is not serious, long-lasting, or damaging enough. Do we not see that the theft of a generation of learning from our children is the most harmful crime? Great schools make great cities. In an age of racial reckoning, apathy toward our region’s largest majority-Black district is not the answer.
Our school leaders, our teachers, our families, and most importantly, our children deserve excellence from the top. And because many of our board members haven’t had the vision or courage to make the changes needed, it’s time for new leadership. This makes voters’ decision for school board on May 18 perhaps the most important of all. This Tuesday, we must choose that our children deserve better.