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Pittsburgh school board won't rescind contract with new superintendent

| Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 6:54 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Public Schools Board president Regina Holley addresses the rest of the board in Oakland, Wednesday June 29, 2016. The board voted 7-2 to keep Anthony Hamlet as incoming superintendent.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Members of the public cheer the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board's decision to keep their incoming superintendent in Oakland, Wednesday June 29, 2016. The board voted 7-2 to keep Anthony Hamlet.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Public Schools Board member Sylvia Wilson, right, addresses president Regina Holley,left, and the rest of the board in Oakland, Wednesday June 29, 2016. The board voted 7-2 to keep Anthony Hamlet as incoming superintendent.

The majority of the Pittsburgh Public Schools board reaffirmed its support of the district's next superintendent, with the board president saying an independent investigation found Anthony Hamlet did not intentionally embellish his record or plagiarize a part of his resume.

The board voted 7-2 in a special meeting Wednesday night to allow Hamlet to be sworn in as superintendent Friday.

“We're hopeful the community will come together to welcome him on the job,” said board President Regina Holley, who voted to protect his contract. “The work that he will do is too important to continue debating over Dr. Hamlet's resume.”

Hamlet did not attend Wednesday's meeting, but the district released a statement on his behalf after the vote: “I regret the concern this situation has caused and I apologize to the parents and communities for this unintended distraction. My focus has always been the children.”

The board unanimously approved Hamlet's five-year, $210,000 contract May 18. He has been embroiled in controversy since plagiarism and apparent data embellishments were revealed in his resume, with several education-advocacy and civil rights groups calling on the school board to conduct a new search.

The nine-member board this month authorized an independent inquiry led by former state prosecutor Laurel Brandstetter. The 130-page report will be made public this week, said district Solicitor Ira Weiss.

Board member Terry Kennedy made the motion to rescind Hamlet's contract and said the investigation revealed additional details that made her further question whether he was the right person to lead the school district.

“I wonder if he can be an effective leader in this district given the issues that have been discovered,” she said, but declined to elaborate after the meeting.

She and board member Lynda Wrenn, who seconded her motion, said previously they could not support Hamlet as superintendent if the allegations of plagiarism were true.

Hamlet copied without attribution a line from a 2015 Washington Post editorial on the first page of his resume and referenced increased graduation rates, decreased suspensions and improved school grades during his time as a principal in Palm Beach County, Fla. That data did not match what was reported to the Florida Department of Education.

Hamlet explained that the line in question came from a speech someone had written for him more than a year ago and he was unaware that it came from a Washington Post article, Holley said.

“He has made it clear that he ultimately takes responsibility for what he included in his resume and he regrets the unintended consequences this has caused,” she said.

The report revealed that Hamlet did not intentionally plagiarize or try to mislead the board about his qualifications, Holley said after the meeting.

“He has a massive challenge, but he's willing to work through that challenge,” she said.

While board member Kevin Carter said he found the claims about plagiarism to be “inconclusive,” he was satisfied with Hamlet's explanation and apology about the data discrepancies.

Hamlet had claimed that a school grade improved from an “F” to a “C” while he was a principal in Palm Beach County, Fla. That school rose from a “D” to a “C,” according to the state of Florida.

Hamlet at a press conference several weeks ago said he had used a different method than the state to determine the grades.

“Dr. Hamlet rose to the top of the applicant pool not because the one line that may or may not have been plagiarized from the Washington Post article, but because of all that he has accomplished,” Carter said.

Elizabeth Behrman is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. She can be reached at 412-320-7886 or Lbehrman@tribweb.com.

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