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Personnel, board changing at Pittsburgh Public Schools

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 11:51 p.m.
Pittsburgh Public Schools board member Jean Fink Monday, December 3, 2012 in Oakland. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Public Schools board member Floyd 'Skip' McCrea Monday, December 3, 2012 in Oakland. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
JASMINE GEHRIS
Carey Harris is the executive director of A+ Schools. (Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review)
Philip G. Pavely
Pittsburgh Public Schools board memberTheresa Colaizzi. Photo taken December 1, 2008. (Philip G. Pavely/Tribune-Review) PGP PghSkuls 02 2 (Goes w/ Zlatos story)

At least three Pittsburgh Public Schools board members will not seek re-election this year, creating the greatest turnover on the board since 1999, as the district faces continuing academic and financial hurdles.

Key administrators are leaving as well, taking other jobs or retiring.

The stakes are high during this change: A $30 million deficit looms in 2014, and the district is trying to boost enrollment and student achievement, and eliminate racial disparities.

“We've got some big stuff we're trying to get done,” said Superintendent Linda Lane, whose contract expires in January. “How you do that while experiencing a transition is where my head and heart has to be right now.”

Floyd “Skip” McCrea, Jean Fink and Theresa Colaizzi confirmed they will leave the board.

Chief financial officer Peter Camarda will retire June 29; Jan Ripper, chief of student and support services, retired Feb. 1; Paulette Poncelet, chief of research, assessment and accountability, leaves Feb 26; and chief of staff Lisa Fischetti is taking a job with a health system, Lane said.

Two school directors are up for re-election: board President Sharene Shealey, who said she will announce her decision on a re-election bid March 12, the last day to get on the ballot, and Thomas Sumpter, who could not be reached.

“It is certainly possible that (turnover) could change the direction of the school district,” said Carey Harris, executive director of the watchdog group A+ Schools.

Voters first elected Fink, a former board president, in 1976 and she has served since except for a four-year break.

Colaizzi, another ex-president, and McCrea each is marking 12 years on the board.

“I just think it's time for someone else to carry that torch,” Colaizzi said.

McCrea, who retired about a year ago from the city's Fire Bureau, said he wants to go fishing.

“I'm tired,” said Fink, 68, who joined the board at age 32.

Robert Strauss, professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said the turnover may be healthy.

“I can imagine if there's a new majority on the board, there's a whole bunch of issues that will be addressed. That would include matters such as textbooks, curriculum, the alignment of testing and curriculum, and also the integrity of the testing process,” said Strauss, who has researched the district.

The state ordered Pittsburgh to develop a plan to improve test security after investigating suspicious math and reading standardized test scores in 48 districts.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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