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Hamlet prepared to defend claims on resume to Pittsburgh Public Schools

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Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet

The newly hired chief of Pittsburgh Public Schools is scrambling to respond to allegations he “embellished” or misrepresented information on his resume.

Anthony Hamlet, the former Palm Beach County School District administrator chosen to helm Pittsburgh’s 54 urban schools, plans to address the situation at a news conference set for Tuesday afternoon at the district administration building in Oakland.

“You will see fully tomorrow that there are no discrepancies on my resume whatsoever,” Hamlet, 46, told reporters during a visit to Pittsburgh Dilworth Elementary School in East Liberty on Monday.

The nine-member board overseeing Pittsburgh Public Schools hired Hamlet in May to replace Superintendent Linda Lane, who will retire at the end of the month. Hamlet, one of dozens of candidates who applied for the job during a nationwide search, is set to take over as superintendent on July 1 with an annual salary of $210,000.

“He has to work quickly to win the confidence of the community and the school district,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, when he learned of media reports spurring questions about whether Hamlet presented false or exaggerated information during the application process. “It’s not the best way to start a job.”

Concerns over Hamlet’s resume include apparent misstatements about his track record in Palm Beach County schools, The Palm Beach Post reported Friday. One example included a rise in the state grade of John F. Kennedy Middle in Riviera Beach, where he was principal.

“Hamlet did not lift the school’s state grade from an F to a C as he claimed on a resume he submitted to Pittsburgh’s public school system,” The Post reported. “When he became principal in May 2009, it had moved from a D to a C under his predecessor and remained at a C when he left in 2011.”

Other conflicts included Hamlet’s claim that he helped increase the graduation rate at Palm Beach Lakes High School by 13 points and the extent to which he cut suspensions at the same school, The Post said.

In a Sunday statement announcing the news conference, the Pittsburgh Public Schools board said Hamlet was chosen because his vision for public education “seems most aligned with ours.”

“As we move forward, we will hold Dr. Hamlet accountable to the commitments he has made, our shared vision for our schools and the needs of our students,” the board statement said.

Hamlet is serving as a paid consultant for the district until he takes over the top administrator position on July 1. His trip to Dilworth marked the start of a tour in which he will visit Pittsburgh schools and meet with school leaders before his official start. The consulting contract, which will end June 30, pays him $807.70 per diem “for the purpose of transition and planning activities.”

Lane did not serve as a consultant to the district before her tenure because she was deputy superintendent before she became superintendent on Dec. 13, 2010, said district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh.

PPS board member Kevin Carter said the consultant contract was issued because the district cannot offer Hamlet a superintendent’s contract until Lane’s comes to an end. Board President Regina Holley declined to comment.

“He is touring schools, getting prepped, so that when July 1 comes he can hit the ground running with his 90-day plan,” Carter said.

Brian Perkins, a New Haven-based consultant hired to conduct Pittsburgh’s superintendent search for up to $100,000, told The Palm Beach Post that he did not fact-check the finalists’ applications. Carter, who joined the board after Perkins was hired, said he was surprised by that. He said he was under the impression that all the resumes had been fact-checked and vetted before they were presented to board members.

“I know that for me it’s a standard practice and I know for most people in human resources it’s standard practice to fact-check resumes,” said Carter, executive director of Adonai Center for Black Males, Downtown, which creates development programs for at-risk young men.

Perkins did not return requests for comment. He told The Palm Beach Post that he interviewed two school officials who corroborated Hamlet’s “track record of turning around struggling schools” but would not name them.

Palm Beach County School District officials declined to comment.

Since the allegations surfaced, Carter said he has been provided additional information by Hamlet that addressed most discrepancies highlighted in the media.

“He has assured that there is no embellishment, that his numbers are accurate,” Carter said. “I have seen some of those numbers also be proven accurate and so I’m curious to see the entirety of the presentation (Tuesday).”

Domenech, of the American Association of School Administrators, does not have personal knowledge of Hamlet’s resume, but he noted that there can be different ways of measuring similar metrics such as graduation and suspension rates.

“There is no excuse for falsified data, so that’s a different story, but there could be different ways of looking at data,” Domenech said. He said often there isn’t enough time to fact-check every data point on resumes amid a superintendent search, which tend to rely more heavily on community input, reference checks and multiple rounds of interviews.

“It’s more of a random spot check,” said Iain Strachan, director of human resources for Chester County Intermediate Unit, which conducts superintendent searches statewide, including for North Allegheny and Peters Township school districts.

The unit charges $10,000 to $20,000 on searches that can span anywhere from three months to a year, depending on the board’s timeline. Its vetting process includes three rounds of interviews, several types of focus groups and two weeks of checking up to 40 references.

PPS began its superintendent search in January with a series of community forums.

Madasyn Czebiniak and Natasha Lindstrom are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Czebiniak at 412-320-7822 or [email protected]. Reach Lindstrom at 412-380-8514 or [email protected].

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