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Instilling Hope

As we move into the end of summer and begin preparations for our students’ return to the Pittsburgh Public Schools, I wanted to take a moment to reflect with you on the accomplishments of the past school year and discuss the exciting road ahead.

The 2016-17 academic year was my first as superintendent in Pittsburgh – one that easily could have been overwhelming. But thanks to the support of our excellent teachers, faculty, school based and central office staff, not to mention the parents and our dedicated stakeholders, this first year instead finished as an important launch point for a new era in PPS: one in which students are the front and center of all we do, and teachers are fully supported in a mission of excellence in education.

According to a 2016 Gallup Student Poll, hopeful students are nearly three times as likely as their discouraged peers to achieve excellence. This simple fact leads to complex questions: how can we, as educators, instill a sense of hope? How can we create an ecosystem within a large and diverse urban community that promotes success for all of our children?

To begin this journey, we needed to understand – as thoroughly and objectively as possible – where we currently stood. For this reason, I sought the opinion of the Council of The Great City Schools (CGCS), the only national organization composed of 70 large urban school districts, to assess our system and offer guidance on areas for improvement.

I also personally toured all 54 schools in the district and worked with teachers, administrators, parents, and students – as well as other stakeholders – to solicit ideas for improving our outcomes.

Based on those findings, I’m pleased to report that we were able to implement several meaningful changes in our first year, with more planned in the year ahead. I invite you to read the full strategic plan, Expect Great Things.

Here are some highlights from our first year as well as the coming months:


  • Launching the district-wide Student Advisory Council to ensure that students have a voice at the highest level

  • Creating new codes of conduct that differentiate between the PreK-5 and 6-12 age groups

  • Implementing School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports

  • Implementing restorative practices at all schools

  • Reducing suspensions

  • Partnering with the University of Pittsburgh to guarantee admission and scholarship support for all PPS valedictorians and salutatorians

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