Home > PUM One on One: Angela Allie, PPS Executive Director of Equity

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PUM One on One: Angela Allie, PPS Executive Director of Equity
Prior to joining  the District in 2016, Ms. Allie spent five years as  Principal at Propel Schools’ Andrew Street High School, where she worked closely with teachers to drive student performance and increase parent participation. An advisor for Project HOPE, which helps develop African American male students, she is a past recipient of the Equity Leadership Recognition Award from the Summit for Courageous Conversation and was an inaugural student fellow for the Duquesne Center for Educational Leadership and Social Justice. Allie received her master’s degree in teaching from Hampton University and is completing her pre-doctoral certificate in school leadership at the University of Pittsburgh.  Ms. Allie began her career a an English teacher Pittsburgh Oliver High School, where she later became the English Department Chair. In this role she collaborated with teachers and administrators in analyzing best practices and individual student data to implement culturally relevant instructional strategies to promote student achievement.
PUM: Ms. Allie you joined Pittsburgh Public Schools as the Executive Director of Equity in 2017, as a PPS graduate, how does it feel to return in a leadership role to the district where you started your education?

Allie: It feels like things have come full-circle because my plan was always to return to the community that nurtured me as a learner and as a teacher. I’m proud to have had the fully integrated art and music experiences of Manchester Elementary, the blending of diverse communities and cultural groups at Frick International Studies Academy, and the pride of being a Schenley Spartan—from competing in track championships to exploring my racial identity through the study of Richard Wright and even hip-hop. I recall the joy of passing on African American literary traditions to my students at Oliver High School and being part of a teacher community that behaved as family. I carry all of those Black learner experiences with me and continue to see myself in the faces of PPS children, whose brilliance inspires me to keep advocating for their interests. I am indebted to the Pittsburgh community and owe it to the students and families to reach back and share the opportunities I was afforded so they can carry on our efforts and do even greater things.

PUM: In your role as the Executive Director of Equity what exactly is your specific focus and since your start date what have you primarily been working on?

Allie: My specific focus is on monitoring the Agreement between the District and PA Human Relations Commission that resulted from the 1992 racial discrimination complaint by the Advocates for African American Students. I monitor and advise the District’s progress in implementing racially equitable policies, programming and practices. I am currently working on a plan for culturally responsive education that would support teachers in operationalizing equity at the classroom level. I don’t want people to only imagine a classroom of empowered, affirmed, curious and passionate agents of change; I want them to bring it to fruition!  

PUM: You are a Pittsburgh native and formerly taught English at Oliver High School in the North Side and also served as a principal of Propel’s Andrew Street High School in Munhall.  How did this experience help you with your current position?

Allie: Both experiences taught me that every bit of brilliance in our children, if tapped, can transform education. I learned that by creating culturally responsive spaces for all students, regardless of their backgrounds, it’s entirely possible for them to thrive. As a high school English teacher in a predominately Black school, I enriched the curriculum by integrating literature from the African American Literature courses I took at Hampton University and connected them to students’ cultures, lived experiences and present-day realities. I found that as long as they saw themselves reflected in the learning material and were believed to be intelligent, they could access collegiate level content. As a principal of a predominately Black school, I learned the importance of developing staff to reflect on their own racial identities and biases and to engage students as children first, worthy of their hearts. These experiences keep me grounded in student-centricity. In everything I do, I think of the students first and I assume their greatness.


PUM: You are charged with helping to eliminating racial disparities within the district, how do you tackle this issue?

Allie: As a system. One cannot tackle institutionalized racism as an individual. It requires systemic change by transforming the ways we think and behave and in the policies and procedures we adopt. Racial disparities are a predictable outcome of a racially stratified society, so the work begins with building in others a critical awareness of the root causes of racial disparities and establishing the will, sense of efficacy, and moral imperative to do something about it. We must always consider how each decision we make as educational leaders can perpetuate inequality because it functions from within a narrow, Eurocentric frame of understanding people. Instead, we should use as our lens the belief that all cultural identities and manners of learning and expression are equally valuable. The bottom line is that education has got to stop being an assimilation project where Black and Brown communities are viewed as inherently flawed and in need of our repair. If we shift the ways we view historically marginalized people, we can shift the way we treat them. The onus of the shift is on us. Then we must have the resources and support to provide all children with worthwhile learning that demands excellence in academics and character, affirms their racial and cultural identities, and fosters the critical consciousness to advocate for themselves and their communities—because we need them to advance this society toward collective justice.

PUM: Can you bring us up to speed on the key milestones in place since the office was created in 1992 following a complaint from Advocates for African American Students against the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education. The complaint alleged the district had, “unlawfully discriminated against its African American students with respect to suspensions and discipline, distribution of class grades, exclusion from certain special programs and by virtue of the existence of a large, racially identifiable academic achievement gap between African American and white students in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.”

Allie: Even though the complaint was filed in 1992, the initial Agreement was not reached until 2006. The establishment of the Office began in 2012 with the hiring of an Executive Director and continued with additional staffing to support the key equity initiatives of equity training and coaching and African American student mentoring. Since the conception of the We Promise African American male mentoring program, the number of African American males who are eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise increased from 18% to 36%. In December of 2017, the Board approved revisions to the District’s Suspension and Expulsion Policy that bans the use of out of school suspension of students enrolled in grades below 3rd grade for non-violent, minor disciplinary infractions. In the spring of 2018, African American and continental African females began receiving mentoring and support through the Promise of Sisterhood program at a cohort of schools. In the fall of 2018, the Board adopted a revised Equity and Excellence in Education Policy. The District has also begun implementing an Equitable Access Model for Gifted Education that includes universal screening for all 2nd-grade students to increase identification of African American students who might otherwise not be recommended for gifted evaluation. Much of these advancements are due, in part, to the Equity Advisory Panel who have been advocating for nearly thirty years.  

PUM: We are celebrating Black History Month, can you share with us someone in history who has influenced you to take on a leadership role?

Allie: I never miss an opportunity to celebrate my parents, Charles and Jackie Allie, my inspiration to do equity work with integrity and from an unapologetic, liberated stance. Both are retired PPS educators who realized the value of schooling and also the true education of self-knowledge and concern for my community. They surrounded me with the wisdom of Black educators and caregivers—Jimmy Joe and Betty Robinson, Dawud Akbar, Sr., and the 100 Black Men of Western PA (to name a few) to ensure I would see myself as a leader. They understood that I needed to deeply love myself, my skin, my heritage and my community in order to realize and share my gifts. They taught me my gifts are ever-flowing and that excellence is my birthright, my cultural inheritance. They empowered me to question, with critical certainty, any pretense that to be Black and a woman mean anything less than remarkable.



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