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PUM One on One: Anthony Anderson, deputy superintendent of school support and accountability with the Pittsburgh Public Schools


Anthony Anderson is deputy superintendent of school support and accountability with the Pittsburgh Public Schools. He comes to Pittsburgh from Duval County, Fla., where he was a regional superintendent for 16 middle schools. Anderson previously worked with Pittsburgh Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet in the Palm Beach County schools. In Pittsburgh, Anderson will supervise the executive director of the Program for Students with Exceptionalities, the chief of school performance and the chief academic officer. He has a bachelor’s degree from Nova Southeastern University and a master’s degree in education from Florida Atlantic University.


PUM: Mr. Anderson as deputy superintendent of school support and accountability tell us more about the various aspects and goals of this position and how you are incorporating your expertise to get results. 


Mr. Anderson: As I move through my tenure as the Deputy Superintendent, my primary goal is to increase student achievement. In my past experiences, especially with Florida's diverse population, I have faced many challenges of academic improvement for all students. These experiences provided me with the opportunity to disaggregate information using multiple data points. These data points were integral in finding the root cause of the low performance of the students. Our present Pittsburgh Public School data shows that we have a significant issue with racial disparity. To transform the Pittsburgh Public School District, we will have to use a data-driven decision-making protocol.


PUM: Prior to coming to Pittsburgh Public Schools, you served as the region superintendent for 16 middle schools in Duval County, based in Jacksonville, one of the largest urban school districts in Florida. In this position, you led principals in the implementation of district-wide student achievement and development goals for the schools. Moving to Pittsburgh and diving into the work at PPS, is there any specific game plan for the district as it relates to enhancing achievement and development goals? 

Mr. Anderson: Our collective commitment to Pittsburgh Public School students is that we will prepare them for college, career, and life. Enhancing achievement is a never-ending process due to the competitive nature of our global economy. We are no longer preparing students for the jobs of today. We must continue to make the academic adjustments that provide students with the foundational skills of critical thinking and problem solving, so they graduate prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. We have aggressively replaced our curriculum resources to be more standards-aligned, increased opportunities for more students to have access to advanced coursework, and we are exploring more opportunities for our students to explore career and technical education courses at earlier grades. 


PUM: The last position you held, where you worked directly with students, was in 2014 as principal of Glades Central High School in Palm Beach County, one of Florida's most at-risk schools. Often we hear about what needs to be done in the district to help at-risk schools, tell us more about managing this process.

Mr. Anderson:  Moving any school is about the collective efficacy of its staff; believing that they can be successful and that all the students can learn. A change in beliefs is the foundation for success. If you research any school or corporation that has changed and become successful, it is the change in the attitude towards the goal. I also took that lesson to Duval where we as a team moved one of the lowest middle schools in the state 110 points. This school has maintained their status and continues to grow after one of the worst starts I have been around. I am most proud of the school's ability sustain their change. Many schools can be one hit wonders, but sustainability is true transformation.



PUM: With 27 years of experience in public education, you began your career as a paraprofessional, assisting classroom teachers.  You attribute your success to staying connected with students to your work at every level. Why is this important? 

Mr. Anderson: This is what it is all about - serving the primary customer, which is our students. We need to ensure that our decisions are student-centered and address the needs of all of our students. We must continue to work to build genuine relationships with all the students we serve. Our district is 52% students of color, and we need to do a better job of meeting the needs of that population, and those needs are simple. Just believe in their ability to achieve and continue to have high expectations.  I also have selfish reasons as to why I want to stay connected with the students. The students keep me enthusiastic about the work; they pour into me without even knowing it.


PUM: Since you started your position with PPS, what sort of challenges have you encountered and how are you working with PPS superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet's team to help change school culture?

Mr. Anderson:  In our present state, we will never move the needle in our district unless we address the issue of our underrepresented population. Dr. Hamlet has made it clear that we will provide equitable opportunity for all students. He has been transparent in this process by including multiple stakeholders in the development of the Strategic Plan that provides a roadmap to move our district forward. We must address the major disparity issues in our district. Our students of color are not excelling at the rate of their white counterparts. This is not a new issue across the nation, but I feel Pittsburgh has the opportunity to make a difference and be at the forefront of transforming education.


PUM: You also have a huge responsibility of traveling between school visits and learning the intricate workings of the district's 54 schools, all of the schools are so unique and diverse, how do you reel in their specific needs? 

Mr. Anderson: When we look at our schools, you are correct about the individual needs of each one of them. Although their needs are so different, they all share a common responsibility, and that is to educate our children to the highest standards. It is each schools responsibility to follow the state and district guidelines, but be innovative and steadfast about providing every student in every school an opportunity to be college, career, and life-ready.


PUM: As the second in command in the state's second-largest school district, what do you enjoy most about your career now? 

Mr. Anderson: I enjoy the challenge of transforming schools and being a part of great things to come. I also have one of the best teams a person could ask for in my office. You mentioned it in your earlier question; getting into schools and meeting the children. I love the Pre-K students coming into our system with such enthusiasm for learning. Our district Pre-K programs are proof that the achievement gap can be addressed. Please take some time to speak with the great teachers and leaders in that program. Then up to our seniors with all their excitement about entering the world as young adults.


PUM: As it relates to teachers, in addition to school visits, you are interested in having your staff to be trained on the use of structures and systems that promote positive school-wide cultures. How are you helping to implement positive teacher and learning environments in all schools? 

Mr. Anderson: As we move through the year, we are focusing our efforts on establishing a collaborative culture throughout the district. We have been providing our building leaders with tools such as Professional Learning Communities(PLC's) which allow teachers the time to collaborate around student data to make academic decisions to increase student outcomes. We have also infused PBIS to provide the behavioral foundation in all of our schools throughout the district to create a more inclusive culture that allows students to feel a part of a safe learning environment. Restorative Practices enable students to work collaboratively with staff and other students on issues or concerns in their schools. These are just a few of the practices being used on our campuses to assist with building a learning environment that will meet the needs of all students. 


PUM: From Florida to Pittsburgh, you have so far the opportunity to experience the Steelers and the Snow, how's that going for you? 

Mr. Anderson: The weather is not an issue for me because of my military background. I love the snow when it is fresh, after that I can do without it. As far as the Steelers; I must say they are now my second team. I wouldn't lie and say that they have replaced my "Miami Dolphins." Think about this if Steeler fans moved to Florida they wouldn't stop being a Steeler fan. I also have been enjoying the city of Pittsburgh; I can tour all of the ethnic-founded neighborhoods and relish in the wonderful food options available to me. I do hate the potholes… I have ruined three tires already.


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