Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, issued the following statement regarding state budget negotiations in the House:
“We have thousands of families struggling to find their financial footing because of this raging pandemic that has closed or limited their abilities to feed themselves and their families. Thousands of our students don’t have the ability to access school instruction because of limited access to technology and reliable internet service. We have hundreds of our small businesses and venues still waiting for some financial relief.
“To that end, we have $1.3 in federal dollars for the sole purpose of offering some short-term financial relief. Instead, Harrisburg is holding the money so that it can be used toward a sham of a budget.
“It's yet another case of those in the state Capitol who fail to understand or care about what’s best for our residents and are only thinking of their own interests. What happened to the belief that, during times of difficulty, we work together to come up with ideas and solutions and collaborate? Instead, there’s a push toward actions that are short-sighted and short-termed. That is what will happen if we continue forward with short-sighted and irresponsible budgeting.
“What about closing some of our corporate tax loopholes, or consider emerging industries, such as our cannabis industry, to resolve the state’s $3 billion deficit? There have been many ideas, proposals and solutions shared to help mitigate this budget challenge, but none of these is being considered in any real way. It’s because those in power only want what they want, and far too often, members of our caucus are more than willing to accommodate them for fear of lost crumbs from the all-powerful majority’s table. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired of this merry-go-round process.
“When will we have a real budget that resolves our long-term issues? To ultimately decide to do nothing and take the road of least resistance at a time such as now is a total failure of leadership and shouldn’t be allowed to continue. Pennsylvanians deserve better, and we, as a legislative body, must do better.”
A federal district court judge today dismissed a lawsuit brought by President Trump’s campaign for reelection against Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and seven counties, dealing a crippling blow to the president’s attempts to undermine the election’s expected results in the commonwealth. In an amended version of the lawsuit filed on November 15, the Trump campaign asked the court to order the Department of State to not certify its presidential election results because some counties contacted and permitted voters to fix mistakes with their mail ballot declarations while others did not.
Judge Matthew Brann rejected these arguments, saying, “(T)his Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations...unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state.”
Intervenors in the case hailed the ruling as a victory for democracy and for the state’s voters. Last week, Judge Brann granted intervention by Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause Pennsylvania, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, and eight impacted voters, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP. That ruling allowed the lawyers for the organizations and voters to participate as parties in the lawsuit.
“This is a victory for voters. All voters deserve to have their voices heard and their ballots counted,” said Suzanne Almeida, elections advisor for Common Cause Pennsylvania. “This lawsuit was a blatant attempt to change the rules after the election was over and silence the voices of the people. Voters in Pennsylvania and around the country have made a clear decision. It’s time for the results of this election to be accepted and the will of the people honored.”
Along with Boockvar, the Trump campaign also sued the boards of elections of Philadelphia, Allegheny, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, and Centre counties.
“This case sought to invalidate the votes of our clients and, at its most extreme, the votes of nearly seven million Pennsylvanians,” said Mimi McKenzie, legal director of the Public Interest Law Center. “We hope this decision ends the farce that this campaign has put Pennsylvania voters through these last few weeks. We are pleased that truth and democracy has prevailed over wild conspiracy theories, false claims, and unfounded fraud charges.”
“Pennsylvania voters have spoken in greater numbers than ever before, and today’s decision confirms the sanctity of the vote,” said Terrie Griffin, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. “It is time to move past the desperate accusations, stop the perpetuation of false claims, and accept the choices of Pennsylvania voters.”
Despite numerous filings in this and several other cases, the Trump campaign has yet to produce evidence of misconduct that impacted actual votes or the results of the election. In their own filing asking the court to dismiss the case, the intervenors noted that the law required the Trump campaign to bring its objections over process before the election, which was a position that the Trump campaign itself held in 2016 in response to a lawsuit brought by Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
“This ruling rejects the Trump campaign’s baseless attacks on the election results in Pennsylvania. It is past time for the campaign to stop its shenanigans and move on. The voters have spoken,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
“This should put the nail in the coffin on any further attempts by President Trump to use the federal courts to rewrite the outcome of the 2020 election,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The court could not be any clearer in underscoring the baseless and meritless nature of the claims presented in this case. Voters across the commonwealth overcame tremendous obstacles to register their voice, and this suit sought to disenfranchise them without a scintilla of evidence.”
While the Trump campaign has the option to appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, election-related deadlines loom, including Monday’s deadline for counties to certify their results with the Department of State.
“The court saw through the attempts by President Trump and his enablers in Washington and Harrisburg to interfere with democracy,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The people of Pennsylvania have had their say, and it is time to put this election behind us.”
More information about this case, including a copy of today’s ruling, is available at aclupa.org/trumpvboockvar.
Mayor William Peduto, City Councilman Daniel Lavelle and The Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) — the commercial redeveloper of the $1 billion Lower Hill mixed-use district — announces a series of local partnerships with Hill District residents to bolster project management, design expertise and community reinvestment. BPG and local partners the Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed plans to break ground on the 26-story FNB Financial Center in early 2021.
Additionally, BPG announced the opening of a new Pittsburgh office at the JLL Center at Tower Two-Sixty on Forbes Avenue, partnering with JLL, its commercial broker for the Lower Hill redevelopment.
The Lower Hill development team has been expanded to include four Hill District residents, intended to catalyze BPG’s neighborhood revitalization program in alignment with the Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan (CCIP) that was established in 2014 to guide equitable development on the Lower Hill:
Bomani Howze – Vice President for The Buccini/Pollin Group. Hill District-based developer Bomani Howze has joined BPG as a Vice President with development management responsibilities in the Pittsburgh region, where BPG also owns the People’s Center office complex on the North Shore. Mr. Howze’s areas of focus will be to finalize planning approvals, further define commercial programming and expand the firm’s community engagement platform. Mr. Howze noted: “BPG has been a trailblazer in delivering projects of significant complexity and impact in Baltimore, Washington, Wilmington and other cities with neighborhoods pursuing equitable development similar to Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill District. I’m incredibly excited to join forces with BPG, the Penguins and our ex tensive, public-private partner network to bring long-promised opportunities to the Hill and to realize the possibilities of reinvestment in my community.” BPG’s Managing Partner Chris Buccini said: “We are delighted to solidify our presence in Pittsburgh by partnering with local developer and community builder Bomani Howze, establishing our development office above Market Square, and expanding our local team. Together, we will work to realize the tremendous potential for this special location.”
Dorin Dickerson – Director of Project Development for Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pittsburgh Penguins have hired Dorin Dickerson, currently the Community Outreach Manager for Mascaro Construction Company, to serve as Director of Project Development for the Penguins on the Lower Hill development. Mr. Dickerson will coordinate closely with Mr. Howze and focus his efforts on project management, workforce development and community engagement.
E. Holdings – M/WBE Consultant. Pittsburgh-based E. Holdings, led by Hill District resident Irv Williams, has been engaged as the M/WBE consultant for the Lower Hill development. In that capacity, E. Holdings will focus on solidifying bridges between the development team and the minority and women-owned business community to enhance the inclusion of local, disadvantaged contractors and service providers in this transformational project.
Dr. Kimberly Ellis – Legacy Consultant. Hill District historian and designer Dr. Kimberly Ellis has been engaged as the legacy consultant for the Lower Hill development. As she has in the adjacent I-579 CAP Park development project which is currently under construction, Dr. Ellis will channel historical context and diverse stakeholder perspectives to ensure that the development provides an inclusive, welcoming public open space – one that restores visual, recreational, commercial and pedestrian connections between the Hill District and the downtown along Wylie Avenue.
Lakeisha Byrd – Design Consultant. Hill District resident and architectural design consultant Lakeisha Byrd has been selected to guide elements of the architectural work on the Lower Hill development. Ms. Byrd will work closely with Gensler, the architect of record for the development, and their landscape architect to enhance the physical and cultural connection between the development and the Hill District neighborhood.
Monaloh Basin Engineers – Site Survey Consultant. Woman-owned, Pittsburgh-based engineering firm Monaloh Basin Engineers will provide a team to conduct a survey of the Lower Hill site’s first commercial phase. The resulting topographical analysis, boundary surveys and subdivision plans will support the broader design initiative of the planned commercial projects and public open space.
AWK Consulting Engineers – Geotechnical Consultant. Turtle Creek–based AWK Consulting Engineers, a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), will perform on-site geotechnical evaluations and design services for the site, documenting foundation requirements for the initial phases of commercial development.
These initial contracting commitments have been released just as the project enters the pre-development home stretch in anticipation of a Q2 2021 groundbreaking. The project’s designer and builder will further enhance this local team as the effort continues to move forward.
"What sets the 28-acre project apart from others is that it will be led by and engages with local Black artists, companies and leaders,” Mayor Peduto said. “By working hand in hand with both community stakeholders and private developers, we are investing in a future that is directly built by its residents. I am proud of the work of our partners and collaborators on this critical work, and especially want to thank URA Executive Director Greg Flisram and Deputy Executive Director Diamonte Walker."
“It cannot be understated how critical these hires are. I have continually stated that this development should be to the explicit economic and social benefit of the African-American and Hill District community. Hiring four African-American firms that both live and are headquartered in the Hill District are monumental steps towards achieving both objectives,” Councilman Lavelle said. “What’s more, the complete set of firms hired will go a tremendous way in ensuring this is an equitable development centered with the concerns and needs of the residents of the Hill District not just in mind, but also in practice. Lastly, I thank the Mayor and development team for recognizing the importance of equitable development and advancing these partnerships.”
“I want to thank the Penguins and BPG for their commitment to the Lower Hill, as this development will have an immediate and positive economic impact on the Hill District neighborhood and create thousands of jobs to help with our recovery out of the pandemic,” said State Rep. Jake Wheatley.
In recent weeks, the largest mixed-use, multi-tenant office project in the City of Pittsburgh completed its financing commitments to advance toward construction, with an infusion of equity from minority-owned Clay Cove Capital, LLC. BPG received preliminary project approvals from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh as well as the Sports and Exhibition Authority in May 2020.
BPG’s Vice President of Development Boris Kaplan observed: “We are complementing the strong team we already have in place with professionals of high caliber, inspiration and in-market credibility. The Lower Hill is going to be a destination comparable to the very best mixed-use projects across the country and we are adding crucial horsepower and diversity of skillsets to the team at a pivotal juncture in the project’s development.”
For information on workforce and MWBE contracting opportunities:
Rendering of the I-579 CAP Park, Lower Hill Open Space and FNB Financial Center.
The University Library System (ULS) at the University of Pittsburgh has acquired the archive of the late playwright and Pittsburgh native son August Wilson, best known for his unprecedented American Century Cycle —ten plays that convey the Black experience in each decade of the 20th century. All ten of the plays have had Broadway productions and two earned Wilson the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Wilson, a master storyteller, honed his craft by walking the streets of his Hill District neighborhood as a young man, observing, and immersing himself in Black street life, listening to old-timers talk about their daily lives. It inspired what would become his plays’ vibrant characters and lyrical language.
The Broadway and film casts of Wilson’s American Century Cycle plays have included Angela Bassett, Chadwick Boseman, Charles S. Dutton, Viola Davis, Laurence Fishburne, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, Delroy Lindo, Phylicia Rashad, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Alfre Woodard, and Denzel Washington. “The Piano Lesson,” “Fences,” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” have all been produced into films.
The ULS has acquired the August Wilson Archive through the help of Wilson’s widow, Constanza Romero, executor of the playwright’s estate.
“This acquisition is about more than bringing August Wilson back home to Pittsburgh,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “This archive deftly puts the experiences of Black Americans beneath an intimate magnifying glass and unpacks themes of injustice and inequity that are just as relevant today as when Wilson’s first play debuted. The University of Pittsburgh is proud to do our part in keeping August Wilson’s brilliance—for those in Pittsburgh and far beyond—alive, and we are deeply grateful to Constanza for entrusting us with this task."
“The origin of August’s connection with the city of Pittsburgh began with his grandmother Zonia Wilson, who in 1932 came north from Spear, North Carolina,” said Romero. “She and her family settled down in the Hill District, which in 1945, the year August was born, was a booming, diverse community.”
Romero says as the young writer experienced and observed racial injustice, the civil rights movement, and the black power movement, he grew to be an activist, a poet and an artist producing political theater to bring consciousness to his community.
“He left Pittsburgh in 1978, but he took The Hill, the three rivers, the streets, the steel mills, the fish sandwich shops, and the cadence of the language he heard in cigar stores and barbershops with him,” she said. “This and more became the cultural richness that the playwright would pour into his ten-play magnum opus, The American Century Cycle, a breathtaking study of the African American struggle for cultural and economic preservation through the twentieth century. The result of this hundred-year quest was and still is a literary and theatrical triumph, as August with each play calls upon the ‘memory of the blood,’ the careful examination of history which illuminates the discovery of the self, therefore the path to the future.”
Kornelia Tancheva, Hillman University Librarian and director of the ULS, calls the August Wilson Archive “the most significant archival collection the University of Pittsburgh has acquired to date.” She says it had been her dream to add the collection to Pitt’s holdings ever since she came to Pittsburgh three years ago.
Tancheva added: “It is an immense asset for researchers at Pitt, as well as nationally and internationally. It presents unprecedented opportunities for engagement for our students and the local community, including the local schools. The August Wilson Archive supports our mission of preserving and making accessible the cultural heritage of the region, the country, and the world, and specifically our focus on underrepresented voices and the cultural production of African American artists.”
Indeed, Wilson called himself a Black nationalist and his American Century Cycle plays reflect his own personal call for social and racial justice. This falls in line with Pitt’s mission to reshape the University to be more diverse, inclusive, and just, all while expanding its reach and impact in promoting social justice.
Gems from the Collection
The August Wilson Archive will reside in a state-of-the-art home in Hillman Library’s renovated Archives & Special Collections. It contains significant physical and digital exhibition space, an expansive reading room, and a large classroom, allowing for hands-on interaction with these and other materials.
Processing of the collection— more than 450 boxes of materials—will commence in early 2021.
The items document a wide array of Wilson’s career and interests from the 1960s to 2010s. Included are scripts and production materials of his American Century Cycle plays, Wilson’s personal library and music collection, artwork, poetry, unpublished work including non-Cycle plays, speeches, essays, and interviews. Materials range from audio recordings, awards and degrees, books, correspondence, newspapers and magazines to notebooks, writing tablets, photographs, posters, production designs, props, scripts, and video recordings.
Wilson’s plays along with poetry, artwork, and other writing;
Pitt Professor of History Laurence Glasco, co-author with Christopher Rawson of “August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in his Life and Plays,” saw some of the materials himself at Romero’s home five years ago. “That the full collection is now in Pittsburgh and available to researchers is the fulfillment of a long-held dream of myself and other Wilson scholars,” he said.
A Natural Fit for the University of Pittsburgh
Pitt is the natural home for the August Wilson Archive because, while he lived there, Wilson was an active part of Pittsburgh’s vibrant Black performing arts community. He and Nick Flournoy, Rob Penny and Chawley P. Williams were part of the Centre Avenue Poets. Wilson and Penny, who eventually became a Pitt professor, cofounded the Black Horizons Theater, which staged plays between 1968 and 1972 that reflected Black consciousness and culture.
Kuntu Repertory Theatre took shape in 1975, with Penny as its playwright-in-residence, continuing the Black Horizons Theater’s legacy. Kuntu’s founder and Pitt Professor of Africana Studies Vernell Lillie staged Wilson’s play Homecoming in 1976, his first play to be produced by a theatre company. Wilson himself directed a Kuntu play in 1977 and, along with Penny, founded the Kuntu Writer’s Workshop. Bob Johnson, another friend and collaborator of Wilson’s, also on the Pitt faculty, directed the premier of Jitney in 1982 for the Allegheny Repertory Theatre. Pitt’s Archives & Special Collections also houses the Kuntu Repertory Theatre Collection and the papers of Vernell Lillie and Bob Johnson.
The archives will significantly augment the Pittsburgh legacy of Wilson’s life and work, already celebrated through the August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC) in Downtown, Pittsburgh and August Wilson House, the playwright’s childhood home on Bedford Avenue in the Hill District.
Tancheva adds, “We are already closely collaborating with the AWAACC to provide materials for their ‘August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape’ permanent exhibit on August Wilson’s life and work, scheduled to open in 2021 — the first ever permanent exhibition dedicated to Wilson. We have already started reaching out to other potential collaborators in Pittsburgh and at the University. This acquisition helps to solidify Pittsburgh’s reputation and significance as the birthplace of one of America’s great writers, and a bedrock of Black performing arts.”
"This exceptional archive will inform and inspire scholars everywhere for decades to come," said University of Pittsburgh Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd. "It is the ultimate testament to August Wilson's enormous contributions to the literary world. Growing up in Pittsburgh's Hill District, the city helped to shape his brilliant creative vision. I find it particularly meaningful, then, to have the collection come home--and we are proud to house it in Hillman Library."
The ULS intends to make the August Wilson Archive available for research, programming, and engagement to local, national, and international audiences. It plans deep and productive collaboration with faculty at Pitt, sharing the collection materials through compelling displays, and working with Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers, one of which is located in the Hill District, to develop community-based programming.
Source: University of Pittsburgh
Mayor William Peduto released the following statement regarding the final report by the Community Taskforce for Police Reform, which he named in June:
“This amazing work by the Taskforce is more than I ever could have hoped for, and I am humbled and thankful by their exhaustive work on the critical need to reimagine police work in Pittsburgh. As the report notes the work by a diverse group of civic leaders — from corporate, religious and philanthropic entities; unions; health care and community-based service organizations; grassroots activism; and the law — brings the breadth of knowledge and experience that was necessary to take this very complicated and important subject to task.
Their independently produced recommendations are noted in the report under the focus areas of Eliminating Racial Disparities; Officer Wellness; Reimagining Policing; Recruitment, Training, Education and Hiring; Relations with Pittsburgh’s Fraternal Order of Police; Transparency and Accountability; Use of Force Changes Needed to Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Policy; and Use of Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets, “Flash-Bang” Devices and Other Less Lethal Methods of Crowd Control.
These recommendations will be our guiding influence as we make changes to police policy and budgeting to restructure police operations to make them more community-driven, safe and supportive for all residents, especially our Black neighbors. With these recommendations we will make real changes to policing, backed up by data and research, to ensure equity, accountability and transparency for all.
I must also thank Pittsburgh City Council for its initial changes to police methods already put into City law this year.
This report is only the latest step toward reform, following work we have already done and assistance we need from state and federal legislators. In June I created the Office of Community Health and Safety to redirect city resources to better meet community needs by housing social services, public health and social work experts who can assist first responders. I also called on Harrisburg to promote several police accountability and transparency reforms, and to make it easier for municipalities to immediately release body-worn camera footage.
I have joined efforts led by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to engage with other city leaders nationwide as we together seek the best practices for reimagine how policing is performed across America, in many ways through the types of changes recommended in the Community Taskforce report.
In sum, the Taskforce report is a model not only for Pittsburgh but the nation, and is a springboard for actions we must continue to take to protect Black lives.”
Source: City of Pittsburgh
October 9, 2020 After much deliberation, Mayor William Peduto today announced his agreement with the City Art Commission finding that the Christopher Columbus statue in Schenley Park be removed, and directed that the statue be displayed in a private location still to be determined.
The Commission unanimously voted September 23 to remove the statue. After reading Commission testimony and talking to passionate advocates on both sides of the issue, the Mayor made the difficult decision that removing the statue is justified, and that it can be better displayed in a private location that places Columbus, his memory and his history in different context.
The Mayor issued a letter to the Art Commission today that reviews the celebration of Columbus by Italian-Americans who were subject to discrimination after emigrating to the United States, and the subsequent reckoning with the explorer’s support of slavery and genocide. The letter says in part:
“All four of my grandparents were Italian and personally experienced discrimination, yet learned to love their new country. I am tremendously proud to be part of the Italian-American community in Pittsburgh, just as I am proud to be Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh and to represent all people of our city.
After much thought and prayer I believe it is now time for us to return the Columbus statue to the Italian-American community that brought it into existence. They can preserve it in a manner than celebrates Italian-American culture, while acknowledging the wreckage that slavery and racism has done to America.”
The letter asks the Art Commission to make a final vote on the disposition of the statue.
No decisions have yet been made on when the statue will be removed, or the private location where it will be stored and displayed. City crews may cover the statue until it can be removed.
A copy of the Mayor’s letter is available here.
We are pleased to welcome back our fans to Heinz Field this Sunday when we host the Philadelphia Eagles. We appreciate the guidance of our public health officials to make this possible.
Under the guidance provided by the Governor's office, we are limited to 7,500 total in the stadium, which includes players, coaches, stadium staff, etc. Based on these limitations we will only be able to make available to our fans approximately 5,500 seats in the lower seating bowl at Heinz Field. Priority will be given to our season ticket holders who did not opt out this season. Seat selection opportunities will be based on a computer-generated random selection of season ticket holder accounts. Unfortunately, we may not have tickets available for all season ticket holders for this game.
All fans entering the stadium will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing protocols throughout Heinz Field. Tailgating will not be permitted in the stadium parking lots. Additional details concerning game day operations will be available prior to the weekend.
We look forward to hopefully having more fans soon while still maintaining a safe and healthy environment at Heinz Field.
Steelers captain Maurkice Pouncey announces he will add a new name on the back of his helmet, breaking from the team's decision to wear the name of police shooting victim Antwon Rose Jr. on helmets for the 2020 season.
Maurkice Pouncey’s statement:
“I want to personally clarify what transpired this past Monday night in regard to having Antwon Rose’s name on the back of my helmet.
I was given limited information on the situation regarding Antwon, and I was unaware of the whole story surrounding his death and what transpired during the trial following the tragedy. I should have done more research to fully understand what occurred in its entirety.
My work with police, both in Pittsburgh and back home in Florida, is well documented. I don’t always feel the need to highlight what I do with police departments, but I also want to make sure they understand I inadvertently supported a cause of which I did not fully comprehend the entire background of the case. I take responsibility for not doing more investigating into something that is sensitive to the community and his family, but is a lesson learned as it relates to political issues that occur every day in our society.
Moving forward, I will make my own decision about what to wear on the back of my helmet. Make no mistake, I am against racism and I believe the best thing I can do is continue helping repair relationships between the police and their communities. Systemic racism issues have occurred in our country for too long, and that needs to stop.
My focus will continue to be on helping the police in our communities, and I will support making any necessary changes to help those efforts. #### (end of statement)
Rose, who was unarmed, was shot and killed by East Pittsburgh police in 2018 after the car he was riding in with other teenagers matched the description of one involved in a drive-by shooting.
Officer Michael Rosfeld ran after Rose, one of two passengers who fled the car, and shot him three times in his back, face and elbow. Rosfeld, who had been on the force for just three weeks, was charged with criminal homicide but was acquitted of all charges. During the trial, Rosfeld said he thought he saw one of the two teenagers point a gun at him, but he didn't know which one.
The shooting was captured on video and sparked some protests in the region. Rose's name has continued to be a rallying cry used by protesters in demonstrations.
The family reached a $2 million settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the borough of East Pittsburgh and Rosfeld in 2019.
Statement from Team President Art Rooney II:
As an organization, we respect the decisions of each player, coach and staff member relating to how to express themselves on social justice topics. We will continue to support our social initiatives to fight against social injustice and systemic racism not only in our area, but around the country.
Along the way, we understand that individually we may say or do things that are not universally accepted. There will be uncomfortable conversations. But we will strive to be a force for unity in our efforts to support a more just society.
With our support, our players have and will support our communities to address these issues with tangible actions. Our players have done an amazing job in helping create social justice platforms that we have already begun participating in this year. But we know there is still work to be done. This season our primary focuses in terms of social justice funds and activities will be voter registration and awareness, community and police forums, and education and community investment.
I am proud of the way our players have responded to the need for greater efforts to bring awareness and changes to combat racism and social injustice. I know they will continue to be leaders in our communities and their hometowns.
This year the NFL is allowing players to wear helmet decals to honor victims of systemic racism. Players could select the name of an individual to wear on their helmet and the Steelers players and coaches united as one to wear a single name on the back of their helmets and hats for the entire 2020 season – Antwon Rose Jr.
Antwon Rose II was 17 when he was shot and killed by a police officer two years ago.
“We don’t want him to be forgotten,” the Steelers tweeted. “For the 2020 season, we unite as one and will wear a single name on the back of our helmets – Antwon Rose Jr.”
Cameron Heyward knows that there is power in numbers, that people working together for one cause can make a difference, even if that means saving just one life.
"When you think about Antwon Rose's story, we don't want to ever let his legacy go away," said Heyward, one of the Steelers team captains and a voice that has been heard in the team's fight against social injustice. "That kid had a bright future and he was taken away too early. We see all of these things happening across our country now. This hit home.
Read more at Steelers.com
August 26, 2020 – Today the Board of School Directors for the Pittsburgh Public Schools voted to reappoint Dr. Anthony Hamlet as Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2025. The Superintendent’s current contract expires June 30, 2021.
Appointed May 18, 2016 with an initial salary of $210,000, Superintendent Hamlet’s current salary after meeting objective goals for the 2016-2017, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years is $229,372. The Superintendent’s final contract and new salary is not yet finalized and will be submitted to the Board for review and approval upon recommendation of the District’s Solicitor.
The Superintendent will hold an in-person press conference with Board Members and his Leadership team on Tuesday, September 1, in celebration of the start of the school year. Please find below statements read this evening by Superintendent Hamlet and Board President Sylvia Wilson, related to this evening’s Board vote.
In Other Business – Board Votes to Move Forward With Fall Sports
Following significant input from students, staff and families, the Board voted to let fall sports proceed for the 2020-2021 school year. Team conditioning will continue while the District finalizes the schedule for sport physicals and “ImPact” testing. The official start date for fall practices will be announced once the schedule for physical is finalized. An All-In webinar focused on ensuring the safe return of athletics will take place tomorrow at 6 PM and can be viewed on the District’s website and Facebook page.
Statement from Superintendent Anthony Hamlet
I want to thank the Board for this vote of confidence. And while the misdirected self-interest of a few attempted to take away from the progress we have made together, we are now able to move forward squarely focused on improving outcomes for our students. With only 35 Council of Great City Schools recommendations left to complete and the groundwork that has been laid with the initiatives of our Expect Great Things strategic plan, we have laid a strong foundation for the next five years.
One thing for sure is we are living in truly uncertain times, but what is not uncertain is our responsibility to ensure our students are prepared to be successful and competitive in the 21st Century global economy.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our students have proven themselves resilient, intelligent and considerate of their fellow man – putting them far ahead of previous generations. It is incumbent on us to ensure we develop these assets of our students.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
I want to say to those who have shared their concerns regarding the achievement of black and brown students in our district, that I hear you. Yes, we have inevitably lost some of the ground we had made with our students due to the closure of schools this past spring. This will make for a tough road ahead. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast - go alone. If you want to go far - go together. I am committed to bridging all divides as I know that each of you play a valuable role in the success of our efforts to improve student outcomes.
We will not lose sight of our charge to work against racist ideas and policies that prevent our students from experiencing a bias-free education. I look forward to working closely with Kathi Elliott and Gwen’s Girls to continue our work to reduce the disproportionate rate of arrests affecting black children. We also will continue our intentional efforts to eliminate racial disparities in the achievement of African American students, as outlined in our On Track to Equity Plan – our most extensive and comprehensive equity plan to date.
Even in the midst of a pandemic, we are committed to the work we have begun through Imagine PPS; our strategic plan for the future. Now more than ever, we must make the changes to our system necessary to get the results we want for our students. I take this charge as Superintendent as my number one priority. I know that taking steps to align instruction to standards, increase progress monitoring, elevate data reporting, invest in new curriculum and improve professional learning for all staff are not the kinds of actions that grab headlines, but without these steps, Pittsburgh Public Schools would not be primed for the road ahead.
Imagine PPS builds on the work we have begun and puts into super drive our efforts to empower students with the knowledge and life skills they need to thrive in our global economy. Through Imagine PPS, we continue our work to design an educational delivery model that aligns to the values of our city and positions us to reach our goals for students.
Right now though, my immediate first course of action is ensuring that we are prepared for the successful start of school on Monday. Through a collaborative effort with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, we have been able to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to support full time online instruction. I remain committed to this spirit of collaboration as we continue our efforts to ensure Pittsburgh Public Schools remains fiscally sound, academically strong and a first choice for students, families, teachers and other staff in Pittsburgh. I want to thank all of our school leaders, teachers and school staff for their flexibility and commitment to putting students first. I also must thank the members of my Executive Cabinet, central office, operations and IT staff for their commitment to children and families of Pittsburgh.
When I arrived at Pittsburgh Public Schools, to take on my first superintendence, I left Palm Beach County intent on making Pittsburgh my home. I understood the challenge ahead and the time it would take to truly transform the District for all students. I now have a heart for this city, its residents and most importantly its children. And today we now have the stability we need to ensure all students receive the high-quality education they deserve and that all graduate with a plan for their future and beyond.
Statement from Board President Sylvia Wilson
I would like to take a moment to warmly thank all those who took time out of their days to submit their concerns, gratitude, hopes, and support during the last two days of Public Hearing comments. We sincerely hope that you all understand that your positions were not only heard but also profoundly considered.
Welcome to 2020! A kickoff to a new school year unlike any other. The coronavirus pandemic has taken us all on a ride to test and challenge our confidence, our resiliency, our integrity and most importantly, tested our commitment to the thousands of children in our care. And as we think about the future of our district, let’s be sure to keep the children as our top priority.
My record speaks for itself, as I have proven to be a dedicated servant to Pittsburgh Public Schools for over forty years as a teacher, parent, grandparent, volunteer and elected official. This experience has helped guide me to deeply consider all factors when making decisions…and to keep this precedence in mind when voting. As a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh for my Masters…the recent attacks to my integrity as Board President have been tough to absorb… but those attacks have driven me to be more determined than ever to act and respond with a razor like focus while continuing to move forward. And Moving Forward is exactly what we MUST do in order to protect all of the progress that has been made in the past four years.
Regarding the resolution to confirm Dr. Hamlet’s contract …During my career as a teacher, I was always evaluated every year on my performance.
When I joined this board years ago, it was an eye opener to learn that no such formal evaluative process was done for previous superintendents. A sub-group of board members worked together with Dr. Lane and an outside consultant at that time to develop an evaluative instrument.
Additionally, after the evaluation process was created, the state mandated a format for school boards to use to evaluate all superintendents.
Since then, the tool that we use has been updated with the assistance of the Council of Great City Schools, of which PPS is a member. It is the responsibility of this board to use that instrument to evaluate the progress made by the superintendent with very specific measurable goals. Each board member rates the superintendent on these goals based on actual data.
The process to determine the renewal of Dr. Hamlet’s contract is based on the details outlined in his contract. It was determined that this board was NOT to use subjective criteria, but to use objective criteria. Each board member is responsible to rate the superintendent in what I would hope to be an honest objective manner.
So, after assuring that there is a specific process for rating the superintendent, along with my years of experience, I resent being pictured as someone who makes decisions based on a nice personality, nice suits, nice cologne. This type of rhetoric is not helpful to the process and is insulting to my intelligence and I will also add, sexist.
My record is not the only one that’s been on the chopping block lately. Dr. Hamlet’s integrity has been under attack as well. In recent months, not only have we been at war with a pandemic, we have been faced with a media blitz of negative and mixed information – much of which was created to cast dispersions on a board that for the first time acted against traditional and historic protocols by involving the public in the process of selecting the next superintendent. There were those who fueled the mixed and misguided messages to express their dismay – taking it out of the hands of the very people who were elected to do this job.
As a black woman…as a black educator…Black Lives Always Matter and I too am concerned about the levels of achievement of black students. Over the past four years progress has been made in the levels of black student achievement. What is happening across this state and our country mirror what is happening in Pittsburgh. The levels of black student achievement were low before Dr. Hamlet arrived.
Over the last four years’ progress is being made, and the pandemic is a set-back for our students of color.
Change and evolution takes time. Dr. Hamlet did not bring his magic wand to accomplish this – in fact – one might remember that the teachers are in the classrooms.
Changes in how teachers deliver instruction takes time as well. For too long teachers were to do prescriptive teaching which took away what was once the highlight of Pittsburgh Public Schools. The pedagogy of teaching – being able to diversify to meet the needs of all the students.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but there were no outcries when a previous superintendents destroyed achievement goals of students of color during their tenures.
In working with the board Dr. Hamlet has made many critical accomplishments to date. Among these are:
1. A nurse on every campus.
2. Additional social workers and counselors.
3. The Career and Technical Programs have been expanded to include more students and to provide more opportunities for career options.
4. There has been a reallocation of resources to schools with the most needs.
5. Graduation rates have increased.
6. Attention is given to average class sizes.
7. Student voice is an important addition.
8. Community Schools have been expanded.
9. Out of School Time continued to develop and relationships with community organizations/partners grow in assisting with student needs.
10. Working on better relationships overall that hadn’t existed.
In closing, many have asked why now as opposed to waiting. We decided as a board to make a decision now due to the very reasons that many asked us to wait. We need to concentrate on the education of our children. We needed to get the district back on track post COVID-19 with haste. The district is making every effort to move forward in a difficult time that was not created by us. We are not alone in these struggles. We are in touch with other districts similar in size and larger and compare notes – we learn from each other. We want to remove distractions that prevent us from focusing on educating ALL of the children.
Again – why wait? We have several other considerations to resolve that impacts educating our children that must be resolved such as collective bargaining agreements that have expired, others that will expire soon and our financial future is worrisome. We need to maintain stability at this time so that the critical work can be accomplished. Thank you for this time, my vote is YES to retain Dr. Hamlet’s contract.
PPS Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet reappointed until June 2025.