When the Pittsburgh school district set out to find a new superintendent earlier this year, local leaders had a novel idea: Rather than hire headhunters, have two former superintendents from the district run the search.
Now, that selection process is at issue in a threatened discrimination lawsuit. Andrew King, a veteran of the 35,000-student system who served as its interim chief until August, has said race may have played a role in the fact he wasn’t interviewed after he applied. He is black.
The candidate who got the job is Mark Roosevelt, who is white and has no experience working in a public school district. He is a former state lawmaker from Massachusetts, where he helped craft landmark school accountability legislation.
Mr. Roosevelt also is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, a 10-month program run by the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation that trains leaders from education and other sectors to serve as district chiefs.
“The search process seems to have systemically de-selected certain kinds of people, of which Andrew King is one,” Mr. King’s lawyer, Avrum Levicoff, said last week.
The dispute flared up late last month, when Mr. Levicoff proposed in an e-mail to the school board that it could avoid a lawsuit by giving his client an administrative job with a $150,000 salary and “no policymaking function or responsibility.”
The proposal prompted press reports that Mr. King had sought a “no-show job.” Mr. Levicoff said the intent was to give him a new role without requiring Mr. Roosevelt to include him in policy decisions. Mr. King has since been given a $125,000-a-year job overseeing the district’s compliance with federal reporting rules.
“It’s a pretty important responsibility,” said Lisa Fischetti, a spokeswoman for the district.
But Mr. Levicoff said that Mr. King deserves additional compensation for having been wronged, and that he intends to go forward with a lawsuit that will “dissect” the search for bias.
Patrick Dowd, a white school board member, said the only bias in the process was in favor of effective leaders. “The racial issue that this district faces is not about discrimination,” he said. “It’s about the racial achievement gap.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2005 edition of Education Week