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Palm Beach School Administrator Pads Resume, Creates Firestorm as Incoming Pittsburgh Superintendent

Lindsey Williams
An image posted on Twitter shows supporters of Dr. Hamlet holding signs that say "#Petty" at a recent Pittsburgh School Board meeting

“A successful superintendent has to satisfy many constituencies, keeping high achievers in the system while devoting resources to those who need them most,” Anthony Hamlet told reporters at a Pittsburgh press conference on the day he was tapped as the district’s next superintendent.

That line was also in the resumé the former Palm Beach County principal and administrator used to apply for the job. Before that, though, it was in a Washington Post editorial Hamlet did not cite when he recycled it, with a difference of one added word, “even.” Another paragraph in Hamlet’s resumé was lifted wholesale from the website of the training program it described.

Even before his first day on the job, allegations of plagiarism and apparent inconsistencies in Hamlet’s record, first reported by the Palm Beach Post, have created a firestorm in the city where he is set to start as superintendent next month.

Esther Bush, president of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, says it’s time to start the superintendent search over again. “That’s not pointing fingers at anybody,” she said. “We got here with a flawed process.”

That process failed to turn up Hamlet’s apparent plagiarism, or to vet claims he made about his record in Palm Beach County. Hamlet claimed that two schools where he was principal—Palm Beach Lakes High and JFK Middle—improved from F to C grades under his watch. State records show both were already C schools when Hamlet took over. “That’s totally different from I moved it from an F to a C,” Bush said. Bush says that kind of school improvement is one thing that got Pittsburghers excited about hiring Hamlet in the first place.

Hamlet has disputed the grades that were found on the Florida Department of Education’s website, but has yet to provide data to support his position.

But the fight over Hamlet’s resume has become a proxy for much bigger disputes concerning the future of Pittsburgh schools, over discipline teachers’ unions, and corporate influence on education policy. The Urban League is among a handful of nonprofits that have called for a new search, while two school board members have withdrawn their public support for Dr. Hamlet and a former prosecutor has been hired to investigate discrepancies in his record.  

Others have doubled down on their support of the beleaguered superintendent-to-be. Protesters lined up outside an emergency school board meeting last week to show their support for Hamlet, shouting “Hold the line” and calling the issues  with his resumé petty distractions.

Parent Jay Aronson said he feels caught in the middle. “If he actually did intentionally alter his record to make himself a better candidate, I don’t think those are issues we can overlook.”

At the same time, Aronson said decades of contentious disputes around race and class in Pittsburgh public schools have led to so much ill will that it’s hard to have a reasoned conversation on Hamlet’s candidacy. “If you can imagine a perfect storm of controversy, I think this is that situation,” he said.   For now, Hamlet is still set to start in July.