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Pittsburgh Public Schools Launch Opportunity to Reset Culture, Systems, and Instruction at the Start of the Second Semester

Pittsburgh, PA – February 1, 2022 – In an effort to create a fresh and positive opportunity to restart PPS, today Interim Superintendent, Dr. Wayne N. Walters announced the launch of A Fresh Start for the Head & Heart. To kick off the first day of second semester, A Fresh Start for the Head & Heart is an opportunity that will utilize culture, systems, and instruction to invigorate teaching, learning, and leadership across the District.


Dr. Walters shared during today’s districtwide professional development session, “In my 30 plus years in this district, I have never navigated life, work, or led during a pandemic. The challenges we face are real and cannot be minimized. This pandemic has forced us all to wear multiple interchangeable hats. Your hats of collaboration, flexibility, organization, communication, calm, optimism, strategy, and networking are needed more than ever to move us safely into a new and better space of educational delivery and supports.”


After listening to the voices of staff and meeting with the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council last November, the interim superintendent identified the need to allow schools to reflect, strategize, and implement positive school culture ideas, systems, and instructional practices that elevate teaching and learning.  Initiated with school principals in early January, A Fresh Start for the Head & Heart is an opportunity to kick start the beginning of the second semester, February 2 -11.


“Continuing with the status quo can no longer be an option for PPS. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day in PPS!” said Walters as Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” played in the background. Walters continued, “We are in a space and time where this fresh start opportunity is paramount for our District. We cannot accept a narrative that Pittsburgh Public Schools is a violent place. The images of last month are not who we are and certainly not representative of our District. My initial intention was to implement “Fresh Start for the Head and Heart” as a proactive measure; however, we are now forced to be reactive. I need you to take this opportunity seriously in creating an authentic counter-narrative for our students, staff, and district.”


Delivered in two sections, A Fresh Start for the Head and Heart gives schools permission to restart while focusing on academic support, acceleration, wellness, and emotional support:

  • A Fresh Start is an opportunity for schools to reflect and select core activities to restart the school year at the second semester with a focus on positive school culture, systems that create better organization and cohesion, and guidance to elevate instruction. 


  • Head and Heart allows schools to create non-traditional processes of academic support and acceleration (Head) as well as school wide spaces for wellness and emotional support (Heart) designed for students and staff.  An additional goal is to authentically “take something off the plate” of staff to improve morale.


Today’s program launch kicked off with a presentation to school and central office staff that included a video showcasing positive messaging and support from community members and families.  Over the next two weeks schools across the District will be holding special activities to kick start the new semester.  To celebrate, on February 2, Dr. Walters paid  visits to several schools to kick off the second semester:


Pittsburgh Miller PreK-5: Mayor Ed Gainey and Dr. Walters were on hand to welcome students back for a lively fresh start. The first day of the second semester was also the birthday of Rapping Principal, Dr. Margaret Starks. In addition to kicking off a fresh start for students and staff, Dr. Starkes shared her new inspiring book, Jazzi’s Journey: When I Grow Up, What Will I Be? A Doctor, A Teacher, Maybe An MC.


Pittsburgh King PreK-8: Pittsburgh King looked a lot different when students arrived for the new semester, thanks to a partnership with the PPG Foundation’s “Colorful Communities Project.” Seven murals, painted by staff, parents, and community members, welcomed students back for a fresh start. Students will also have an opportunity to add to the murals that have been started for them.

king feelin good

             King mural






Pittsburgh Dilworth PreK-5: Dr. Walters joined the school community for a special surprise for Dilworth student Malajsha Mollett.Malajsha recently wrote and released a book, 'The Football Girl,' to tell her story of wanting to play football. To celebrate, this achievement and  National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith made a surprise visit to the school to surprise Malajsha and join her on stage for a reading of her new book.  To learn more about the read story A young girl who is breaking barriers.


In the News 

District Administration:  A fresh start for heads and hearts in one big district after COVID

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: A fresh start: Pittsburgh interim superintendent, mayor aim for a reset after a tumultuous first semester

KDKA: PPS Launches New Program Aiming To Hit Reset Button As Second Semester Starts

Kidsburgh: Pittsburgh Public Schools’ “Fresh Start” for the school year hopes to elevate teaching and learning

WTAE: Pittsburgh Public Schools announces launch of 'A Fresh Start for the Head & Heart'