By Mary Niederbeger
Pittsburgh Current Education Writer
Given the historic and persistent low academic achievement among minority students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the monumental task ahead of eventually reopening schools after a year or more closure because of the COVID-19 virus, the race for five open school board seats in the May primary should be a priority.
That was the message this morning of the Vote School Board First coalition sponsored by the A+Schools advocacy group.
“Something is wrong because our kids are not learning the way we are expecting them to learn,” said Esther Bush, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, one of 15 organizations making up the coalition.
James Forgarty, A+Schools executive director, pointed out the “big issues” facing the district — figuring how to reopen schools, how to provide the additional support students will need when they return to the classroom and how to fill in the district’s $39 million deficit.
“There’s a lot of questions and those questions will be answered by the board that is elected,” Fogarty said.
Fogarty, Bush and other speakers at the press conference expressed concern that focus on the school board election would be lost among others in the May 18 primary. The speakers encouraged city residents to pay attention to board candidates via the voteschoolboardfirst.org website and to vote for candidates best suited to address the district’s academic and financial issues.
They also encouraged residents to consider running for the board.
The seats that are up for grabs in the May 18 primary are:
- District 1, currently held by board president Sylvia Wilson
- District 3, currently held by Sala Udin
- District 5, currently held by Terry Kennedy
- District 7, currently held by Cynthia Falls
- District 9, currently held by Veronica Edwards.
So far only Wilson has indicated she is running for re-election.
The coalition held its press conference today because it marks the first day that candidates can begin to circulate nominating petitions. In the coming weeks, the coalition will create a candidate guide and hold virtual forums with each candidate. The usual measures of door-knocking campaigns and in-person candidate nights will not be held because of COVID-19.
Voters can find information on which district they live and what candidates are running in the districts as they announce on the coalition website. In addition post cards will be sent to voters letting them know where to find information, Fogarty said.
Editor’s Note: Statistics cited by Esther Bush were removed from this story because accuracy and the sourcing was unclear.