A group of Pittsburgh Public Schools parents, alumni, former employees and concerned community members will endorse a slate of candidates for the five open school board seats this May.
Members of Black Women For A Better Education say they want candidates who are laser-focused on ensuring Black children get the education that they need and deserve.
School board President Sylvia Wilson is the first incumbent to announce she will run again to represent district 1 which covers East End neighborhoods including Homewood, East Hills and Larimer. Districts 3, 5, 7 and 9 are currently represented by Sala Udin, Terry Kennedy, Cindy Falls and Veronica Edwards, respectively.
Black Women For A Better Education announced last week that it has formed a Political Action Committee to endorse candidates for those five districts. Financial contributors will vote on endorsements.
The coalition formed in May in response to the school district’s COVID-19 plan. Members say the district’s handling of educating students during the pandemic has been unacceptable. It took weeks for the district to ask families if they needed devices, and months for the district to receive computers to give to students.
Some say they still haven’t received devices and use their personal computers. The vast majority of the district’s 22,000 students have learned remotely since March. A small group went back for a week in November before the district again shut down in-person learning. Last week the board voted 7-2 to further delay the return until April. Only a select group of students will return then, according to the administration.
The group doesn’t have a leader and those involved say they work together to make decisions. In June, more than 50 individuals signed a letter to the school board urging them to not renew Superintendent Anthony Hamlet’s contract. The board did renew his contract and last week approved an $8,000 bonus and annual salary increases. Hamlet said that because the district is in negotiations with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and because educators have not received raises, he will not accept either his bonus or raise until the teachers’ union contract is signed.
Members of the PAC said they want candidates who will hold the administration accountable.
“It was especially disappointing that not only did the board not address any of the concerns that a whole host of people laid out to them, they did not even address those concerns and basically just said he’s the guy we want to continue with and then gave him a raise,” said LaTrenda Sherill.
Allyce Pinchback-Johnson said a democratically-elected board should operate for the people they serve.
“It is really time for other people to come in and to be in a space where they’re going to listen to the people. They’re going to engage with their constituents in meaningful ways. They’re not going to push their own personal, professional or social agendas,” she said. “But they are going to do the work to ensure that all children, but especially Black children and their families and this community have a high-quality school district.”
The PAC also plans to endorse mayoral, city council and judicial candidates who commit to improving educational outcomes for Black children in the region.