A+ Schools watchdog group seeks to boost interest in Pittsburgh school board races
By Bill Zlatos
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 11:52 p.m.
A watchdog group is trying to drum up interest in Pittsburgh school board races.
“These races are at least as important, if not more important, than the race for mayor,” said Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, a board member of A+ Schools. She and Carey Harris, executive director of A+ Schools, met with reporters and editors of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Wednesday.
Wagner's uncle, former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, 65, of Beechview is running for mayor.
She noted that the school district's 2013 operating budget of $521.8 million is greater than the city's budget of $469.5 million.
Races for seats in Districts 1, 5 and 9 are contested, drawing seven candidates total.
Cynthia Ann Falls is running unopposed in District 7, where Jean Fink decided not to run for re-election.
In District 3, incumbent Thomas Sumpter, is running unopposed.
Voter turnout in the board races in 2011 ranged from 14 to 20 percent, depending on the district, according to A+ Schools. The county Division of Elections could not confirm those figures.
This year, A+ is asking candidates to sign a pledge to do the following:
• Ensure that great teachers are in every classroom and that they speed up student learning.
• Distribute resources according to student and school need, giving priority to the most vulnerable students — especially those in low-income neighborhoods.
• Guarantee all students access to opportunities, programs and services that boost learning.
• Attract and retain excellent teachers through meaningful training and adequate resources, including teacher aides.
Last year, she said, some schools lacked a social worker. Ten schools lacked a library. The case load varied from 150 to 500 students for each guidance counselor.
Harris said the problem is not simply a lack of funding but how to allocate money so that all schools, regardless of size, offer certain services.
“Small schools are more expensive to operate,” she said. “It's important to have a board that preserves a basic level of service.”
Harris said at least six candidates have signed the pledge, but declined to identify them to give everyone enough time to do so. She said A+ will identify signers on its website and in its voters' guide and will monitor whether they live up to the pledge.
Nonprofit groups like A+ Schools cannot endorse candidates.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.