Allen sworn in…New appointment gives Blacks more power on city school board

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At the Aug. 26 Pittsburgh Public Schools board meeting, Dara Ware Allen, Ph.D., was sworn in as school board director of District 2. As the addition of another African-American to the school board, her appointment marks the first time four Blacks have served on the board at one time.

Randall Taylor, Mark Brentley, Thomas Sumpter and Allen are the four African-American members of the nine-member board.

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OATH OF OFFICE —Dara Ware Allen is sworn in as the District 2 board member for the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“I have a personal and professional vested interest in the district doing well,” Allen said. “I have always had a passion for public education, especially the Pittsburgh Public Schools as a graduate and through my work with Youth Works.”

Allen is the executive director of Youth Works, a nonprofit organization that helps youths acquire career training, entry-level jobs and internships, was one of eight candidates considered for the position. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who was charged with the appointment, said he chose Allen for her professional experience working with young people.

“To have this opportunity to pick the member for District 2 was very important to me,” Ravenstahl said. “Dr. Ware Allen will certainly be a great addition. She’s invested in this city and her family is invested in this city.”

Allen is taking over the position left by Heather Arnet who resigned at the end of June. She will serve the remainder of Arnet’s term, which ends in December of 2011.

Allen said she did not know what changes, if any, she would like to see made on the school board. She said it would probably take her a few meetings to get a grasp of what she would like to see done.

“I am going to be getting familiar with the various schools within my district,” she said. “I plan to engage in the community by hearing their concerns. I’m going to be reading a lot and talking to a lot of people.”

Allen has already signed onto several committees and is especially excited about working on career and technical education. Through her work with Youth Works, she has seen the consequences when students are not engaged in their education.

“I know already I have a passion for career education,” Allen said. “Career exploration provides a relevant experience to young people. Whether they have goals, it helps in informing what their goals can be.”

“I also have a range of educational experiences from having a teaching degree to working with young people in high school to also working in higher education where I saw firsthand the requirements schools have for students to become successful and the challenges students face when they’re unprepared,” Allen said.

As one of the longest serving members on the school board, Brentley from District 8 said he hopes Allen’s appointment will have a positive impact. With the board nearly 50 percent African-American, he said they have the power to influence change for the students of the district, of which 60 percent are Black.

“Every time it appears it means something, there’s a powerful force that works against it,” Brentley said of the implications of having another African-American on the board. “It’s still a race-based board, decisions are still race- based and politically-based.”

Although Brentley said it is important to focus on minorities and other disadvantaged students, he said Allen can avoid labeling students by simply ensuring there is equity for all students across the district.

“I’m excited to have her. I think it’s a great addition to the board,” Brentley said. I’m hoping she will bring reasoning, a mother’s point of view, and I’m hoping she’ll be an advocate for students who need it the most and most of the time it’s been poor and minority students.”

Allen lives with her husband and two young children in Highland Park. She is a graduate of Perry High School and said she plans to have her children attend public schools when they are of age.

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