A new Pittsburgh School Board president and a new Minority Contracting Department should make 2013 a very interesting year.
First the school board. For the first time in years there’s a Black president of Pittsburgh School Board, in Sharene Shealey who beat out another Black board member, Regina Holley to replace Sherry Hazuda as the president.
With all the criticism public schools are receiving and all the competition they are receiving from Charter Schools, and Private Schools, it should be interesting to find out what Shealey’s plans are to help move Pittsburgh Public Schools forward in educating our kids from K-12.
Even though everyone is blaming teachers unions for just about all the problems in public schools today, or the Superintendent, there’s actually enough blame to go around and some of it must be shared by the board, because they set policy, and must approve anything the Superintendent brings before them. Because the people in their district vote them into office, they are supposed to represent the general public. However, for some reason once they get into office, with the exception of Mark Brentley, they become very quiet about what they are doing and what they would like to see be done. Not returning phone calls in most cases, when they should be responding to let the general public who voted for them know. Another problem is that even though they all attend school board meetings, they don’t have community meetings to help educate parents, students and the general public about what’s going on and how they can participate or help to improve the education of our students.
These people are public figures who function far too often as if they are working for a private organization in which the people don’t have a right to know. This has to change, and hopefully it will with a new president and a new vice president. Tom Sumpter is the new VP.
A new Minority Contracting Department. After a story by the Courier dealt with the lack of power and accuracy of the current minority enforcement agency headed by Phil Petite, City Councilman Rev Ricky Burgess headed an effort to create a Minority Contracting Department. This is long overdue. But my question is what happens to Phil Petite office, which does basically the same thing?
My suggestion is move Phil to the head of this department and let him do what I know he wants to do, and that’s make everybody involved in contracts in the city be accountable for hiring Blacks at all levels.
I’m somewhat mystified as to why it took so long to get this done in a city that has over 30 percent Blacks.
The mayor gave his 100 percent support to the establishment of this department that will answer directly to him and probably council, which hopefully will lead to a much more cohesive system, making sure Blacks receive an equal share of the contracting dollars and employment in the city and which should set an example for Allegheny County and the state as a whole.
This may be a little late in that a whole lot of work Downtown has been finished, but there’s still a lot of work still being done and nobody knows how much work Blacks are receiving. Maybe now we will have someone to call for the answer.
(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)