Two parents with students in the Pittsburgh Public School District are running for the District 5 school board seat in the May 21 primary election. Current School Board Director Theresa Colaizzi has decided not to run for re-election after four terms on the board, leaving an open race for a district that includes Greenfield PreK-8, Mifflin PreK-8, and Minadeo PreK-5.
In addition to being concerned parents, there are several similarities between candidates Stephen DeFlitch and Terry Kennedy who both reside in Greenfield. When asked about how they would reduce the achievement gap between Black and White students at a recent candidate forum hosted by A+ Schools, both pointed to parenting as a leading factor.
“If I knew the answer to that, I could run for president,” DeFlitch said. “A lot of studies show the achievement gap happens over the summer months and when our parents aren’t involved in their children’s lives.”
“There are some of our parents who never graduated high school, never went to college,” Kennedy said, but also added that she believes culturally responsive curriculum would better engage African-American students.
One area where they disagree, measures for evaluating teacher effectiveness, could prove to be a determining factor in each of the school board races this election. After the new school board representatives take office, the district will renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and the public is pressing the candidates on whether they will side with teachers or district administrators.
“I think that the CBA coming up is extremely important,” DeFlitch said. “This is the one opportunity we have to do something about it, to get involved as a voting block.”
DeFlitch said he was in favor of evaluating teacher effectiveness through methods such as the value-added measure which looks at how students improve over the course of a year. Kennedy said she was in favor of putting the most effective teachers in the neediest schools, and believed the district already had effective teachers.
“Trust our union and our administration to put an effective teacher in front of every student,” Kennedy said.
Despite his approval of teacher evaluations, DeFlitch also believes teachers should have greater control over their schools. When it comes to the district’s budget and possible upcoming shortfalls, he said school staff should have input on how the district’s resources are allocated.
“I think principals and teachers who work with students everyday need to have a bigger say in where that money is going,” DeFlitch said.
DeFlitch has served on the Excellence for All, parent steering committee since 2004. He works in engineering as a quality/manufacturing manager.
Kennedy has been a member of the district’s parent teacher organizations since 1999. She currently serves on the Pittsburgh Local Task Force on the Right to Education.
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