After just one term, Sharene Shealey, District 1 representative of the Pittsburgh Public School District Board of Directors, decided
not to run for reelection in the upcoming May 21 primary election. Shealey’s departure has drawn two candidates for her seat, Lucille Prater-Holliday and Sylvia Wilson.
The two candidates joined others from around the district at a student led forum hosted by A+ Schools on May 8. In line with the forum’s theme, Wilson, a retired teacher, and Prater-Holliday, a community activist, both expressed a commitment to children.
“Every child deserves every chance to receive a high quality education,” Prater-Holliday said. “My wonderful experience as a student in the Pittsburgh Public Schools is the reason I have made this my life’s work.”
“Kids have always been at the very middle of what I’ve done,” Wilson said.
Wilson recently retired as the assistant to the president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. This background reflects her position on the district’s “Empowering Effective Teachers” plan, which aims to put an effective teacher in every classroom.
“In Pittsburgh there are high standards when we hire teachers so we’re not getting the bottom of the barrel,” Wilson said.
“Ensuring every student has an effective teacher means making sure teachers have the support they need.”
Wilson and Prater-Holliday agreed on the importance of seniority in teacher placement and furlough decisions. However, Prater-Holliday said teachers should take a personality test because there are several who are not truly committed to children.
Similar to other candidates in the school board race, Prater-Holliday and Wilson agreed out of school suspensions were not an effective method of discipline.
“There are alternatives to out of school suspensions because we know that some of our kids like to be out of school,” Wilson said.
Prater-Holiday said she had helped the former Peabody High School implement a peer court for disciplinary issues. She said this program combined with other alternative disciplinary measures reduced discipline issues by 51 percent.
The candidates were asked to offer solutions to balancing the district’s budget. Wilson said the best method would be to increase enrollment in district schools and did not provide methods for reducing spending.
“The school district’s budget is bigger than the City of Pittsburgh and why not, because our children are our greatest assets,” Wilson said.
Prater-Holiday also said increasing enrollment was paramount, but did not want to demonize area charter schools that are drawing students away from the district.
“Whether you have money or you don’t have money, you should be able to send your child to any school you want to,” she said of the opportunity charter schools provide for low-income families. “I think one of the ways we can attract families back to the schools is by doing a better job of educating the students we have now.”
In the past, Prater-Holiday served as president of community organizations ACORN and Action United. She also ran for Pittsburgh City Council in 2011.
Wilson worked as a teacher in the district for 26 years. She served as secretary of the PFT executive board for more than 30 years, beginning in 1979.
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