A Pittsburgh education task force of 23 local stakeholders, charged by Mayor Bill Peduto with making recommendations for strengthening the city’s public school system, will meet for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
Comprised of education professionals, local elected officials, parents and students, the task force was announced in February as the result of a city council resolution which passed in October of last year in an attempt to delay further school closings. Peduto, then serving as District 8 city councilman, helped draft the resolution which was sponsored by Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith. Kail-Smith will be one of four council members serving on the task force.
“We want Pittsburgh to be a national model for early education,” says Curtiss Porter, the city’s chief education and neighborhood reinvestment officer, who will also serve on the task force. “We want education to be a magnet for people outside of the city to come and live in Pittsburgh.”
Preston Green, a professor of both urban education and educational leadership and law at the University of Connecticut, will serve as the task force’s mediator and as an ex-officio member. Cosette Grant-Overton, the city’s manager of educational policy and workforce development, will lead the meeting. Though city council has no authority over school finances or closings, the task force is seen as an important step toward getting city government and the school board—which have previously been at odds with one another—together to begin solving the city schools’ issues.
“It is our hope that the various philosophical parties can be of one accord so that we can move education forward in this city,” Overton says, adding that tomorrow’s private meeting will focus mainly on fiscal issues. “Ideally, each meeting that we have will cover each area highlighted in the resolution.”
The task force is scheduled to meet four times before issuing a report with recommendations to the mayor by September 1.
In addition to Porter and Kail-Smith, members of the task force include:
- School board members Terry Kennedy and Regina Holley
- Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis
- Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane
- City Council members R. Daniel Lavelle, Natalia Rudiak and Deb Gross
- Allies for Children Executive Director Patrick Dowd
- City Controller Michael Lamb
- A+ Schools Executive Director Carey Harris
- Yinzercation founder Jessie Ramey
- Community and youth organizer Brian Brown
- The Rev. Dr. Darryl Canady of Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church
- The Rev. John Welch, dean of students at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
- Student parents Betsy Magley and Sara Segal, and Hazelwood resident Hazel Blackman
- Students Hawa Mganga of Brashear High School, Don Crawford of Pittsburgh Obama and Stephen O’Brion of the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy