Sumpter elected president of Pittsburgh school board


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On the third ballot, the board of Pittsburgh Public Schools elected Thomas Sumpter, a Schenley Heights resident who has served for eight years, as board president on a 5-3 vote, with one abstention.

The change in leadership Monday followed the swearing in of Mr. Sumpter, who is starting a new term, and four new board members, marking the biggest change in board membership in more than 20 years.

The vote pitted Mr. Sumpter, 63, who was nominated by Bill Isler, against Regina Holley, 61, a Highland Park resident and retired principal who joined the board two years ago. She was nominated by Mark Brentley Sr.

Five votes are required to become president.

On the first two ballots, two new board members, Cynthia Falls of Overbrook and Terry Kennedy, who lives on the Greenfield-Squirrel Hill border, abstained, leaving four votes for Mr. Sumpter and three for Ms. Holley.

But on the third ballot, Ms. Kennedy said, "I'm going to tip it because I don't want to keep doing this all night."

The result was five for Mr. Sumpter: Sherry Hazuda of Carrick, Mr. Isler of Squirrel Hill, Ms. Kennedy, Mr. Sumpter and Sylvia Wilson of Lincoln-Lemington, who also just began her term.

Voting for Ms. Holley were Mr. Brentley of the North Side, Ms. Holley and Carolyn Klug of the North Side, who also was sworn in Tuesday.

Ms. Falls continued to abstain.

After the meeting, Ms. Falls said it was too soon for her to support either candidate, noting she has not yet worked with them.

Ms. Kennedy later said, "They're both good candidates, and I was torn."

She said she voted for Mr. Sumpter because, with four votes, "the pendulum was already swinging that way."

The term on the board of the previous president, Sharene Shealey, expired, and she did not seek re-election.

The board also elected Mr. Isler first vice president and Ms. Klug second vice president.

Mr. Sumpter previously has been first and second vice president of the board.

He is a retiree who worked for 25 years in various posts with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Pittsburgh. He ran unopposed for re-election to a four-year term this year.

He was elected in District 3, which includes all or parts of Bloomfield, Garfield, Upper Hill District, Stanton Heights, Oakland and East Liberty.

In urging support for his candidacy as president, Mr. Sumpter told the board that his goals during his service on the board have included making solid decisions, equity, serving the children and working corroboratively with fellow board members.

At the start of each legislative meeting, Mr. Sumpter has been reading the board's goals of achievement, safety, support, equity and engagement.

Mr. Sumpter noted his experience.

He represents the board on Pittsburgh at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the Head Start Policy Council. He has chaired the board committees on education, information and technology and board effectiveness.

Mr. Sumpter told the board his record shows he knows how to make "tough decisions" and work with fellow board members.

Ms. Holley did not speak on her own behalf, but Mr. Brentley did, emphasizing the fact she holds a doctorate and has more than 30 years of experience, including serving as principal of Pittsburgh Lincoln for 16 years.

Mr. Brentley said the district has been down a "bumpy road" and Ms. Holley has the necessary skills and experience.

After the meeting, Mr. Sumpter said it's not always possible to have unanimity, but "I think we're in a position we can all move forward collaboratively."

He wants to see the board concentrate on big policy issues -- such as feeder patterns, magnet schools, course offerings and equity -- not micro management.

Ms. Holley also was nominated for second vice president but declined.

She later explained she thought Mr. Sumpter should be surrounded by officers who share his ideas.

She wants to see the board become more empowered and the district to be more transparent.

The four new board members include three former city teachers -- Ms. Falls, Ms. Klug and Ms. Wilson -- and one parent who has been active for more than a decade, Ms. Kennedy.

Each was elected to a four-year term.

Here's a brief bio of each:

* District 1: Ms. Wilson, 63, of Lincoln-Lemington, who retired last school year as the longtime assistant to the president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, previously taught at Spring Hill, Miller and Manchester elementary schools. She served as the union liaison to the district's human resources department. She replaces Ms. Shealey.

* District 5: Ms. Kennedy, 52, a former software engineer who lives on the Greenfield-Squirrel Hill line, has been active in various school groups, including her children's schools and the district's Excellence for All Parent Steering Committee. She is a member of the Pittsburgh Local Task Force on the Right to Education. Ms. Kennedy replaces Theresa Colaizzi, who was the only departing board member to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

* District 7: Ms. Falls, 60, of Overbrook, a retired health technology instructor who taught at then Pittsburgh Oliver High School from 1992 to 1995 and at Pittsburgh Carrick High School from 1995 to 2010. She replaces Jean Fink.

* District 9: Ms. Klug, 54, of Brighton Heights, a retired as a Pittsburgh Public Schools elementary teacher in 2011. She replaces Floyd "Skip" McCrea.


Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955. First Published December 2, 2013 6:12 PM

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