School choices: A mixed bag of contenders is running for the board

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Because four experienced and effective members are leaving the Pittsburgh school board at the end of their terms, the best situation would be a strong slate of candidates qualified to replace them. Unfortunately, that is not the case in all the districts where new representatives will be elected.

The most promising set of contenders in the May 21 primary are seeking nominations in District 5, which includes all or parts of Greenfield, Hazelwood, Swisshelm Park, Glen Hazel, South Oakland and Central Oakland.

Terry Kennedy, 51, of Squirrel Hill, and Stephen DeFlitch, 42, of Greenfield, are vying to succeed Theresa Colaizzi. Both are running on the Democratic ballot and Ms. Kennedy, as permitted by state law, is crossfiled for the Republican nomination.

During a meeting with Post-Gazette editors, the candidates, each of whom has two children in city schools, were impressive in their knowledge of the district, its operations and its challenges. Both have extensive resumes as school volunteers and with other endeavors that are either youth- or education-oriented.

They share a concern about the district's financial future and credit Superintendent Linda Lane with managing a difficult budget while maintaining education quality. Ms. Kennedy, who was a software engineer, wants to seek more outside funding, saying taxpayers are already stretched and the schools have endured enough cuts. Mr. DeFlitch, who is a quality/manufacturing manager, believes he can squeeze more savings out of the teachers' collective bargaining agreement.

Although both would be ready to serve on their first day with the school board, we give the edge -- and the Post-Gazette endorsement -- to Terry Kennedy for her more broad-based insights to the Pittsburgh schools.

In District 9, two of the three candidates would be credible replacements for long-time member Floyd McCrea. The contenders are Dave Schuilenburg, 39, of Summer Hill; Carolyn Klug, 54, of Brighton Heights; and Lorraine Burton Eberhardt, 57, of Summer Hill. The district includes all or parts of Fairywood, Windgap, Chartiers City, Esplen, Sheraden, Crafton Heights, Elliott, West End, Westwood, Oakwood, Ridgemont, Brighton Heights, Perry North and Summer Hill.

All three candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination; Ms. Klug is also on the Republican ballot.

Mr. Schuilenburg, an Allegheny County emergency dispatcher and trainer, is behind in paying his property taxes. The sum is approximately $1,500 and he is making installment payments, but the candidate's failure to pay his taxes in full and on time should be disqualifying for election to this office.

That leaves Ms. Eberhardt and Ms. Klug, both of whom are informed and bring relevant experience because of their careers as educators.

Ms. Eberhardt was a teacher and administrator in the Pittsburgh Public Schools for more than 30 years, retiring in 2007, and she is a member of Pittsburgh's Commission on Human Relations.

Ms. Klug has worked as an aide at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, a caseworker for Allegheny County's child welfare department and a teacher at five city elementary schools. In both school positions, she was active in the union, and she retired in 2011 due to asthma.

Ms. Klug is the candidate whose temperament seems better suited for the collaborative role of a school board member. The Post-Gazette endorses Carolyn Klug in District 9.

The weakest field is in District 1, which includes all or parts of Larimer; Homewood; East Hills; North Point Breeze and Point Breeze. Its constituents have been particularly well-served by incumbent board president Sharene Shealey.

Voters will choose between Lucille Prater-Holliday, 56, of Homewood, a community organizer for Pittsburgh United, which advocates for social and economic justice, and Sylvia Wilson, 62, of Lincoln-Larimer, a former teacher who recently retired as a longtime assistant to the president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers union. Both appear on the Democratic ballot; Ms. Wilson is also seeking the Republican nomination.

Ms. Wilson demonstrated superior knowledge of the district, but that is negated for us by the fact that she is another school board candidate who is in arrears on her property taxes -- in this case by more than $18,000, with bills going back to 2007. She did not express a specific plan to resolve the problem.

Ms. Prater-Holliday's strong criticism of Ms. Shealey's tenure is a concern, but the candidate is well-educated and well-spoken. By default, the Post-Gazette endorses Lucille Prater-Holliday in District 1.

In District 7 Cynthia Ann Falls, 59, of Overbrook is unopposed to succeed board member Jean Fink. She is crossfiled for both the Republican and Democratic nominations. The district includes Overbrook, Carrick, Bon Air, Knoxville, Mount Oliver, St. Clair, South Side Slopes, South Side Flats, Arlington Heights and Arlington.

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