Voice of experience: The city school board picks a seasoned leader

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The Pittsburgh Public Schools board, with four new members, is undergoing its biggest change in decades so it is reassuring that the panel voted for stability by electing Thomas Sumpter as its president.

Mr. Sumpter, 63, of Schenley Heights has been on the board for eight years and has served as first vice president and second vice president. His selection as president, which required five votes, took three ballots because two of the newcomers — Cynthia Falls of Overbrook and Terry Kennedy of Greenfield — did not vote in the first two rounds. Three other members voted for Regina Holley, 61, of Highland Park, who joined the board two years ago.

Ms. Kennedy broke the stalemate on the third ballot, joining Mr. Sumpter, new member Sylvia Wilson and two board veterans who served as president themselves, Sherry Hazuda and Bill Isler. Ms. Falls abstained, saying she thought it was too soon for her to decide between candidates because she hadn’t worked with either.

A retiree who worked in various capacities for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the city, Mr. Sumpter was unopposed for re-election to his third four-year term on the board. He represents District 3, which includes Bloomfield, Garfield, the Upper Hill District, Stanton Heights, Oakland and East Liberty.

During Monday’s board meeting, Mr. Sumpter spoke of his experience and said he has a record of making tough decisions, something that will be necessary because the district is facing serious budget challenges in the months ahead. His promise not to have the board micro-manage district operations may prove the hardest pledge to keep, since three of the new board members are former city teachers — Ms. Falls, Ms. Wilson and Carolyn Klug of the North Side.

With a quiet style and extensive experience, Mr. Sumpter has the skills and temperament to lead this board. Given the challenges that he and his colleagues face, we wish them all well.

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