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Statement from the Executive Committee of the School Directors of Pittsburgh Public Schools Regarding City Council Resolution

PITTSBURGH February 2, 2021 – This evening, the Board of School Directors for Pittsburgh Public Schools voted to accept a statement of position presented by the Board’s Executive Committee as a resolution.  The statement read by Board President Sylvia Wilson is below.


On behalf of the Pittsburgh Public School Board, we are encouraged at the most recent resolution from City Councilmen, Ricky Burgess and Daniel Lavelle. It is a resounding message of unity announcing that we are not alone in this fight to successfully return our students to our buildings. More importantly, we are unmovable in our stance to uphold racial educational equality and to right the wrongs that have put black students at a disadvantage for centuries before us.


As a board, we share the resolution’s grave concerns and acknowledgment of our emergency status. While no one could prevent the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, we have been consistent from day one on a safe return of students, teachers, and staff to our buildings as soon as possible. Delaying the hybrid model for a third time, was not an easy decision to make, however, when considering the health and safety of over 21,000 students and 4,000 teachers and staff…it makes our job even harder. 


For the past 10 months we have been reviewing, analyzing, and focusing on the data and COVID 19 cases. Our goal is to minimize exposure for everyone. No one wants students back in school more than we do, however, we must pay attention to the COVID-19 numbers and the genuine concerns raised by our teachers and staff of returning before the vaccine is available to them. We have heard from the public and have invested an uncountable number of hours in speaking directly to the community at large on the matter.  We want to work together as a whole community to the benefit of our children and city.


The resolution from the Pittsburgh City Council has not fallen upon deaf ears. Our ears and eyes are open to a vision of prosperity for our district and Pittsburgh as a whole. A collaborative approach is welcomed. How do we make changes that right the wrongs from the past and drive us into innovation and modernization and a vision for a future? We have a plan…we do not have a magic wand.


While we agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed major and systemic educational inequities within our region, we stand firmly behind our Superintendent and his administration as they stand ready to implement an aggressive plan and comprehensive programming to achieve true equity and put an end to the impact of racial inequities across our system.


The recent attacks from community organizations against the intentions and priorities of our school leadership and its lack of desire to prioritize our black and brown students are misguided and serve only as a distraction to our core mission.  It needs to end, and we need to work together to make change. 


We welcome an opportunity for City Council to share in our discussions about our black and brown students, and we want to be transparent regarding our plans for a future PPS.


Processes and protocols are extremely important at PPS. While no elected official from the City, has contacted the District to meet on the concerns expressed in the proposed resolution, we agree to agree. However, PPS along with all other districts in the Commonwealth have been operating under an emergency declaration of Governor Wolf since March 2020.


Lastly, it is important for our Board to speak with you - The City - in order to cease the collection of $20 million dollars per year of Earned Income tax revenue levied by the School District but taken by the City when it was financially distressed. The City’s status has ended and absorbing the $20 million should end as well. The District can and will apply those funds to address the many needs of the students and families of our District.


The Board and Administration stand ready to meet with Council to discuss matters of mutual concern. We would gladly begin these discussions and welcome our state legislators and state senators, who also have an interest in this topic and should be at the table. 


President Sylvia Wilson (District 1), First Vice President Kevin Carter (District 8), and Second Vice President Terry Kennedy (District 5) serve on the Executive Committee of the Board of School Directors for Pittsburgh Public Schools.