District 2-Devon Taliaferro
Q: What role do you believe Pittsburgh Public Schools plays in preparing every child to be successful by the time they arrive at kindergarten? And how will you partner with local government, community organizations, and private childcare centers to ensure more children have access to high-quality Pre-k and child care?
A: Investing in early childhood education and making it attainable for families will bring much value to the district and the child as they continue through their educational journey. It is critical to focus on children in their early learning stages so they can be properly equipped by the time they reach kindergarten. The district can lead the way investing in early childhood learning programs within the district and building sustainable partnerships that will help eliminate the barriers of early childhood education for parents by providing free or affordable programming while making it flexible is something that must be considered. The board can play a vital part in starting the conversation with stakeholders like city and county officials, non profit leaders, and early childhood advocates.
Q: Superintendent Dr. Hamlet has started the Student Advisory Council to incorporate student voice into district decision making. How will you promote student voice into the Board’s decision making process?
A: The Student Advisory Council is a vital part of the district and a powerful resource to the administration and board. I am an advocate for student voice and will continue to support this initiative as board member. Our students success at all ages and stages in their academic career is dependent upon us (decision makers) being humble and adherent to what they need to be success. Our young people know what they want and need and we often do not listen to them or take them seriously. I believe the next phase of student voice initiatives are to make sure all students representatives are inclusive and represent the highest and lowest performing schools as well as gender and abilities. This perspective can be beneficial to accountability when it comes to decision making. If we are not giving all students a voice we are not doing our part in ensuring student success.
Q: What are your top three priorities to improve the district?
A: Better implementation of Restorative Justice Practices, not solely using restorative practices as method of conflict resolution but a tool for community building and trust. Diversifying administrators and teaching staff, addressing the lack of diversity in building administration and teachers and seeking to address cultural and implicit biases. Increase & Unify Stakeholder Buy-in (community, parents & teachers), forming a community of stakeholders who are investing in the success of every student and working together in order to make sure every student has the tools they need to succeed throughout their academic career.
Q: What are three things the district is doing well and how will you build on that?
A: Implementing Community Schools. I believe this investment is a step in the right direction, and as board member I seek to utilize my background in community engagement to see that we start building incredible partnerships that will benefit our students and their families. Youth, Family & Parent Engagement. The implementation of student voice, parent advisory council and other methods of engagement is necessary and well implemented. I would like to see that go a step forward by having board representation of both students and parents to serve as advisors on the policies being created on their behalf. Supplying resources to meet the needs of the students. I think the district has made so valuable efforts to make sure that students have the resources they need. Ensuring that students have free/reduced lunches is a great example of this, but to build on this, I would like to the see the district ensure that the meals provided of quality and nutritional value and working with local resources and vendors that will provide our students with better quality meals is of benefit.
Q: Teachers are the district’s greatest resource, how will you ensure that teachers and supports are distributed to the students with the most need?
A: Our number one priority should be the children and ensuring that they have a quality learning experience, second to this are our teachers who are tasked to educate our children and provide them with the knowledge they need to be successful in life. Administration and the board have to reflect on the schools and students with the most need and seek to find whatever solutions are necessary to make sure that each student and the school needs are acknowledged and met. We must make sure that the distribution of good teachers and principals are benefiting both the higher performing and lower performing schools.
Q: Teaching in Pittsburgh Public Schools is a great opportunity. As a board member how will you promote teaching in the district so that we attract high quality diverse teachers?
A: I have the privilege of working and interacting with some of the incredible teachers the district has to offer and we should strive to continue seeking a diverse and inclusive population of teachers that will impact our students learning and prepare them for the future. Assessing our population we need to address the diversity and consider building collaborations with institutions that can provide incentives for students. As well we have a gem in our teaching magnet program at Brashear and an untapped potential to forge a partnership to bring students who have graduated from program back to PPS to become teachers. This is just a small step to growing our population of diverse and quality educators within the district.
Q: School Safety is always a top priority, and part of that is creating a welcoming and safe environment. How will you work to equally advance the psychological and physical safety of students of color, LGBTQIA+ students, immigrants and refugee students?
A: Our schools have to be welcoming for all students, this is not optional and we all have to be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure this. One area I think could be most beneficial is making sure students, staff and parents have the opportunities to be educated and trained on cultural competency and biases. Understanding first our own biases allow us to be able to reflect on what we can do differently to make our schools a welcoming place. Also, ensuring that we have support systems set up for students to be able to have that representation and ability to freely express themselves and address issues they may be having.
Q: What is your vision of a community school? How will you as a board member work to create partnerships to strengthen our schools?
A: The African Proverb “It takes A Village To Raise A Child”, is one that stands out to me when I think of the community schools model. It speaks to the point that in order to see the success of our children we must all play a part in that child’s success. Being a community leader and mentor I know first hand how a partnership between a parent, teacher and community members has an incredible impact on students. I see my role as board member as one that breeds collaboration and uniting those three entities together finding creative and innovative ways to build sustainable partnerships. I would like to see business owners in the community engaging with students and educating them on their business practices, community leaders serving as mentors and support systems and parents and teachers joining forces with one another to better meet the academic needs of the students. This vision will not happen overnight and the school culture and mindset of those involved will take time to see and think differently, but taking the necessary steps towards this model is one that is vital to our students future.
Q: What resources do you think schools need to better engage with families with limited English proficiency? How will you advocate for those resources?
A: First, having a clear understanding from families on what is needed is beneficial, continuing to utilize translation services and building partnerships with community organizations that have additional resources for parents with limited English proficiency.
Q: What are the most important skills students need to be ready for life/ career? What will you do as a board member to make sure Pittsburgh students get these skills regardless of what school they attend?
A: First and foremost, students need to believe that have the tools they need to be prepared for life. They need to know that the adults in their lives, be it parents, teachers and other support systems, see them as successful and able to accomplish anything they put their minds too. A skill that can carry them throughout life is that of self-confidence and when we invest in all students, when we instill confidence in them, there is no telling what they can accomplish. As a future board member I aspire to be present in my roll, to interact with the students I come across and do my part in reminding them of their fullest potential. Children want to know that someone believes in them, they want to know that someone loves and cares about them and they deserve that investment every single day they step foot in the doors of any Pittsburgh Public School.
District 2 SCHOOLS
Pittsburgh Arsenal PreK-5
Pittsburgh Arsenal 6-8
Pittsburgh Dilworth PreK-5
Pittsburgh Fulton PreK-5
Pittsburgh Schiller 6-8
Pittsburgh Spring Hill K-5
Pittsburgh Sunnyside PreK-8
Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5
Pittsburgh Spring Garden Early Childhood Center
District 2 Neighborhoods
Parts of East Liberty
Parts of Bloomfield