This story was updated on May 16, 2011, to reflect that District 2 candidate Celina Basant withdrew from the election on May 11, 2011.

The District 1 City Council race isn’t the only election that will affect Northsiders. Two Northside school board districts, 2 and 8, are also up for election on May 17.

According to Carey Harris, executive director of public education advocacy group at A Plus Schools, Pittsburghers need to step up and get informed about the school board races.

“It’s important because almost half the board is up [for election],” Harris said. “The district is at a crossroads.”

With Pittsburgh Public Schools standing to lose $34 million if Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget passes this summer, Superintendent Linda Lane will have some hard decisions to make. Lane will need a strong board of directors with the interests of all Pittsburgh children in mind to help her make those decisions, Harris said.

School board members serve four year terms with no term limits.

A Plus Schools, which does not endorse any candidates, would like to see a school board that focuses more on the big picture.

“They spend too much time in the details rather than taking a step back and setting a direction for the district,” Harris said.

Pittsburgh residents can sign a pledge to vote at www.aplusschools.org. So far about 350 have signed the pledge.

“We want to make sure people get all the way to the bottom and vote for school board,” Harris said.

District 2

District 2 includes Deutschtown, East Deutschtown, Spring Hill, Spring Garden, Troy Hill, parts of the North Shore and parts of the East End.

Incumbent Dara Ware Allen of Highland Park is running for re-election against Regina Holley of Highland Park. A third candidate, Celina Basant of Spring Hill, withdrew her candidacy on May 11 because her husband took a job in West Virginia, according to a press release.

In a nonpartisan voter guide published by A Plus Schools, each candidate gave statements in response to six questions. The following list is a summary of each District 2 candidate’s view on what is the most important issue facing the district.

  • Dara Ware Allen believes student achievement is a critical issue, especially among African American and high school students and would address inequalities across schools as well as ensure initiatives like Empowering Effective Teachers are implemented successfully.
  • Regina Holley believes clear communication and transparency with parents is necessary to raise the district’s academic standing and prevent widespread loss of students if the state allows a student’s public subsidy to be used for tuition at private schools.

To read the full voter guide, visit www.aplusschools.org.

The Highland Park Community Council will host a candidate forum tonight, April 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Union Project, 821 Negley Ave. Each candidate will speak briefly and answer questions.

District 8

District 8 includes Allegheny Center, Allegheny West, California-Kirkbride, Central Northisde, Fineview, Manchester, parts of the North Shore, and neighborhoods in Central and South Pittsburgh.

Incumbent Mark Brentley of Allegheny Center is running for re-election against Lisa Freeman of Manchester, Deloris Lewis of Central Northside and Arita Gilliam Rue of Manchester.

In a nonpartisan voter guide published by A Plus Schools, each candidate gave statements in response to six questions. The following list is a summary of each District 8 candidate’s view on what is the most important issue facing the district.

  • Mark Brentley believes the most critical issue is the amount of debt accumulated over the past five years and would “continue to be the voice of reason” and ensure public funds are used appropriately.
  • Lisa Freeman believes the increasing high school dropout rate is the most critical issue and that “all minds” need to work on the issue together.
  • Deloris Lewis did not participate in the voter guide.
  • Arita Gilliam Rue wants to address the issue of low academic achievement and would work to employ methods to motivate children to learn.

To read the full voter guide, visit www.aplusschools.org.

A Plus Schools and It’s All About Manchester will sponsor a District 8 candidate forum on April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Manchester Community Center, 1319 Allegheny Ave.