The primary is Tuesday, May 21, and Northsider Devon Taliaferro is running for Pittsburgh School District Board of Directors in District 2.
By Sophia Mastroianni
Trickle-down approaches can be controversial in political discourse. Restorative practices, which were put in place in Pittsburgh schools in 2014 as alternatives to the use of disciplinary tools, are one example.
Devon Taliaferro, resident of Historic Deutschtown and program coordinator and community engagement specialist for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, is running for Pittsburgh School District Board of Directors in District 2. She’s running against David Atkinson, Nosakhere Griffin- El, and Kirk Rys. According to her, the school board needs to go further than just implementing restorative practices.
According to the Pittsburgh Public Schools website, under the restorative practices approach, teachers emphasize “affective statements” like, “I’m concerned that you’re late for class again because I must stop and re-teach a lesson that the class has already heard. That is not fair to you and everyone else,” instead of reprimanding them for their behavior.
“The biggest battle is making sure it’s being implemented the way that it needs to be,” Taliaferro said, “which means we might have to rethink who needs to be in that space to properly be able to implement these types of things. Faculty and administration play a role in implementation and how the students understand diversity, according to
Taliaferro. “We’re representing students with a high population of children of color in the district,” she said. “But the administrators and teachers don’t look like them.”
Taliaferro wants to focus on properly training administrators and teachers on diversity, equity, and illuminating implicit bias. However, she also recognizes the support that
teachers need in order to properly do their job educating children.
“Making sure all of [our] teachers have the support they need in the classroom goes back to addressing student disciplinary actions,” she said.
Community involvement, she says, also plays a vital role for the students in the district. Incorporating local stakeholders, like volunteers, can help address initiatives that make for a strong community environment for the students. Taliaferro hopes to encourage community members to be a part of the conversation about education. For example, if a local restaurant owner gets involved by teaching students how to cook, those same students might want to work for the restaurant after graduation, and the whole community benefits.
“I think that when you bring everyone together for the sake of the children, everybody has an opportunity to learn, understand, and grow,” she said. “This generation of kids is
our future, our doctors, our lawyers, our politicians, our community leaders and if we haven’t done them justice, then we need to take a step back and say, ‘What do we need to do?’”
Taliaferro aims to address reading and writing skills within her district if elected. She believes illiteracy is problematic, and that something different must occur to see effective change.
“By the time [the students] get to high school [they] still might not be able to [read and write],” she said. “Especially children of color, because the district is majority children of color, and that’s a problem.” Having strong, basic skills to survive post-graduation also plays a significant role in the future of the students, she explained. These individuals, she said, need to know how to balance a checkbook, read and write, and have conversations
that help navigate students to success.
Taliaferro reflects on her personal experiences as a public school student in Wilkinsburg,
as well as a mentor for students in Pittsburgh Public Schools in order to determine what the students in her district need. Taliaferro is a parent board president for Get Involved! Inc., a leadership and development nonprofit to empower and educate students. She also won the New Pittsburgh Women of Excellence Award as well as an award with the Pittsburgh Circle of Courage last year. These awards reflect the type of person Taliaferro became through
her circumstances and experiences, she said.
“If we are listening to . . . supporting, and empowering [the students], then they will have opportunities like these to be successful in their own ways.”
The Northside is represented in School Board Districts 2, 8, and 9. Find out more about Taliaferro and meet all of the Pittsburgh School Board candidates here.