by Kelsey Shea

With the concerns about failing schools and the impending budget crisis looming, the three candidates for the District 9 seat of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education discussed the future they saw for the public education in Pittsburgh on April 25.

The Northside Leadership Conference and A+ Schools hosted a forum with the three school board candidates, Dave Schuilenburg, Lorraine Burton Eberhardt and Carolyn Klug.

Roughly 40 community members attended the April 25 event that was moderated by Northside Community Development Fund Executive Director Mark Masterson.

Each candidate presented their platform and answered questions from the moderator and the audience.

Questions focused largely on budget concerns, community engagement and strategies for improving schools and education specifically in the Northside.

All three candidates expressed concern about equity in schools, were wary of new charter school applications and agreed that parent engagement was a key factor in successful schools.

Of the three candidates, Dave Schuilenburg stood out as the most critical of the Pittsburgh Public School system and called for a more aggressive pursuit of state funding and making the actions of the board more transparent. He was also the only candidate in favor of arming school guards.

Schuilenburg is a Summer Hill resident, a 9-1-1 officer and trainer at the Allegheny County department of Emergency Services and an incoming chair of the parent community organization for the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park where his daughters go to school in Regent Square.

“We need to be going to Harrisburg and demanding funding,” said Schuilenburg, who also spoke strongly in favor of transparency within the board of education. “Pittsburgh Public Schools has a long road ahead in restoring its credibility.”

Brighton Heights resident Carolyn Klug placed emphasis on professional development and magnet programs to help ailing schools and the importance of managing PPS’s impending budget crisis.

Klug taught for 30 years in the district before retiring and worked as an advocated for the National Writing Project. At the forum, she acknowledged the problems of PPS, but also praised the positive achievements of the school district as well.

“I’m so incredibly proud of Pittsburgh Public Schools and what our kids are doing. Sometimes we only hear about the bad things, and there are bad things, but there’s a lot of good there too,” said Klug.

Summer Hill’s Lorraine Burton Eberhardt described herself as a “product of the Pittsburgh Public Schools,” having both attended and taught in the district. She stressed the importance of relationships between stakeholders and equity among schools.

Of the three, Eberhardt was the candidate most critical of charter schools and their impact on public education.

“I consider charter schools the enemy of public education,” said Eberhardt, who promised to scrutinize charters and also find new ways to enforce equity in schools.

The outgoing District 9 school board member Floyd ‘Skip’ Mccrea attended the event to hear the three candidates speak.

After the forum, he said that of the three candidates, he’d most like the see Klug fill his seat.

“I liked that she said, ‘It’s all about the kids.’ Because that’s what this job really is about,” said Mccrea.

He also noted that being a school board member is a tough and sometimes thankless job.

“There are things we do that people don’t even know about,” he said.

The election will be on May 21, 2013.