Pittsburgh’s City Task Force for Public Education has achieved its primary goal of preventing any school closures for the 2014-15 school year, but City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said there’s still more work for the group to do.
That’s why she is sponsoring legislation to turn the temporary task force into a permanent commission.
“After meeting a few times, we realized that there were several areas of focus that we really wanted to work on collectively,” Kail-Smith said. “We think that working together, we can really address some issues and some wonderful things for the city of Pittsburgh and for our schools.”
Kail-Smith does not take much of the credit for preventing school closures, saying instead that it was new school board members, who took office in December, that had the greatest impact.
But she said the collaboration between council members, city and school administrators, teachers, school board members, students, faith leaders, and others has led to fruitful discussions about how to proceed in the future.
Over the next month or two, Kail-Smith said she will work with the commission to redefine its purpose, structure and membership.
She said there are three main areas of focus for the new commission: after-school programs, public safety and how to market the district to attract new students.
“We oftentimes hear people not promoting our area because of our schools,” Kail-Smith said. “One of the things we can do is when the city is hosting home tours … maybe have the schools open so people can actually see for themselves what those schools are like.”
Kail-Smith earlier this year expressed concern about Mayor Bill Peduto’s expectation that the task force would look for ways to attract new residents and said such a goal requires its own dedicated task force.
“Maybe that should be a separate effort,” Kail-Smith said. “Maybe those two groups could work together in the future on other issues and how they can collaborate and how they can help make the schools more successful and help our city thrive.”
The current Task Force for Public Education will publish its findings no later than Dec. 1. All recommendations in the report are expected to be implemented by Dec. 31.
Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the bill to create a permanent public education commission on Tuesday morning.