My opponent took majorities in nearly every community, nearly every ward or precinct. However, it was close in many of them. I even whipped him in a few places – mostly in White Oak and West Mifflin – my home town and his respectively.
But 41% to 58% just wasn’t enough to carry the day.
And if you’re wondering why that doesn’t equal 100%, there were about 1% write in voters, many of whom scribbled my opponent’s name so he could launch a Republican write-in challenge in the general election should he lose the primary.
That’s politics, I guess.
It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t worked so hard.
Or if I had seen him getting out there, too, and actively fighting for votes.
However, other than a single mailer, some signs and a few ads, he didn’t seem to do much more than he does on council – which is to say nothing.
I definitely outworked him.
I knocked on more than a thousand doors. During Covid. With a pre-existing health condition. I’d be surprised if he knocked on one.
I sent out several mailers, posted signs all over, made more than 1,600 texts, hundreds of phone calls. And I went to more events, rallies and Meet the Candidate Forums.
At the closest thing we had to a debate, the Take Action Mon-Valley Candidate’s Forum – one of only two events he even attended – I mopped the floor with him. I’m not bragging about it. Watch the video. It is an objective fact.
He couldn’t get his camera to work in the Zoom meeting, when he finally got his audio to work, he couldn’t finish his sentences and when he did, he invariably stuck his foot in his mouth.
He literally told an audience of black voters that all lives matter.
That on top of his whining about not having the power to do anything in office so please vote for him.
I actually felt embarrassed for him.
That anyone could watch that forum and choose him is stupefying.
But only a few hundred voters saw it just days before the election.
I offered hope and change. He offered what? A familiar name and incompetence?
When it was all over, he called me.
Actually he returned my call when I offered my concession.
He was still complaining about someone he heard was passing out my cards on election day who he thought should have been committed to him. As if I knew what all of my supporters were doing and ruled them with an iron fist.
They were just a loose confederation of people who wanted more from county government. I wasn’t telling them what to do. Actually it was just the opposite.
But I’ll give him this – he’s a friendly cuss, the kind of guy with whom you’d probably enjoy having a beer.
Just not a person who should be representing people’s interests on council.
And he’s not representing voters’ interests. Not really.
County Council is supposed to be the legislative arm of county government. It’s supposed to be a check and balance on the County Executive.
Seems to me there’s a conflict of interest when year-after-year County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is your biggest donor.
But that’s just how we roll here.
Bias and impropriety grease the wheels of government.
Speaking of which, wasn’t this supposed to be a Democratic Primary?
My opponent and I were both seeking the party’s nomination.
We have closed primaries, which means only party members get to vote on each ticket.
So why are there Donald Trump supporters on the county Democratic Committee?
Really! According to an expose by the Washington Post, Allegheny County’s Democratic Committee is full of countless members in good standing whose social media accounts are full of right wing Trump memes and slanders on prominent Democrats. This includes the chair of the committee, herself.
There are 2,400 elected members – more than my opponent’s 1,800 margin of victory.
Sure, our district was the only part of the county that went to Trump in the last two Presidential elections – though just slightly.
However, nearly every elected official is a Democrat. Has been for as long as I can recall.
That doesn’t make sense.
Democrats don’t fill every legislative seat in districts that lean Republican…
Unless they’re not really Democrats.
Do right wing Democrats thrive here and Progressives like me face an uphill battle because the Democratic Committee has been compromised?
I don’t know.
I really don’t.
But I guess most people don’t seem to mind it much.
If they did, they missed their chance to do something about it.
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This school year has been a failure in so many ways.
But don’t get me wrong.
I’m not going to sit here and point fingers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has tested the public school system like never before.
Teachers, administrators and school directors have been under tremendous pressure and I believe most really tried their best in good faith to make things work as well as possible.
But as the year comes to a blessed close, we need to examine some of the practices common at many of our schools during this disaster and honestly evaluate their success or failure.
Some things worked well. Many made the best of a bad situation. But even more were blatant failures.
We need to know which was which.
As a classroom teacher with 17 years experience who worked through these times, let me clarify one thing.
I am not talking about things that were specific to individual classrooms.
Teachers struggled and stretched and worked miracles to make things run. We built the plane as we were flying it. As usual, this is where policy meets execution and that can differ tremendously from place-to-place.
What I’m talking about for the most part is policy. Which policies were most unsuccessful regardless of whether some super teachers were able to improve on them or not in their classrooms.
Here are my top six administrative failures of this pandemic school year:
1) SOCIAL DISTANCING
Health officials were clear on one point – keeping space between individuals helps stop the spread of Covid-19.
Exactly how much space we need to keep between people has varied over time.
At first, we were told to keep 6 feet apart. Then as health officials realized there wasn’t enough physical space in school buildings to keep students that far apart AND still have in-person school, they changed it to 3 feet.
The same happened with violating social distancing.
At first, you were considered a close contact only if you were within the designated space for 15 consecutive minutes. Then that was changed to 15 minutes in total even if that time was unconsecutive.
In any case, classes were held in physical spaces. Many schools at least tried to make an effort.
Was it successful? Did we actually keep students socially distanced all day?
Walk into nearly any school during a class change and you will see the same crowded halls as you would have seen pre-pandemic. Observe a fire drill, and you’ll see the same students right next to each other, skin against skin as they try to quickly find an exit.
These times generally aren’t 15 minutes consecutively, but think about how many class changes there are a day. If you have 8 or 9 classes, with each class change averaging 3 minutes, that’s 24 to 27 minutes of exposure a day.
If it weren’t for the fact that most children are asymptomatic, what would the result of this have been? How many kids did we expose to Covid-19 because of the sheer difficulty of administering social distancing protocols?
Health officials told us it was important to wear masks on our faces to stop the spread of respiratory droplets that contain the virus. True there was some discrepancy on this issue at the beginning of the pandemic, but over time it became an agreed upon precaution.
There was also some discrepancy about what kinds of masks to wear and whether one should double mask.
However, putting all that aside, did schools that had in-person classes abide by this policy?
It actually depends on what part of the country you’re in. Some schools were directed to do so and others were not.
However, even in districts where it was an official policy, it rarely worked well.
In my own classes, about a quarter of my students could never get their masks over their noses. No matter how many times I reminded them, no matter how often I spoke up, the masks always slipped below their noses – sometimes moments after I made a remark. Sometimes three, four or more times in succession to the point that I gave up.
Administration didn’t seem to take the matter as seriously as the school board written dress code policy, and teachers (including me) didn’t want to come down too hard on kids for neglecting to do something that many of them seemed incapable of doing.
Were we all exposed to respiratory droplets? Definitely. Without a doubt. Especially during lunch periods which were almost exclusively conducted in doors without even the possibility of opening a window.
Did partial masking have some positive effect? Probably. But I do not think we can call this policy a success.
3) CONTACT TRACING
How do you tell if someone has been exposed to Covid-19?
Health officials advised contact tracing. In other words, when someone exhibits symptoms and then tests positive for the virus, you identify people who came into close contact (within 3 feet for 15 minutes total).
However, this was conducted entirely on the honor system. So it was only as accurate as those reporting it were perceptive or honest. If someone was a close contact but didn’t want the hassle of quarantine, they could usually just refrain from reporting themselves.
This is nearly impossible to do well. It’s like trying to perform a play to two different audiences at the same time. What works in-person does not work as well on-line and vice versa.
I found myself catering to one group and then another. Often it lead to the on-line students being left more to their own devices. Since most of them had their cameras off and rarely responded to questions, I fear they got an even worse education than under fully cyber circumstances.
In-person students also had to exercise patience as the teacher divided his or her attention to the on-line group.
And the degree of technical wizardry expected of teachers was astronomical.
In every class I was required to post material to a central in class TV screen so my in-person students could see it, while also making sure it was displayed on-line for my cyber kids. Sometimes it wouldn’t work for one group and I’d have to trouble shoot the problem in real time.
There were often instructional videos or examples I wanted to show where the volume or video wouldn’t display for one group or another. And sometimes on-line students couldn’t hear the teacher or their classmates.
Then we had Internet connection issues where cyber students were inexplicably dropped or in-person students couldn’t access materials on Google Classroom.
It was a nightmare – an every day, every period, never ending nightmare.
But teachers just got on with it and achieved amazing things despite all the issues.
This pandemic year can be characterized by epic failures at all levels.
She literally sat on the board and worked with several sitting members of CAB when she was part of the Corbett administration. Now all these years later she appears before CAB for a hearing asking them to overrule the Harrisburg School Board that had originally denied her charter school’s application.
Guess who won?
The CAB unanimously sided with Dumaresq over elected members of the local community.
So Wolf finally gave these privatization zealots their walking papers.
It’s a pattern we’ve become sickeningly familiar with in Pennsylvania.
Previous CAB members have refused to let school boards consider the financial impact of opening a new charter school. However, the state constitution requires public schools to provide a quality education to students in their district. Therefore, if opening a new charter school would adversely affect a districts finances, doesn’t the constitutional necessity to provide a quality education take precedence?
Many school privatization critics think it does. Will Wolf’s nominees?
Unfortunately, they have several hurdles to clear before the senate would vote on them and we’d find out.
How dare he endanger short term fossil fuel profits just to provide a cleaner environment for our kids and grandkids!
As a result, they’ve vowed to block the Governor’s appointment to a state utility commission. It’s doubtful they’d let CAB nominees through while blocking Wolf’s other appointment.
Moreover, there will doubtless be legal challenges to the Governor’s firing of previous CAB members.
In the meantime, there are at least nine cases scheduled to be decided by CAB from Souderton, Southeast Delco, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. And that’s not even counting a recent pair of charter schools in Philadelphia where backers said they would appeal the local school board’s decision to deny their request to open.
Republicans may find themselves forced to choose between waiting out protracted legal challenges while their pet charters languish in appeals limbo or swallowing their pride, doing their damn jobs and voting on Wolf’s nominees!
Do you live in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania? I’m running for County Council in District 9
I’m talking about seeing the grace and originality in black names and hairstyles, the fluidity of Arabic writing, the serenity of Asian philosophy…
When you make friends that are diverse, have different beliefs, styles, cultures, you open your mind to different ideas and concepts.
If children are our future, we become that future in school. If we’re educated together in a multifaceted society, we are more at home with our country’s true face, the diversity that truly is America. By contrast, if we become adults in secluded segregation, we find difference to be alien and frightening. We hide behind privilege and uphold our ways as the only ways worth considering.
In fact, privilege is born of segregation. It is nurtured and thrives there.
If we want to truly understand our fellow citizens and see them as neighbors and equals, it is best to come to terms with difference from an early age in school.
Integration breeds multiculturalism, understanding and love.
I’m not saying this happens in every circumstance. All flowers don’t bloom in fertile soil and not all die in a desert. But the best chance we can give our kids is by providing them with the best possible environment to become egalitarian.
Of course, diversity was not there from the beginning.
Through much of our history, we had schools for boys and schools for girls that taught very different things. We had schools for white children and schools (if at all) for black children – each with very different sets of resources.
But as time has gone on, the ideal embodied by the concept of public schooling has come closer to realization. Brown v. Board took away the legality of blatant segregation and brought us together as children in ways that few could have dreamed of previously.
Unfortunately, a lot as happened since then. That ruling has been chipped at and weakened in subsequent decades and today’s schools still suffer from de facto segregation. In many places our children are kept separate by laws that eschew that name but cherish its intent. Instead of outright racial or economic discrimination, our kids are kept apart by municipal borders, by who goes to which school buildings and even by which classes students are sorted into in the same building.
But it’s really just segregation all over again. The poor black kids are enrolled here and the rich white kids there.
The surprising fact is how much we’ve managed to preserve against this regression. Even with its faults, the degree of diversity in public schools far outshines what you’ll find at any other institution.
That’s no accident. It’s by design.
Each type of education has a different goal, different priorities that guide the kind of experiences it provides for students.
After all, the root word of privatization is “private.” It means “only for some.” Exclusion is baked in from the start.
By contrast, public schools have to take whoever lives in their coverage area. Sure you can write laws to exclude one group or another based on redlining or other discriminatory housing schemes, but you can’t discriminate outright. Yes, you can use standardized testing to keep children of color out of the classes with the best resources, but you need a gatekeeper to be intolerant in your place. You can’t just be openly prejudiced.
That’s because you’re starting from a place of integration. The system of public education is essentially inclusive. It takes work to pervert it.
And I think that’s worth preserving.
It gives us a place from which to start, to strengthen and expand.
There are so many aspects of public schools to cherish.
But for me it is increased diversity, understanding and integration that is the most important.
What kind of a future would we have as a country if all children were educated in such an environment!?
Thursday, Propel teachers and other staff voted 236-82 to join the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA).
The drive took 9 months to achieve. Propel enrolls about 4,000 students at 13 schools in Braddock Hills, Hazelwood, Homestead, McKeesport, Pitcairn, Turtle Creek, Munhall, McKees Rocks and the North Side.
They don’t have to be run by elected school boards. They don’t have to manage their business at public meetings. They don’t have to open their budgets to public review. Heck! They don’t even have to spend all the money they get from taxes on their students.
Nor do they have to accept every student in their coverage area. They can cherry pick whichever students they figure are cheapest to educate and those who they predict will have the highest test scores. And they can hide this discrimination behind a lottery or whatever other smoke screen they want because – Hey! The rules don’t apply to them!
Now you have to pay a living wage. You can’t demand people work evenings and weekends without paying them overtime. You have to provide safe working conditions for students and staff. And if you want to cut student services and pocket the difference, the staff is going to have something to say about that – AND YOU HAVE TO LISTEN!
How much will union power beat back charter bosses?
Will the worst financial gamblers abandon school privatization because unions make it too difficult to make handfuls of cash? One can hope.
If it happened, the only charters left standing would be those created without profit as their guiding principle. The goal would really have to be doing the best thing for children, not making shadowy figures in the background a truckload of money.
Do such charter schools even exist? Maybe. With staff continuing to unionize, maybe there will be even more of them.
However, even if all of them become altruistic, there still remains a problem.