Moira Kaleida represents the best of public service.
Some people would give you the shirt off their backs.
She gave a sick child a kidney out of her body.
The Pittsburgh School Board Director isn’t related to the 7-year-old student. She is barely an acquaintance. She doesn’t even represent the ward in which he and his family live. But when she read a Facebook request asking for donors, she says it was a “no-brainer.”
“I thought if it were my kid, I’d want to know someone was out there trying,” Kaleida says.
“It really doesn’t affect my everyday life beyond the couple of weeks of recovery. But for him, it’s something that changes his life drastically.”
The child, Laith Dougherty, had already undergone two heart transplants, one when he was 3 months old and another when he was 3 years old. But in 2012, a test showed his kidneys were working at only 35 percent capacity. After a series of illnesses in the fall, they were down to 6 percent and he was on dialysis.
None of his immediate family was a match and his B blood type made finding one difficult. He was looking at a wait of between 6 months and two years before a donor could be found.
That’s when the family reached out to Facebook. Kaleida saw it, privately investigated to see if she was a match and when she was, she contacted Ghadah Makoshi, the child’s mother.
“It’s shocking to me because I had only met her once or twice,” Makoshi says. “It’s sacrifice to say, ‘I’m going to go through surgery and pain to make sure your kid survives.’ Most people wouldn’t do that.”
The surgery was done in June and the kidney began working immediately. Laith is expected to make a full recovery.
Kaleida is a woman of high ideals.
The 32-year-old mother of two doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks the walk.
Though she’s only been on the board since November, she has been on the right side of just about every issue.
She was the impetus behind the district’s newly approved transgender student policy. After principals and legal experts alerted her to the need for procedures to protect students’ rights and provide supports, she successfully lobbied her fellow school directors to take action.
“We’re moving forward on the right side of law and history,” she said at the time.
She’s also an advocate for community schools and the restorative justice discipline policies currently being enacted district-wide. She supports the idea that Pittsburgh schools should be at the center of the community providing medical care, wraparound services, before- and after-school programs, etc. to help keep children in the classroom. She favors a discipline policy not focused on punishing students but ensuring they make things right for their misbehavior.
To that end, she is a firm supporter of new Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet. When Hamlet was attacked by corporate education reformers and big money interests earlier this summer, she stood by him.
She may be one of the most progressive members of a very high-minded board.
Though city schools struggle to keep afloat because of underfunding from the state and federal government plus an increasingly impoverished local tax base, the district has one of the best boards in the state.
In fact, in many similar urban districts like Philadelphia City Schools, there is no elected school board.
If a Political Action Committee (PAC) has its way, the same thing will happen here. Deep-pocketed investors are gathering funds to unseat as many Pittsburgh School Directors as possible and – if possible – push for the district to be run by government appointees, not duly elected representatives.
Kaleida’s story shows exactly why this would be a mistake.
Corporate cronies would never look out for the needs of the community the way actual residents do. People who live in the community, know the community and relate to the families and children living there are far superior to anyone making decisions based on a spreadsheet.
Kaleida is a lifelong resident and graduate of the district. When she ran for office, even the privatization-loving Pittsburgh Post Gazette couldn’t help but endorse her due to “her superior detailed knowledge of the city schools and their challenges.”
Kaleida dedicates herself to raising her children and volunteering for various organizations. She has given time to the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN); NurturePA, which supports new mothers; and various neighborhood efforts. She also tries to find more funding for the district’s Pre-K initiative so it can provide services to even more children.
She represent District 6 neighborhoods including all or parts of Brookline, Beechview, Banksville, Mount Washington and Duquesne Heights.
Laith is lucky his school is represented by a woman like Kaleida. So are all the parents and children of Pittsburgh.
We need more school directors like her and her colleagues. And more than anything we need more local control of public education.