District 4 school-board candidate Lynda Wrenn says Pittsburgh Public Schools has an equity problem. If that problem continues, she says, it could hurt more than just the students and families in "bad schools," and damage the district's reputation as a whole.
"My kids are at Allderdice, and Allderdice is considered a 'good school,' but I know all schools in the district don't have the same advantages that Allderdice does," says Wrenn. "I'd like to take those more challenged schools, see what they need, and make them more desirable for families."
District 4 school board candidate Lynda Wrenn
This goal was one of the motivations behind her decision to run for election in the upcoming May primary.
"I've been a longtime Pittsburgh Public Schools parent and I feel all kids deserve a quality education, regardless of whether they're in a 'good school' or not," says Wrenn. "I think all the schools should be good for the kids of our city."
The mother of four holds a master's degree in education from Chatham University, and has served on the district's gifted-education task force and the task force for the Summer Dreamer Academy.
"I do have an educational background which helps when you're trying to make decisions about curriculum or the best way children learn and where to put resources," says Wrenn. "I have the perspective of actually being in the schools and seeing what the challenges are."
She did her student teaching at Springhill Elementary in the North Side and later went on to do work with several district middle schools for a research study on childhood obesity. She also volunteered in kindergarten classrooms.
"As someone who's been involved in the Pittsburgh Public Schools for so long, I've seen a lot of things come and go. I've seen a lot of changes over 15 years. I think that gives me a lot of perspective."
Wrenn says one component of closing the opportunity gap between students is setting the bar higher. During her time on the gifted task force, she worked to give more students who were not in the gifted program the opportunity to take higher-level classes.
"At Brashear, the number of children taking [advance placement] courses over the past five years has increased four-fold," Wrenn says. "When you challenge kids and they rise to the occasion, it builds their self-confidence and it does help them believe they can achieve."
According to Wrenn, closing the gap, especially as it relates to college attainment, also involves helping students with parents who did not go to college. She says she'd advocate for more resources for guidance counselors and social workers in schools.
"I think a lot of times when I talk to kids, they don't see college as an option," Wrenn says. "Their parents haven't been through the process before and it's hard for kids to navigate."
In order to bring more resources to the district, Wrenn says she would advocate for a fair-funding formula to ensure "schools that need more are getting more."
Wrenn is running for the seat of board veteran William Isler who is not seeking reelection. She received the Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement over her opponent Kirk Burkley. Schools in the district include Allderdice, Colfax K-8 and Linden K-5.