Q&A with Cheryl Patalano, Candidate for Northgate School Board of Directors

I am all for reforming the way charter schools source and use their money.  Paying charter schools is the biggest drain on public schools.  I am for school choice because there will always be situations where a public school is not the right fit for an individual student, but destroying public schools in the process of creating that choice needs to stop. 

This is the 12th post of our election season series ‘Political Q&A’ with progressive candidates throughout Pennsylvania. Candidates can be anywhere in Pennsylvania running for any level of office. Please note that these are not necessarily endorsements, more of an opportunity for candidates to connect with the LGBTQ community, progressives neighbors, and others with an interest in Western Pennsylvania. If your candidate would like to participate, please contact us pghlesbian at gmail dot com.

I connected with Cheryl Patalano after I invited the slate of the NoBo Progressives to participate. They’ve endorsed 25 candidates. Six agreed to the Q&A and five, including Cheryl, returned it in a timely manner. It is important to know who from the Northern Boros are interested in engaging the LGBTQ community. Hopefully, more of them take an interest in this opportunity.

Cheryl is the only candidate running for a school board seat who asked to participate. Given how much intense scrutiny and pressure LGBTQ students and policies are under, I’m frankly more than disappointed by the failure of other candidates to seize this opportunity. Cheryl’s thoughts on recess are honestly not something I had previously considered, but I can recall that having gym class just before physics in high school and always feeling pumped for that challenging class. I also appreciate her frank discussion on how to create resources for LGBTQ students. It seems clear that she understands the needs of her school district, from students to residents.

Your Name: Cheryl Patalano
Your Pronouns: she/her/hers
The Office You Seek: Northgate School Board of Directors

How do you describe your identity?  I identify as a white cishetero female.

Please tell us about an underappreciated or little known asset in your community. 

Andrew Bayne Memorial Library!  But I may be a bit partial as a former employee and current Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Children’s Specialist.  There are so many resources available to all Allegheny County residents with a library card.  Of course, you can check out physical resources but the number of e-resources available is amazing.  The history of Bayne Library is also fascinating along with it being haunted.  But I’ll save those stories for another Q and A.

Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and what impact they had on your life?

I don’t think I can specifically remember the very first LGBTQ person I met nor would I want to tokenize that person.  Growing up, my family’s church was one of the few churches that was accepting of the LGBTQ community.  They were people that were a part of my weekly life from a young age. And while that was a positive experience, it made me less aware of the intolerance members of the LGBTQ had to face outside of my bubble.

Please tell me about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and the region.

My familiarity is mostly what I know through friends and students in our district.  I know that acceptance and tolerance is still an issue.  I hope I can be a part of the improvement.

Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for Northgate School District?

Acceptance and inclusion.  With such a small student body acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion have to become the community standard.  I attended a large high school where the LGBTQ students were able to create their own community within the school but our students do not have that luxury.  Northgate needs to cultivate an EDI based community for all students, faculty, staff, and administration.

Please describe the School District – how many students, what communities served, how many buildings, etc. What School Board offices are on the ballot in the 2021 Primary? 

The Northgate School District serves roughly 1000 students from the boroughs of Bellevue and Avalon.  The district has three buildings: Bellevue Elementary, Avalon Elementary, and Northgate Middle/High School.  The administrative offices are located in the Middle/High School building.

On the 2021 Primary ballot, there are 4 out of 9 School Board of Director seats up for election (or re-election as there are 3 incumbents).

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I noticed you are a champion of recess. Tell us more about that. 

Recess has tremendous benefits for children.  Increased recess has been shown to lead to more focus, higher student morale, and offers social-emotional, cognitive, and physical benefits.  But recess can be the first thing to be taken away from students as a form of discipline.  I would love to work with our teachers to first preserve recess and then hopefully increase the amount of time our students have.  Especially for our K-2 students.  It may seem counterintuitive to increase playtime when many lament our test scores, but children need to move.  If students are given the opportunity to have a release and engage in gross motor movements, they will be better prepared to receive and retain information and learning.  Another benefit is recess is a low-cost solution to improving our students’ well-being.  Northgate has some of the highest school taxes so any benefit that will not add to our community’s tax bill should be fully explored.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many education issues to the forefront of daily conversations. Please tell us about a constructive response/support Northgate offered. And tell us about a constructive response/support you appreciate from another school district in a different part of the County. 

Northgate was very quick to pivot to online learning.  Teachers were getting a crash course in Google Classrooms and then dropping paper worksheet packets on porches in the late afternoons.  Within a few weeks, students were receiving some kind of online instruction. Can’t attend live? Watch the recording when you can. Don’t have a device? We’ll try our absolute best to get you something.  If you tried, you got the highest grade you previously earned.  Our superintendent was asking for communication from parents to find out what the needs were. It was really an all-hands-on-deck effort and I appreciate all the hard work our faculty, staff, administration, and board put in.  What I have appreciated most from all the public school districts in our county was their flexibility in allowing students to remain fully online if they wanted to be.  That decision no doubt saved lives.

Are there GSAs in your schools? Why or why not? 

There are not at this time.  With our district being small, we do not have the luxury of numbers.  There have been seasons where we have not been able to field an athletic team.  Having enough student interest to create an association or club is difficult as is finding a faculty/staff member to advise.  But, that does not mean we can’t continue efforts to create a GSA.

What are your thoughts on proposed charter school reforms at the state level? 

I am all for reforming the way charter schools source and use their money.  Paying charter schools is the biggest drain on public schools.  I am for school choice because there will always be situations where a public school is not the right fit for an individual student, but destroying public schools in the process of creating that choice needs to stop.

You are part of the “NoBo Progressive” slate. Tell us about that coalition and why it matters. 

NoBo Progressives is a Political Action Committee that encourages and supports progressive candidates for local office in Bellevue and Avalon.  The political landscape in our boroughs had been stagnant for quite some time and when people tried to make changes, it got ugly.  Having a PAC to support like-minded candidates makes all the difference in getting people to run and helping them be successful.

That slate is very white, with the exception of one candidate that I know of. And his family has been targeted by racist abuse in the past. How do you build a progressive future without BIPOC at the table? 

It is very white.  We build a progressive future one candidate at a time.  We continue to reach out to and uplift people in the BIPOC community.  In this election, there is one candidate. In 2023 we hope to have more.

How does intersectionality inform your work?

As a front-facing library worker, intersectionality helps me serve the public more effectively.  It helps me not to fall into the “one story” narration of those I serve.  I will bring that mindset with me when making decisions for the children in my district’s community.

Bellevue is known for an emerging progressive base and for a slew of local business owners who are proud Trump supporters. What does this dialectal opposition tell us about the future for local children?

Some of them were not proud enough to place a Trump sign in their yard, I will say that but I digress.  It creates a very interesting civics lesson.  We want our small businesses to succeed but also want to stand our moral ground.  So when and how do you bend?  These businesses donate to our schools and add to the economic status of our community which a district needs to function. Our community’s Gen Z and Gen Alpha residents will learn to walk a fine line between support and endorsement.

In 2015, Bellevue went from a dry community to permitting the sale of alcohol. Has that change impacted the School District?

It has made Bellevue a relevant community.  Empty storefronts are now not staying empty for quite so long.  With an up-and-coming business district, homes are selling more quickly and at higher prices which results in increased property tax revenue for the district.

Why did you ask me to complete this Q&A? 

I know not everyone is on Facebook or reads our borough’s local paper.  I wanted to be able to get my message and information to all voters.

Tell me about your endorsements and supporters.

I am humbled and honored to be endorsed by NoBo Progressives and to have been recommended by the Northgate Education Association.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I would like to thank Sue and Lesbian Pgh for the opportunity and platform to share my campaign run with your community.

Where can readers find your campaign on social media? How can they donate to your campaign?

I encourage those that are moved to fund local progressive candidates to donate to NoBo Progressives here: https://www.noboprogressives.com/donate

You can find my camping page on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/PatalanoForNorthgateSB

Thank you, Cheryl.

Other Q&A’s in this election cycle series. You can read previous cycle Q&A’s here.

  1. Q&A With Bill Peduto, Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh
  2. Q&A With Ed Gainey, Candidate for Mayor City of Pittsburgh
  3. Q&A With Raymond Robinson, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 05-02-42
  4. Q&A with Bethani Cameron, Candidate for City Council District 4
  5. Q&A with Hilary Wheatley Taylor, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge for District 05-2-19
  6. Q&A with Connor Mulvaney, Candidate for City Council District 4
  7. Q&A with Judge Derwin Rushing, Candidate for Magisterial District Judge 5-2-40
  8. Q&A with Alyssa Cowan, Candidate for Court of Common Pleas Judge
  9. Q&A with Anita Prizio, Allegheny County Councilor District 3
  10. Q&A With Tiffany Sizemore, Candidate for Judge, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge
  11. Q&A with Robert Disney, Candidate for Bellevue Borough Council
  12. Q&A with Cheryl Patalano, Candidate for Northgate School Board of Directors


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